Kids are the best.
The hilariously candid things they blurt out are inspiration for a number of successful TV ventures like Kids Say the Darndest Things and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. It’s also universally acknowledged that reality TV parents are the WORST—just look at Toddlers in Tiaras and Dance Moms.
So it’s unsurprising that Food Network decided to combine these two winning formulas into a cooking competition modeled after Iron Chef America and Chopped.
Our discriminating judges are none other than rootin’-tootin’ Rachael Ray and “I’ve been struck by lightning eight times” Guy Fieri. You may remember their team effort in Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, which saw Dean McDermott crowned and gave Tori and Dean yet another short-lived opportunity to be unattractive on TV with Cooking Channel’s Dean and Tori’s Backyard Bash.
But this time, it’s all about the kiddos. Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off means 10-12 year olds show off their expertise in teams and in individual competitions coached and judged by Guy and Rachael, after which one kid is chosen as MVP and no one is voted off, because that would be too traumatic for the nuggets. At the end, one of the little culinary whizzes will have his or her own FoodNetwork.com web series.
So let’s meet the little chefs.
Sydney is from a little town called Apex, North Carolina. She is hands down the most competitive and decorated kid on the show. In her intro speech, she informs us she’s won 100 ribbons at the North Carolina state fair and challenges us with “Bring it on, baby.” She also slips in that her mom is “always watching. Always. Always.” Couldn’t have guessed.
He’s an adorable kid from Austin with a great lisp and a tie. He’s one of the younger ones, clocking in at 10, but he swears he’s got what it takes.
Hunter likes plaid and black-framed glasses and hails from Connecticut. And while he’s a big softie for criticism, he’s way ahead of the game as far as culinary training and aplomb. He uses agave as a sweetener, prepares venison and green peppercorn sauce, and even sings to us while doing it. He’s delightful but also one of the most dangerous.
Poor Daniel was the underdog this week. He kept effing things up, like mistaking salt for sugar and dumping jerk-flavored salad dressing all over his salmon (causing his Dance Mom to face-palm throughout the episode). Rookie. But since Guy was most disappointed in him this time, I smell a plot twist later in the game with some serious vindication.
Side note: Wouldn’t it be great if Iron Chef was just like this show where the chefs are caught on camera whining when something bad happens: “Oh nooooo. I splooged jerk salad dressing all over my fishhhh.”
I know the contestants on this one are kids, and therefore we have to be nicer to them. But, if this show did have villains, Cole would be the Russell Hantz of Cook-Off. He’s a super snob, like when he burned his bread and announced that it looked like it came out of the ruins of Pompeii. And then when he teased Daniel for being Canadian and inquiring about butter measurements! He’s going to be a total sabotager.
He’s an adorable leukemia survivor who specializes in comfort food and is helpful to everyone. Need we say more?
Everyone seemed to decide early on that Haile is boring, which isn’t really fair because she’s just determined and precise. She’s one of those silent competitors with a really fierce mom. She might be gracious now, but she’ll kick more butt later.
Again, if the aforementioned villain circumstances were allowed here, we’d tear Alessandra to pieces. She’s super condescending to people who mispronounce Italian words instead of obnoxiously enunciating them as she does. She got top marks for a minty pesto over her zucchini made out of “Pappa-dellayyyy.” But one of the boys dubbed her a “mini Giada,” so smirks were had by all.
While the show features lots of Housewives-style music and behind-the-scenes attitude, the best part is definitely the kids and their silly banter. Brandon—our favorite speech-impeded kitchen wizard—seems to ONLY create dishes that have a lot of “S” sounds in them (like sweet and savory sweet potatoes). The competition can’t really be too fierce, because no matter how much Guy or Rachael dislikes the menus or execution, they can’t say something too blunt without one of the kids ending up in a puddle of tears.
But that kind of tip-toeing means we get a Guy Fieri that’s uncharacteristically pulseless. His contributions are limited to some feigned amazement at the munchkins’ creations and a few one-liners like “Kidz. Can. Kook.” He would know.
Admittedly, it’s a little disappointing that the kids aren’t wearing Guy-cloned Reddi-Whip hair spikes and Ray-like brown wigs (as the show’s promos promised). However, our favorite TV cameo star, Michelle Obama, did stop by via video to enthuse the kid cooks about healthy school lunches. Word.
Anyway, Alessandra took home the MVP for Team Guy, and Brandon was the surprise hit for Team Rachael. Let’s hope his masterpiece next week is something like “seared salmon sushi sliders.”
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