Dear America, don't feel bad.
We can't cook as well as 10-year-old Gavin Pola and the other pint-size chefs on Fox's “MasterChef Junior,” either.
Of course, if we stayed up practicing recipes till 3 a.m. like this particular, ebullient San Francisco sixth-grader, perhaps our handmade tortellini would turn out like his.
It's week three of Gordon Ramsay's newest cooking show, and Gavin is one of 10 kids, ages 8 to 13, still in the race, cooking out of mystery boxes and racing through elimination challenges with the kind of savoir faire you expect from the pros. And any expectations that Ramsay would unleash his notoriously fiery temper on children have been utterly dashed. Instead, the judging has been a veritable respect fest between adorable, stunningly talented kids and smitten judges.
Naturally, we had questions, and Gavin was happy to dish. He's always loved to cook, and his on-air aplomb is probably helped by the classes he took in the American Conservatory Theater's education wing. He played a Dickensian lad in last year's big holiday production at ACT.
“In 'A Christmas Carol,' ” Gavin says. “Have you heard of it?”
Q: How did you start cooking?
A: When I was really little, I played with food — assembling sundaes, wondering what shall I do first? cherry on top? — just experimenting. This plus this equals that. It was fun. I like making cheesecake, salmon, all kinds of pasta — tortellini, fettuccine.
Q: What did you do to prepare for the show? Practice on your family?
A: Yeah, we cooked a lot at home. We tried lots and lots of recipes. One day, I stayed up until 3 in the morning!
Q: Had you seen these cooking shows before? Or did they do some kind of orientation? All the kids seem to know all the traditions: the clapping and yelling, “Yes, chef!”
A: Almost all of us had watched “MasterChef.” On the first day, Gordon Ramsay asked a question and we said yes. He said, “No, never say yes. It's 'Yes, chef!' ” We thought it was a joke, but it wasn't. (Laughs)
Q: So tell us — for real. What do you think of the judges?
A: The judges are really nice. They definitely criticize you, but it's because they want you to get better.
Q: But what about ...
A: I'd watched Gordon Ramsay on “Hell's Kitchen,” “MasterChef,” “Kitchen Nightmares.” I was scared! We've all seen Gordon Ramsay yell! But (here) it's never a real yell. it's a mellowed-down yell.
Q: What has been the best part of the experience?
A: Learning to cook so well. It teaches you so many things. And I always wondered about what it's like backstage at TV shows.
Q: So when this is all over, what's next for you? Will you go back to being a regular kid?
A: Hopefully not! I definitely want to be in more cooking shows, and I've always wanted to be in commercials. That would be cool — Come get your bananas! They're a dollar off!