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Wednesday 8 September 2010

First Look: Junior MasterChef - brace yourself

Australia's cooking show phenomenon is back this Sunday - with little kids set to show up adults as they whip up concoctions we probably can't even pronounce.

Premiering this Sunday September 12 at 7.30pm on Network Ten, I'll be tuning in to see the new format, how the 'serious' judges go all butter-soft with the mini-contestants, but most of all to see if these little child prodigies can really perform. And of course, they will.

Over 5500 kids from around the country applied to be a part of the show, and fifty of the best ones were handpicked - young cooks aged 8-12 - and now have the chance to become Australia's first Junior MasterChef.

The judges - George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston – return to face these enthusiastic, gifted little peeps, as well as new judge, celebrity cook and TV personality, Anna Gare.

Guided by some of the country's top class chefs, the series will include four Junior Masterclass episodes that will teach and inspire kids and their families to have fun in the kitchen and start frying, beating, stirring, sifting and kneading! (I am quietly happy my two year old twins aren't at the age yet to create havoc in my kitchen. But they will soon... oh they will!).

Sunday's show will show the top 50 junior cooks battling it out in “The 50 Week” where the kids cook-off in a variety of challenges to make it to the Final 12. The “Top 50 Week” will span across three Sunday night episodes, with the 'Top 12' revealed at the end of episode three on Sunday 26 September.

After a two week break for TEN’s Commonwealth Games broadcast, Junior MasterChef returns on Sunday 17 October for episode four with the top 12 contestants ready to cook up a storm in the MasterChef kitchen - just like the adults version.

From this point on, Junior MasterChef will air three nights a week – Sunday, Monday and Masterclass Friday nights. Each episode will be jam packed with all the MasterChef classic challenges: Mystery Boxes; Pressure Tests; and Invention Tests, as well as new challenges, including some big event offsite team challenges.

The series will also feature several celebrity guest chefs who will test and encourage the contestants to develop their skills and put them to the test including Matt Moran, Donna Hay and Adriano Zumbo.

One of the changes to the original MasterChef format includes the way in which the contestants leave the competition. Rather than being eliminated individually, the contestants go home in groups of four every two weeks (see, they did think about delicate young egos and the fragile self esteem of youngsters).

The contestants will also be judged on a points system - for each challenge the three best dishes will be awarded points. Those who produce the best dish will receive 6 points, second will get 4 points and third will get 2 points. The remaining will be awarded 1 point for participation.

A Junior Masterchef scoreboard will tally up the points from each challenge. Those contestants at the bottom of the scoreboard will be at risk of facing another challenge. So the more points they can get, the safer they will be, and the closer they will be to the first prize: a $15,000 trust fund, while second place is $10,000 and third and fourth place are $5,000 each. All kids in the top 50 are rewarded a Junior MasterChef cooking prize pack that includes top of the range pots and pans, a Mixmaster - plus lifetime kudos from school pals!

Junior MasterChef premieres this Sunday September 12 at 7.30pm on Network Ten.

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