EXCLUSIVE: Daphne Oz Talks Being the New Judge on Season 8 of ‘MasterChef Junior’

Daphne Oz

FOX Daphne Oz on "MasterChef Junior."

“MasterChef Junior” is back for its eighth season and this time, there’s a new judge on the panel. Daphne Oz is joining chefs Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sanchez to crown one of the 16 children competing the winner.

Speaking with Heavy, the 36-year-old said joining the show was “really easy”,” calling it a “well-oiled machine.”

“I was so warmly welcomed and made to feel so much a part of the family there,” she said, revealing she was able to quickly get up to speed. “I think that that’s just a testament to what an incredible ship they run and also the fun they’re having. You know you get Gordon and Aarón, you can see the fun that they have every day on the show. But behind the scenes with that, with the crew, with the production team, it is equally playful and energized and professional. And I love getting to just jump right in and hit the ground running.”

Oz is no stranger to television. The Emmy-winning host and New York Times bestselling author has co-hosted the daytime series “The Chew” and “The Good Dish.” She has also served as a judge on Food Network’s “Cooks vs. Cons.”

This Season’s Challenges Include a Renaissance Fair

The cookbook author said her first season on the show “utterly blew me away with the caliber of competition. Oz added, “The contestants are phenomenal, and the challenges we’re putting them to are pretty epic and out there.”

The challenges involved a monster truck rally, a restaurant takeover, and a standout for Oz, a renaissance fair. The competitors, aged eight to 13 years old, were “in an authentic renaissance fair environment,” she explained. “And then Gordon and Aaron were jousting on steeds and I was going to be wearing like a, you know, lady of the court costume, eight months pregnant.”

She said longtime fans will get “a healthy dose of fun and learning and excitement for our young chefs, our young competitors to excel week after week.” Oz continued, “And there are some real pitfall moments of just like ‘Gasp, hold your breath. Can’t believe this just happened.’ And also real highlight moments of redemption. And there’s something for everyone and definitely the perfect show to watch with the whole family.”

Oz Speaks to the Competitors As She Would Want Adults to Speak to Her Kids

Working with kids is nothing new to Oz, who is a mother of four. She shares Philomena, Jovan, Domenica and Giovanna with husband John Jovanovic.

“I’ve never been a part of a show where it was such a, like when you really got to see the consistency and the growth over the arc of the season with our contestants,” “The Happy Cook” author told Heavy. “And that was it was eye-opening. As a mom, you know, my oldest at the time was five. And to get to think that like in three short years, our youngest competitors are eight, she could have she could have this level of skill set. She could have this composure. She could have this excitement and passion for something like food was really inspiring and cool to see.”

Oz followed Ramsay’s lead when it came to critiquing the competitors.

“I think it’s amazing that he respects and wants to encourage the kids enough to actually give them real feedback. … He doesn’t try to sugarcoat it when they do something that … makes a dish just challenging,” she explained, noting it was a learning experience for the young chefs.

“So I try to do the same in terms of always making sure that they’re getting the feedback they need to get but I try to talk to them in a way that I would hope an adult with influence in my kids’ lives would talk to them,” Oz added, saying she provided encouragement. while sharing improvements they can make moving forward.

Oz explained that she also conveyed alternatives, not just for the kids but for audiences at home trying to avoid the same mistakes. As she said, “These kids are phenomenal cooks already at these young ages, so I think it’s a very unintimidating way for the viewer to be learning alongside, which is also a really cool piece of the show.”

The “MasterChef Junior” premiere airs on FOX on Thursday, March 17, 2022, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

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