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Culinary TV has come a long way from its roots of instructional shows. These days, cooking competitions are a huge part of the television landscape, with each new TV show trying to put its own spin on the classic formula. One of the most beloved of the format twists that have given us a variety of kitchen-themed competitions over the years is the “kid’s version” of popular shows. These competitions offer all the same excitement as the original series, while also giving a rare glimpse of some spectacular young talent that may make waves in the years to come. One of the best among these is Top Chef Junior, which incorporates 9-14 year-olds into the popular style of Top Chef, to find out who is the Top Chef.

(L-R) Milo Fleming, Rahanna Martinez, "Top Chef Junior" on Universal Kids; Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, "American Ninja Warrior" on NBC; Vanessa Lachey around a kitchen counter
(L-R) Milo Fleming, Rahanna Martinez, “Top Chef Junior” on Universal Kids; Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, “American Ninja Warrior” on NBC; Vanessa Lachey | Virginia Sherwood/Getty Images

A spin-off that almost didn’t happen

Top Chef has been around a long time. First airing in 2006, the eighteenth season of the legendary cooking show will air in April 2021. Only two years after Top Chef originally debuted Variety reported that Bravo had ordered 8 episodes of a version of the show for teens. Fans were excited about the show, but the show never aired and no more was heard about it or whether any episodes were ever produced.

In 2017 however, Universal Kids would release their own version of the title. Fans of Top Chef were overjoyed to finally get the promised junior version and the show performed well with critics and viewers. A second season was produced and finished airing in 2018, and fans are eagerly awaiting the third installment in this series.

Where is ‘Top Chef Junior’ filmed?

Top Chef Junior doesn’t just take notes from its original namesake, it copies the format entirely. 12 children, ages 9-14 are flown to Los Angeles, where the show is filmed, to stay for a month to compete in a series of challenges. Just like the original, they are eliminated one by one each episode until one is named “Top Chef Junior” in the finale, receiving a $50,000 cash prize. The copied format was welcome to fans, who were coming back season after season because they liked Top Chef. Even with this comforting format, it offered a unique viewing experience with children, sometimes as young as nine, braving the pressures of the competitive kitchen.

Grown-up pressure for young adults

While child cooking shows have received criticism recently for putting too much pressure on gifted young children, Top Chef Junior competitors have been surprisingly mature about the criticism and pressure placed on them.  Kate Daniel, a contestant on season 2 (then 12 years old) had even competed in Chopped Junior before auditioning for Top Chef Junior, so she was no stranger to the pressures of a competitive kitchen. For her, though the show was stressful, the takeaway was definitely positive. She told Houstonia in a 2018 interview, “My favorite part of probably the whole show was meeting all the different kinds of people.”

The future of ‘Top Chef Junior’


Is ‘Top Chef’ Coming Back in 2021?

The show is all about the future, as previous season winners Owen Pereira and Nikki Bidun are names to watch out for in the culinary world. As tweens, they understandably keep a low online profile, but after winning the prestigious status of “Top Chef Junior” both received a number of high profile opportunities to work with and learn from some of the greatest chefs of our time.

As for the future of the show, fans have been waiting over two years since the conclusion of season two for some news, and thankfully at least some has arrived. Universal Kids still heavily promotes the show on their site, and it’s still streaming on Peacock. The big relief for fans came in the middle of February 2021 though, when Backstage listed a casting call for contestants for season 3 of the show. With the casting call concluding in March, many expect the show to be filmed over the summer to avoid school schedules.

After much too long of a wait, it looks like fans may get more of this great cooking competition by early 2022. While everybody wants that third season now, most fans are willing to wait for great culinary TV like Top Chef Junior.