Kids Spice Up Chef Shows

A batch of reality competition shows involving adolescent chefs are dishing out ratings for FYI, Food Network and other cable programmers.

From spinoffs of hit culinary shows such as Fox’s MasterChef Junior and Food Network’s Chopped Junior, to newer offerings such as FYI’s Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown, shows featuring young chefs are providing networks with content that appeals across several demographics. This new flavor of cooking show also skews younger than more-traditional fare.

“There is a cultural phenomenon going on now with kid cooks and having a passion and growing talent for cooking,” Gena McCarthy, executive vice president of programming and development for FYI, said.

For Food Network, shows like Kids Baking Championship and Chopped Junior don’t just appeal to the network’s core adult 18-49 viewer, but also to younger audiences that don’t typically watch the network, according to Didi O’Hearn, senior vice president of programming for the Food Network and Cooking Channel.

Nearly 30% of the adult 18-49 audience for Kids Baking Championship during its freshman run in 2015 watched with their kids, making it the top co-viewed show on cable during its Monday 8 p.m. time slot, according to Food.

Chopped Junior finished its freshman campaign earlier this year as Food Network’s third-most-watched show among both adults 24-54 and adults 25-34, illustrating the genre’s appeal across younger and older audiences.

“Our ultimate goal remains growing our core demo, [but] when we look at the whole family at 8 p.m. with our shows, we benefit from engagement with that core demo, as well as the best type of sampling as far as multigenerational family co-viewing,” O’Hearn said.

Sophomore series Man vs. Child is FYI’s most watched food-themed show and one of its most-watched shows in primetime. McCarthy said the network often schedules episodes in weekend blocks to reach tweens and teens who may not be watching primetime TV.

“Part of the appeal for viewers is there’s a ‘holy crap’ factor when you’re watching these 10-year-old kids with such demonstrative talent in the kitchen — that cuts through in a visual media,” she added. “At the same time, it also appeals to foodies because it’s smart, aspirational and there’s tons of takeaways wrapped in the package.

“It becomes a young brand for FYI and has dual appeal, especially when kids watch with their parents,” McCarthy added.

Both FYI and Food are looking to serve up new shows featuring kid chefs. FYI recently greenlit a second kids-themed cooking show, Stove Tots, produced by Jeff Collins, producer of Lifetime’s Dance Moms, and set to air in 2017. The series follows young cooks and their families as they prepare for and compete in cookoffs across the U.S. (It also greenlit a new non-kids culinary competition series, Man vs. Master.) McCarthy said FYI is looking at other kids’-themed cooking shows, too.

Along with the mid-August launch of Food Network Star spinoff series Food Network Star Kids, Food Network is planning two holiday-themed specials this fall: Kids Halloween Baking Championship and Kids Sweets Showdown, according to O’Hearn.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.