‘MasterChef Junior’ Judge Daphne Oz Admits She Had a Few ‘Mom’ Moments on Set [Exclusive]

Fox‘s MasterChef Junior judge Daphne Oz said she has mad respect for the chefs on the show but admits to having a few “mom” moments of terror watching some of the young culinary enthusiasts wield sharp knives or cook over an open flame.

MasterChef Junior contestants are as young as 8 years old up to 13 years old. As a mother and pregnant on the show, Oz joked about those breathtaking moments when she worried the kids could get hurt. “I don’t remember anyone specifically flambéing, but there were open flames,” she told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “There’s knives. There’s also just pressure. Like every single television show I’ve ever been a part of.”

Daphne Oz says ‘MasterChef Junior’ pressure is high

Oz said most chefs end up getting cut during those initial challenges regardless of age. “The first week, everybody cuts themselves; they have to,” she shared. “It’s just like a horrible rule. Because you have pressure and you’re working fast, and it’s high adrenaline, high stakes, and these kids came into the kitchen every single day, guns blazing, just like ready to show us what they’ve learned and show us what they know and their culinary world. And I had a couple of mom moments where I was nervous for them.”

'MasterChef Junior' judges Daphne Oz and Gordon Ramsay talk to a contestant.
Daphne Oz and Gordon Ramsay on ‘MasterChef Junior’ | FOX via Getty Images

“But honestly, one of the big takeaways I took from being a part of MasterChef Junior is kids are capable of so much more than we expect,” she reflected. “And with that responsibility and with our trust and obviously with all the protective measures in place, giving them that freedom, it just boosts their confidence.”

How do the judges handle criticizing the kids?

Daphne Oz recalled witnessing an amazing transformation in the MasterChef Junior kids. “You see them developing on the show,” she said. “You see our contestants week after week, getting stronger, getting more resilient, having more fully-fledged ideas and better sort of construction of their dish. And all of that confidence is being won through struggling and through trying something that maybe isn’t right up in their wheelhouse and really succeeding coming out the other side, which is so inspiring as an adult and definitely as a parent.”

In addition to Oz, chefs Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sánchez are also parents. So Oz said they all balanced the perspective of being a parent with giving the young chefs respect and delivering constructive criticism. Oz took Ramsay’s lead by giving the kids respect when delivering criticism or bad news that they were going home.

“I think it’s very respectful and empowering that these incredible chefs give the kids the feedback that they earned. They’re not going to tell you, ‘you did it perfectly’ if you didn’t. But they’re not going to just lay it on thick and make you feel terrible. They’re going to help you have this constructive moment of here’s what you could have done differently. Here’s what you might have tried. Here’s what we were expecting.”

She added, “Here’s what we hoped you’d done. There’s always a learning message, and it’s a genuine and loving message. The hardest part, of course, of the show is sending anyone home.”

How do the chef contestants handle going home?

Like many fans who watch MasterChef Junior, Daphne Oz worries about contestants. “But one of the things that I found most mind-boggling is the kids aren’t sad when they’re leaving,” she recalled. “What you expect as a parent, as a viewer, is heartbreak, and it’s so sad. But these kids feel so lucky and have learned so much to get to be a part of this show. When they’re leaving, obviously, they’re not happy that they’re not continuing on, but they are leaving so filled up. A huge reason for that is because they’re learning all the time.”

“They wouldn’t get to learn if we all pretended that everything they did as an 8-year-old making pasta on their own is the way that an expert chef trained and working in the restaurant kitchen for the last 20 years would also have done this dish. And so I actually think it’s my role to offer those creative and culinary insights, but definitely to always make sure it landed in a way that I would hope an adult with influence spoke to my kids.”

Watch Daphne Oz on MasterChef Junior Season 8, airing Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

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