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12 Kitchen Secrets from the Kids on MasterChef Junior

Ready for some tough love by some tiny chefs?

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: L-R: Contestants Quani, Cade, Beni and Remy in the all-new, two-hour “Junior Edition: Crackin’ Under Pressure/Junior Edition: A Can Do Attitude” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Friday, April 20 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Greg Gayne / FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting Co.Greg Gayne / FOX

We can learn a lot from the experts, and sometimes those experts come in pint-size packages. The kid chef contestants on this season of MasterChef Junior, hosted by Gordon Ramsey and pastry chef Christina Tosi, might not have any James Beard awards, but they’re got drive, determination and adorableness on their side. So, we decided to ask them for their best cooking advice … and they delivered. You can catch Season 6 of Masterchef Junior on FOX Fridays, 8/7 central.

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Quani Age: 11 Hometown: Lawrenceville, GA Signature Dish: Homemade Fettuccine with Meat Sauce CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Take It to the Next Level

“The key to making a dish extraordinary is to start with something classic and then add your own spin on it, like more complex ingredients and flavors. I make my dishes memorable by making them personal and put my own style into it so that it will stand out as my own.” —Quani, 13, Lawrenceville, Georgia

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Evan Age: 11 Hometown: San Diego, CA Signature Dish: Baked Lemon-Cumin Chicken Breast with Balsamic Glaze CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Start With These Two Staples

“I LOVE mushrooms and potatoes. Together, they make a delicious combination and side dish. I like the fact each ingredient can go in many cultural cuisines: French, Japanese, Hawaiian, Italian, Norwegian, Australian—they can go many ways.” —Even Estrada, 13, San Diego, California

Don’t miss this creamy mushroom potato bake.

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Olivia Age: 10 Hometown: New York, NY Signature Dish: Pork Chop with Chutney CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Don’t Be Afraid of Messing Up

“A common cooking mistake is confusing ingredients with each other. For example, I’ve confused sugar for salt and baking soda for baking powder. Nobody is perfect in or out of the kitchen. But what I learned on MasterChef Junior is that you learn from your mistakes. Mistakes make us stronger chefs and stronger people.” —Olivia, 12, New York City

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Beni Age: 9 Hometown: Chicago, IL Signature Dish: Garlic-Lime Chicken with Mixed Barley with Cilantro-Lime Dressing CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.Michael Becker / FOX

For Beginner Chefs

“Start by chopping vegetables and learning knife skills. Then I would start making soups. Simple soups can be made with almost anything and you can add rice for a hearty meal.” —Beni, 11, Chicago, Ill.

Maybe start with one of these 30 Chicken Noodle Soup Recipes from Around the World.

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Remy Age: 12 Hometown: New York, NY Signature Dish: Shrimp Scampi in Curry Sauce CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Fresh is Best

“I’m really particular about good ingredients. I don’t eat fast food because I realized how incredible it is to grow your own vegetables and serve them in nearly minutes after it was picked. In the summertime, we have a garden where we home grow lots of our vegetables. Whatever we don’t grow, we buy from a local farm stand. Our family is very much ‘garden-to-table.'” —Remy, 14, New York City

Get oodles of fresh farm-to-table recipes.

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Evan Age: 11 Hometown: San Diego, CA Signature Dish: Baked Lemon-Cumin Chicken Breast with Balsamic Glaze CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Don’t Slack on Plating

“Add lots of love, compassion, and thought into your dish. Studies have shown that when you work while being happy, that is when you perform best! You need to have finesse. That will help your plates look very clean yet beautiful. Learning how to plate a dish can take a basic meal and turn it into a fine dining experience.” —Even Estrada, 13, San Diego, Calif.

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Quani Age: 11 Hometown: Lawrenceville, GA Signature Dish: Homemade Fettuccine with Meat Sauce CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Measure Carefully

“My favorite ingredients are sugar, vanilla and flour because they are simple ingredients but when I put them together they make something delicious. Baking is a science so measuring is important, using the wrong measurements is a big mistake when baking. I would suggest learning measurements and their abbreviations.” —Quani, 13, Lawrenceville, Georgia

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Beni Age: 9 Hometown: Chicago, IL Signature Dish: Garlic-Lime Chicken with Mixed Barley with Cilantro-Lime Dressing CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.Michael Becker / FOX

Is Your Soul In It?

“I think making a dish extraordinary just means putting a lot of heart and care into it. I make my dishes memorable by putting my soul into them.” —Beni, 11, Chicago, Illinois (You can put your heart into one of these 20 Heart-Shaped Recipes.)

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Emily Age: 9 Hometown: Sylmar, CA Signature Dish: Tamales with Homemade Red Sauce CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Ignore the Haters

“The advice I would give to other kids who want to learn how to cook is to follow your dreams and don’t let people get in your mind and tell you that you can’t. Start off with simple dishes and begin to add your own flair to them.” —Emily Chavez, 10, Sylmar, California

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Remy Age: 12 Hometown: New York, NY Signature Dish: Shrimp Scampi in Curry Sauce CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Think Outside the Box

“Do something that nobody’s ever done before or think about a wild combination that might seem ‘blech!’ at first. You have to be a little adventurous in the kitchen! There were times on MasterChef Junior where I finished a dish and thought that there was little something missing. I would taste it and then taste it again. Is it over-the-top? That is the question I ask myself whenever I cook ANYTHING. Do your own thing, or else you’ll just blend in.” —Remy, 14, New York City

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Emily Age: 9 Hometown: Sylmar, CA Signature Dish: Tamales with Homemade Red Sauce CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Just Add Cumin

“My favorite ingredients to use are cumin and red wine. Cumin has such an amazing flavor and can be used as a seasoning in a lot of foods. I also love the dry flavor of red wine when it’s in a sauce. You need to include a lot of new flavors that you wouldn’t usually add to a dish to make it special.”—Emily Chavez, 10, Sylmar, California

Try these Roasted Cumin Cashews to start.

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MASTERCHEF: JUNIOR EDITION: Olivia Age: 10 Hometown: New York, NY Signature Dish: Pork Chop with Chutney CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2018 / FOX Broadcasting.CR: Michael Becker / FOX

Cook What You Love

“I always cook what I want to eat, which is usually dessert—cupcakes, cake, macarons, you name it! So, my advice is to cook what you love to eat.”—Olivia, 12, New York City

You can’t go wrong with one of these Winning Dessert Recipes.

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Amanda Kippert
Amanda Kippert has been an award-winning freelance journalist for nearly two decades. She is based in Tucson, Arizona and specializes in food, health, fitness, parenting and humor, as well as social issues. She is the content editor of the domestic violence nonprofit DomesticShelters.org.
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