The filming studio was a hive of activity. And then . . .
There was silence. Everyone waited.
“Welcome to Next Best Junior Chef, where all the action is in the kitchen!” The announcer’s voice filled the air with energy and excitement. “This week, four young chefs will battle it out in a series of challenges that will test their culinary skills, knowledge, and creativity. Thursday’s challenge will send one chef home, and the three remaining contestants will be one step closer to the final elimination round. Pick your favorites now, because one of these talented chefs WILL BE the Next Best Junior Chef!
“Our esteemed judges include Chef Vera Porter of the famous Porter Farm Restaurant, renowned pastry chef Aimee Copley, and Chef Gary Lee, restaurant proprietor and host of the award-winning show Adventures in Cooking. Make no mistake, the judges will be watching our competitors very closely. Everything counts, and will be taken into consideration, when we get to the final elimination round.
“Our young chefs will be mentored by Chef Nancy Patel, the 2013 recipient of the Golden Spoon Award.
“The winner of Next Best Junior Chef will receive two life-changing prizes: a food truck specially designed for the winner and a guest spot on Adventures in Cooking when it begins filming this summer in . . . the beautiful countryside of Italy!
“Our four young chefs have survived countless interviews, taste tests, and chopping challenges. They can purée, sauté, broil, bake, and fry with skill beyond their years. They’re the cream of the crop, and they can’t wait to get cooking. So, let’s meet our competitors.”
The junior chefs were lined up and ready outside the big doorway of the filming studio. As soon as the announcer called their names, they’d come in, one at a time, for a grand entrance. Chef Nancy had prepared them, because once the cameras were rolling, everything had to be perfect.
The announcer continued: “Next Best Junior Chef invites contestant Caroline to the table. Caroline is from Chicago, Illinois.”
Chef Nancy tapped Caroline on the shoulder. “Go.”
Caroline took a deep breath and walked through the door and down the ramp toward the front of the room. She passed the workstations, one of which would be hers, but she didn’t look. Her eyes stayed glued to her destination. The judges, Chef Gary, Chef Aimee, and Chef Porter, stood next to one another behind a long table, smiling and waiting.
Chef Gary stepped forward. “Welcome, Caroline. Please tell us: How did you get to be such a good cook?”
The cameras, the lights, the judges—these made Caroline nervous, but not the question. She knew exactly what to say. Chef Nancy had helped them practice their answers.
“I’m lucky—I’ve been around good food my whole life. My family owns a French bistro and my mother is a chef, so I speak French, English, and food. It’s like a third language for me. Cooking is a way to express myself.”
“Wow!” Chef Gary took a step back. “How old are you?”
“Well, I can’t wait to see what your food is going to tell us.”
Caroline blushed. “Thank you, Chef.”
The interview was over. Tate was next. Caroline breathed a sigh of relief.
“Next Best Junior Chef invites contestant Tate to the table. Tate hails from Seattle, Washington.”
Tate couldn’t wait to get to the front of the room. It was hard not to run, and then when he got there, it was hard to stand still.
Chef Aimee smiled and leaned forward. “Welcome, Tate—I know I’m supposed to ask you a cooking question, but first I have to know . . . how old are you?”
Tate swayed back and forth on the balls of his feet. “Nine.”
Chef Aimee shook her head. “Unbelievable! You’re our youngest contestant ever. Congratulations! Was it difficult to become one of the four junior chefs in this competition?”
Tate chopped the air with his hand. “Not really. I’m good with a knife, and I like cooking, so it was fun. People are always surprised when they see what I can do in the kitchen.”
Chef Aimee smiled. “Ooh, I like surprises. Well done, Tate. I can’t wait for you to surprise me, too.”
Tate nodded and grinned until he heard the announcer’s voice.
“Next Best Junior Chef invites contestant Oliver to the—”
“CUT! CUT! CUT!” A man brushed past Oliver and ran down the ramp. “Take five! Camera problem. We’ll start up again in five minutes tops.”
Chef Nancy called Oliver back from the ramp. “I’m sorry, Oliver. We’ll start again when Steve gives us the signal. He’s the producer, so if he says it’s only five minutes, I’m sure he’s right.”
Oliver nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” He could wait. He was the King of Calm.