‘MasterChef Junior Live!’ kicks off in Joliet with fun for fans, foodies and families
The inaugural live tour for the Fox culinary competition show “MasterChef Junior” begins in Joliet.
“MasterChef Junior Live!” on Oct. 3 at Rialto Square Theatre features Season 5 winner Jasmine Stewart, Season 6 fan favorite Evan Estrada, Season 7 fan favorite Matthew Smith and Season 7 finalist Malia Brauer plus question-and-answer sessions.
“It’s going to be a family-friendly stage show that will feature head-to-head cooking demonstrations and fun, sometimes messy challenges with past ‘MasterChef Junior’ contestants,” said Estrada, of San Diego, via phone from his high school where he recently started his freshman year.
Estrada is familiar with fellow 14-year-old Stewart as she returned to “MasterChef Junior” to introduce a Pressure Test to make a box of French macarons -- the very challenge that resulted in his Season 6 elimination.
“Malia and I were working together to introduce kids that were trying to get on ‘MasterChef Junior,’” he said about the 12-year-old who made Season 7’s top three.
“They were auditioning for Season 8. It was an open call in Los Angeles. Malia and I were in the same group and just got to talking and helping kids. She’s super fun to be with, really cool, a very talented girl and well-rounded.”
Although Estrada does not know Smith personally, he said, “I’m super excited to meet Matthew,” about the 9-year-old who made Season 7’s top eight.
Estrada made Season 6’s top seven after attending a cooking camp during the summer of his sixth-grade year and being given an application for “MasterChef Junior,” which is open to ages 8-13.
“I got accepted to the open call. Then I kept auditioning and auditioning and the rest is history,” he said about eventually cooking for judges Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Christina Tosi.
“I can’t wait to relive the experience from the show in ‘MasterChef Junior Live!’ One of the biggest things I remember was hanging out with all the other contestants. The hotel that we stayed at was very near to a mall. We could always walk back and forth to the mall and we would have fun.”
Estrada, whose food dreams range from opening a restaurant and being a food critic to making his own brand and being a TV chef, was 11 years old when he competed on “MasterChef Junior.”
Although Ramsay has a reputation of being tough on adult contestants of the U.S. version of “MasterChef,” viewers of the junior version of the show have seen a different side of the multi-Michelin-starred chef.
“He’s absolutely amazing. He is not mean at all. He is super fun. He loves to joke. He was supportive to all the children,” Estrada said.
“He would get on some of the kids that didn’t want to be there and weren’t really trying as hard. For the kids that were really putting all their effort in, he acknowledged that.”
Estrada’s “MasterChef Junior” experience led to being a guest chef at restaurants, catering dinner parties and raising more than $50,000 for nonprofit events with his cooking.
“I have multiple signature dishes. One of them is pumpkin-sweet potato ravioli in a truffle cream sauce. That was one of the dishes I made on the show. I did get in the top three of the canned food Mystery Box Challenge,” said Estrada, who cited beef Wellington as another of his standout dishes.
“My grandmother was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. I really love learning about Costa Rica and where I’m from and cooking arroz con pollo,” he said.
“MasterChef Junior,” which aired its Season 7 finale in June, will be back for an eighth season with returning judges Ramsay and Aaron Sanchez and new judge Daphne Oz.
“Kids love to cook and kids love watching TV so I guess the combination of the two go hand in hand very well,” said Estrada, who began watching cooking programs at age 8.
“You can learn so much just from watching a show like ‘MasterChef Junior.’ That’s actually one of the ways that I learned how to cook. I love to cook and I hope to inspire some kids to cook on the live tour.”
A limited number of VIP experiences are available for an additional $50 for adults and $30 for ages 12 and younger and includes meeting and taking pictures with the cast of MasterChef Junior Live! and receiving a signed copy of the new MasterChef Junior Cookbook, 2nd Edition.
“MasterChef Junior Live!”
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3
Where: Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
Tickets: $35 to $55-plus
Information: 815-726-6600; www.rialtosquare.com