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Joe Bastianich Shares the Recipe to Win MasterChef Junior

Joe Bastianich is a restaurateur, father of three, and judge of MasterChef Junior on FOX. Here, he dishes on what makes kids stand out in the competition and the skills they need to win, and shares some advice for budding young chefs.

Plus, catch up with the Season 1 winner of MasterChef Junior, and get to know the local contenders competing in Season 2, which airs Nov. 4 on FOX.

joe bastianich

Q: What makes a kid stand out on MasterChef Junior?
A: For kids especially there must be an absence of fear and a confidence in themselves and their abilities. A cooking competition is one thing, but holding your own on TV can be pretty daunting.

Q: What’s the recipe to win MasterChef Junior?
A: An ability to cook well under pressure and an ability to play the game. Alexander Weiss from Season 1 was such a good example of this. He was calm, cool, and collected, and made good choices from day one.

Q: How is judging MasterChef Junior different from the regular MasterChef contest?
A: It is not all that different. The kids don’t get a free ride, so to speak—they need to earn their place in the kitchen just like the adults. I think it is fair to say there is a certain level of sensitivity we judges exhibit when critiquing the kids, but at the end of the day it is still a competition.

All in all, the level of talent among the kids is stellar. They really come in with guns blazing—they generally start off at a higher level than the adults.

Q: What is your favorite thing cooked by a MasterChef Junior contestant to date? How about your least favorite?
A: Sara made a pretty killer fried sardine dish about halfway through the first season—it was perfect. There were some disappointing plates early on, but nothing really stands out in my memory as the worst.

Q: Do you have any advice for budding young chefs?
Take advantage of opportunities to really learn about the realities of working in the industry. Unless they are from an industry family, these kids don’t have access to cooking outside the home, and it is wise to understand what the food and hospitality business is really about.

Q: You have three kids ages 17, 14, and 12. Are any of them picky eaters?
With a restaurateur for a dad and Lidia Bastianich as a grandmother, they are definitely not picky eaters.

Q: How often do you cook with your family at home?
A: I like to make breakfast for my kids before sending them off to school. It’s usually a nice time in the morning to sit down together before everyone goes their separate ways. Meals at home are kept simple, but made with the best ingredients. Simple pasta dishes with San Marzano tomatoes and a little grana padano [cheese] are always a favorite at our house.

Q: Where is your favorite place in NYC or Connecticut to eat with your family, and why?
Becco, the first restaurant I opened back in 1992, located at 355 W. 46th St. in Manhattan, is a great place to take the family because there is truly something for everyone on the menu. We offer an extensive $25-a-bottle wine list that parents can especially appreciate when dining out with the kids.


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