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“Little Chef Ivy” Continues to Break Barriers as MasterChef Franchise Gives Chefs with Disabilities Opportunities to Showcase Their Skills

Ivy wearing her MasterChef Junior Jacket, smiling in front of a plain purple wallLos Angeles, California, April 18 – Halfway through the seventh season of MasterChef Junior, some of the contestants are proving they are worthy contenders. One such young chef is 11-year-old Ivy, a Little Person who has achondroplasia, which causes an average sized torso with short limbs due to the lack of cartilage formation.

The season began with 24 children between the ages of eight and 13 who are competing for the title of Masterchef Junior and $100,000 in prize money. With just 12 contestants remaining, “Little Chef Ivy” continues to show the judges her exceptional cooking skills. Armed with her signature style – long braids topped with a fedora hat – Ivy is treated just like the other contestants, as she should be.

“You can do it!” Ivy has said. “If you put your mind to it, anything can happen, but also know your limits and that’s ok.”

Like a few of her competitors, Ivy is from Atlanta, Georgia. In the opening episode, Ivy’s mystery box challenge breakfast earned her a spot in the top three, giving her immunity in the elimination challenge. She has since gone on to prove she is a team player, performing well in several team challenges, as well as in individual competitions.

Reality television often is noted for breaking down various barriers, and when it comes to addressing disability, there is no exception here. Ivy is not the only reality cast member on television with achondroplasia today, as reality TV star and producer Terra Jolė of Little Women: Los Angeles also has this condition. In terms of her future, Ivy wants to be a food critic and travel the world.

Discounted Blind Chef Christine Hà Wins Master Chef in 2012

Christine Hà, a woman who is blind, won season three of FOX’s Master Chef. Although she had never attended culinary school, she ran The Blind Cook, a popular food blog.

“I think there are a lot of people who completely discounted me,” Hà stated in an interview. “They think I’m there as a TV gimmick for ratings. People will say, ‘What is she doing? Is she going to cut her finger off?’ But I cook at home for years without vision, so if I can do it at home I don’t see why I can’t prove to everyone else I can do it on national TV.”

Hà did more than prove herself – she won that season’s competition.

Christine Ha holds her MasterChef trophy as confetti falls around her“The lady has an extraordinary palate, a palate of incredible finesse,” said Chef Gordon Ramsay, one of the judges on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior. “She picks up hot ingredients, touches them, and she thinks about this image on the plate. She has the most disciplined execution on a plate that we’ve ever seen. But the palate is where it’s just extraordinary. And honestly, I know chefs with Michelin stars that don’t have palates like hers.”

After the competition, Hà continued writing on her blog and published a cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen. She also received the Hellen Keller Personal Achievement Award from the America Foundation of the Blind. The award is given to people and organizations that have “demonstrated outstanding achievement in improving quality of life for people with vision loss.”

She has continued to advocate for those who are visually impaired, in particular through affected by neromyelitis optica, on her blog the NMO Diaries:

“I just want people to realize that they have it in themselves if they really want to. If they have that passion, that fire, that drive, that desire… you can overcome any obstacle and any challenges to really achieve what you want and prove yourself to the world. Everyone is very capable. Much more capable than they think they are.”

The portrayal of people with disabilities in reality shows is in direct dichotomy with scripted television, where just 2.1 percent of all characters on primetime television have a disability. Furthermore, actors without disabilities play more than 95 percent of all characters with disabilities on television.

MasterChef Junior airs Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX. While it is unknown how far Ivy will go this season, she currently is in the top 12, having shown her skills in at least seven episodes this season so far.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the communications director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. Appelbaum currently oversees RespectAbility’s outreach to Hollywood to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

10 comments… add one
  • Avatar Cynitha Trent Apr 23, 2019, 9:53 pm

    Why did Ivy not get judged in the tuna challenge. The remainder 9 chefs cooked, but Ivy was not judged and was not eliminated. Why?

    • Lauren Appelbaum Lauren Appelbaum Apr 30, 2019, 9:54 pm

      You are correct. Unknown why …

    • Avatar Rick May 7, 2019, 9:13 pm

      I have noticed the same thing. I haven’t seen her cook much lately. She always seems to end up upstairs more like a cheerleader than a chef. When is she going to have to cook. Seems like special treatment. Haven’t enjoyed this season as much as past ones.

    • Avatar Joe smith May 28, 2019, 10:05 pm

      Is ivy really 11 ?? Looks much older

  • Avatar Food critic Apr 30, 2019, 10:24 am

    Please tell her…She nneds to stop touching her braids and the touching the food! Yuck. Nasty habit to develop.

  • Avatar Vicki Turner Apr 30, 2019, 10:03 pm

    Ivy rarely has to cook anything to compete. She is always safe from elimination. I think that’s insulting. She should speak up and tell him she wants to compete like all the other contestants. It’s almost as if the MasterChef franchise doesn’t think she can do it.

  • Avatar A Master Chef Junior viewer May 1, 2019, 9:09 pm

    Ivy shows great confidence and has shown some cooking ability, but she has gotten a bye on several of the competitions .. to the point where we are rolling our eyes when she gets another almost automatic trip to the balcony. Good on her trying, but she has not completed as often as the other children.

    • Avatar Ed D May 5, 2019, 4:25 pm

      We agree…when is she ever going to cook anything? She’s baked a couple of times and that’s it.

  • Avatar Carolyn May 26, 2019, 12:23 pm

    Hard to tell if Ivey can actually cook. The drawing for the black macaroni (resulting in safety) was staged – Ivey didn’t even seem surprised. All of the young chefs are good, so why does every single scene focus on Ivey? This is unfair to Ivey and makes it appear that she needs special treatment. Ivey is equal to everyone else and all should be equally showcased. Ivey should be empowered and not made to believe on national television that she is not capable and that she needs extra attention. Matthew is only 8 and Ivey is 11 – he has out cooked Ivey every time but got the boot. This isn’t much different than the parents who bought their children’s college entrance. Give Ivey a real chance and empower her to compete equally – she is equal.

  • Avatar NGR May 29, 2019, 9:38 am

    Lauren Appelbaum, I want to thank you for your honest answer to a question posted about The Tuna Challenge. I always respect honesty.
    Why am I here? on this site. I feel something is not right. I do feel for this person, Ivy, she is been given difficulties at birth. And now she is in the Lime Lite On Master Chef Junior. However I question the age the show has given to Ivy. Her mannerisms appear more mature and at times does a less than genuine adolescent reaction to events that happen during the filming of the show.

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