Cooking shows like Top Chef have offered up the amuse-bouche version of kid judges before, with tykes brought in for a single episode, never to be seen or heard from again. But Cook’d, a new show on YTV, has a group of kids ages 7 to 12 acting as full-time taste-makers. Disappoint them, and the losing cook is plunged into a giant vat of “soup” (it’s really water). If you think all kids want is PB&J and mac ’n’ cheese, think again. This is the first generation born into the Food Network, and no doubt many kids have inherited their foodie parents’ culinary obsessiveness. The Globe’s Dave McGinn sat down with Toronto’s Natasha Young, 12, to discuss being a judge on the series, on-air swearing and what makes for a great cooking-show personality.
What’s your favourite food?
My favourite food is perogies.
I eat perogies with cheese and bacon on top and I love it.
I’m the same with that, but with the bacon I like to put caramelized onion on it. It’s so good. You’re going to have to try it.
What’s your least favourite food?
Who hates chicken?
I just don’t like it.
What’s the most important quality for being a good cooking-show judge?
Going in completely open-minded. So for me, with chicken, I know that I hate chicken, but you have to go in like you’ve never tried it before. You have to go in thinking, “This is going to be a brand new food,” and you either like it or you don’t.
Do you watch any other cooking reality shows?
I watch MasterChef and Chopped and all of those shows because my sister’s really into cooking and baking. That’s basically what’s on my television. It’s all cooking shows.
Are you into cooking at all?
Sometimes, but I like the eating part more.
Can we expect any Gordon Ramsay-esque swearing tirades from you on the show?
The judges get to dunk chefs into a giant vat of “soup” when they don’t make the grade. How does it feel to do that?
Very good, but at the same time you’re kind of like, “I’m so sorry!” But then it kicks in: “You know what? We didn’t like your food, so bye-bye.”
Do you now judge your parents’ cooking at home?
I do, and it drives them insane. Chicken will come in, and I’ll be like, “I need more sauce on this” or “I won’t be able to eat this,” and they’ll be like, “Okay” [with sarcastic exaggeration].
They have the mindset where they know I’ll critique everything, but at the same time they’re just kind of like, “Well, we made this, so you’re going to eat it whether you like it or not.”
How would your fellow judges describe you?
Oh, I have no clue. Maybe outgoing, because I’m not shy to talk to anybody.
Would you ever spit out a bite of food if it tasted really bad?
I’d try my best to swallow it.
Why do you think kids will like this show?
Because they have different foods from everywhere you can imagine, and it just kind of shows that kids do have an opinion on what’s going on.
It’s not all up to the adults, because we are the future adults of the restaurants.
This interview has been condensed and edited.