Friday—Week Two Begins
Caroline, Oliver, and Rae were lined up outside the studio door, the same as a week ago with two exceptions: Tate was missing and they were excited instead of nervous. Tate had been sent home at the end of last week’s episode, but the biggest change was the excitement—after a week of competing, they had more of an idea of what to expect. In just minutes, the announcer would call their names and they’d be walking down the ramp to greet the judges.
Caroline spun around and whispered a fast “Good luck.”
Oliver frowned. “I don’t need luck.”
Rae returned a thumbs-up. “You too.”
“Shhh!” Chef Nancy held a finger to her lips.
Caroline flushed, faced front, and a second later . . .
. . . it started.
The announcer’s voice filled the room. “Welcome to Next Best Junior Chef! This is week two of our competition and things are about to get hot in the kitchen. We’re down to three junior chefs. They’re the best in the nation, but can they handle the challenges we’ve cooked up? Will the King of Calm keep his cool? Are the bonds of friendship about to be sliced and diced? Thursday’s elimination round will leave us with the final two contestants. One of these talented chefs will be the Next Best Junior Chef! Let’s bring out our three young contestants.”
Chef Nancy tapped Caroline’s shoulder—it was the signal to walk through the door. Caroline stepped forward and smiled all the way to the front of the studio.
The announcer continued. “Congratulations, Caroline, and welcome to week two. Caroline is eleven years old and from Chicago, Illinois. She’s got some tricks up her sleeve. Not everyone can turn an eggplant into a delectable dessert. The judges have been continuously impressed with her skill and creativity.”
Oliver’s foot hit the ramp just as the announcer said his name. He marched forward, head up, and with only a hint of a smirk. This was serious. He wasn’t here for fun.
“Congratulations, Oliver, and welcome to another exciting week. Oliver is twelve years old and from Montgomery, Alabama. He’s our reigning champ from last week, and this will give him an edge in today’s competition. Last week we saw this King of Calm step up and save the day. The judges all agree: This junior chef is some kind of superhero in the kitchen, too.”
Chef Nancy tapped Rae’s shoulder and then gave it a squeeze.
Rae grinned and moved out into the bright lights. She wasn’t worried about fainting again—that was a last-week thing, she was sure of it.
“Congratulations, Rae, and welcome back to the competition. Rae is eleven years old and from Port Chester, New York. She got off to a bit of a rocky start last week, but that hasn’t slowed her down. She’s feisty, determined, and a master of culinary presentation. The judges have not been disappointed. This young chef knows how to wow both the eye and the palate.”
Rae moved in next to Oliver and faced the judges.
“Our esteemed judges include Chef Vera Porter of the famous Porter Farm Restaurant, the renowned pastry chef Aimee Copley, and Chef Gary Lee, restaurant proprietor and host of the award-winning show Adventures in Cooking. The judges will be watching our competitors very closely throughout the week, and everything that happens along the way will be taken into consideration when we get to the final elimination round. In addition to choosing a winner, the judges will have to dismiss one of our junior chefs and ask them to hang up their apron. This decision will be based on performance, the taste and presentation of their dishes, and overall creative vision.
“Our junior chefs are 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 custom food truck and a guest spot on Adventures in Cooking when it begins filming this summer in Italy!”
Chef Gary stepped forward, his arms opened wide. “Welcome, young chefs! Are we all excited to be back?”
He rubbed his hands. “Are you ready for the surprises? The unexpected? The twists and turns?”
“Hmm.” Chef Gary studied the contestants and stroked his chin. “Not so enthusiastic that time. Well, you’re probably right to be worried. This is not going to be easy. It will be challenging and—”
“FUN!” interrupted Chef Aimee. “We’re going to have fun.” She winked at Caroline. “I promise!”
Caroline breathed a sigh of relief. Chef Gary’s joking around was making her nervous. The wink helped a lot.
Rae glanced down the line of judges. Chef Porter was wearing her sour-pickle face. A minute later it disappeared.
Chef Porter cleared her throat and smiled. “The focus for this week is sharing, here, with us and with others. We want to learn about your families, your traditions, and your inspirations, because these are the things that shape creativity. It’s going to be an exciting and fulfilling week!”
“CUT!” Steve the producer waved his arms and the cameras turned off.
Chef Gary and Chef Aimee stepped around the table to shake everyone’s hand and wish them luck, but not Chef Porter. She was already gone.
After the greetings, Chef Nancy pointed to the orange door on the far wall. “Interview time, and it’s the same format as last week. When Steve asks a question, just answer honestly.”
“Me first,” said Oliver. He pushed to the front and marched across the room. A minute later he was sitting on the stool facing Steve the producer and Mark the cameraman.
“Ready?” asked Steve.
Steve signaled the camera. “Tell me, Oliver, do you have a pet?”
OLIVER: I have a cat. His name is Muscadine. That’s a kind of grape that grows in Alabama. But we don’t call him that anymore, because Muscadine is hard to say, especially if you have to s...