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Apron up: 'MasterChef Junior's' pint-sized chefs are more talented than ever

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Andrew Warren / TV Media
Jazzy Bell, a contestant in “Masterchef Junior”

Jazzy Bell, a contestant in “Masterchef Junior”

No matter whether they're big or small, chef Gordon Ramsay will judge them all. OK, so maybe that's not the best children's nursery rhyme, but anyone who keeps up with the eccentric British culinary icon knows that it's not far off the mark.

His co-judge, Christina Tosi, first joined him on screen in 2015, but Ramsay's been judging the enormously popular "MasterChef" cooking competition on Fox since 2010. Disc jockey Shaun O'Neale of Las Vegas won last year's season 7, holding up well under the constant scrutiny of the pair, and now it's time for a host of new home cooks -- significantly shorter ones -- to impress the decorated and award-winning chefs. "MasterChef Junior," the pint-sized culinary spinoff, fires up the ovens of its fifth season Thursday, Feb. 9, on Fox. 

The best chefs between the ages of 8 and 13 that could be found across the country all come together for a brutal cooking competition, and there are 40 of them in all -- the most of any season of "MasterChef Junior" to date. Under the watchful eyes of the "MasterChef" kitchen's resident grown-ups, the kids compete in a series of culinary challenges that most adult home cooks would struggle with.

These challenges are often once-in-a-lifetime events for the pint-sized home cooks. Whether they're cooking up a full meal for dozens of first responders, making a vegan dish for "The Big Bang Theory's" Mayim Bialik or serving one of the best-known "chefs" in the world -- "The Muppets'" own Swedish Chef -- the amount of talent that these kids put on display is a wonder to behold, even for people with years more experience in a kitchen.

Ultimately, one of the kids will rise to the top and be chosen as the winner. The reward is enough to set them up for years to come: a whopping $100,000 prize, not to mention the recognition that being a culinary prodigy brings.

Fox's slightly smaller version of its flagship cooking competition gets underway Thursday, Feb. 9.