Tilly Ramsay Tells Us What It Was Like Working With Her Dad On MasterChef Junior - Exclusive Interview

Tilly Ramsay is no stranger to the spotlight, having grown up watching her culinary icon father Gordon Ramsay dazzle fans with his cooking skills and sharp wit. However, she has already created an impressive portfolio for herself, launching her own cookbook, amassing more than 11 million followers on TikTok and Instagram, and appearing on multiple shows like "Hell's Kitchen" and "Next Level Chef U.K." The 22-year-old told us in an exclusive interview that she would watch her dad behind-the-scenes as a child and felt inspired to one day follow in his footsteps. She's done just that.

After appearing on "MasterChef Junior" multiple times since she was just 12 years old, Tilly Ramsay has now made the big shift to being a judge on the hit series. Season 9 premieres March 4 at 8 p.m. EST on Fox. It will also feature celebrity chefs Aarón Sánchez, Daphne Oz, and the patriarch himself, Gordon Ramsay. This year, talented kids between the ages of 8 and 13 will compete in a series of challenges — like cooking a meal for the Harlem Globe Trotters and a field competition at the iconic Magic Castle in Los Angeles — to take home $100,000 in prize money.

Tilly revealed to us what it was like working so closely with her father, what fans can expect to see this season, the impressive first meal she mastered at a young age, and what she's most proud to make for her family full of cooks.

What it was like on the set of 'MasterChef Junior'

You've appeared on "MasterChef Junior" many times throughout the years. What made you officially decide to make the leap to be a judge on the show?

I loved coming on from a young age with my dad. I think I was first age 12 when I came on. I loved watching what he's done. In school holidays, I used to sit at the side of the set and watch him and the other judges and watch the kids, which was always really cool. Then, when I was asked to do the Christmas special, that was important to me. I had so much fun doing that. It was a very fun time. And then getting asked to do a full season was a dream come true because I got to do everything I've admired my dad doing for years.

What can fans expect to see this season that's different from seasons past?

This season is very competitive; everyone was incredibly good. It was full of passion, it was energetic, and some amazing challenges. And what I think is so nice is every season is different because it comes with different characters. You've also got different challenges. It's all very exciting.

In a recent interview, Aarón Sánchez said you bring a "youthful exuberance" to the show. What was it like to be at the judge's table with him as well as Daphne Oz?

It was amazing getting to be around Daphne and Aarón. They're so knowledgeable, and they're so passionate as well. Learning from them was really cool. Aarón, he makes me laugh a lot. He and my dad, they wind each other up. They're always a bit like brothers. They jab at each other. They have a lot of fun. Hearing his food stories and his style of cooking is very interesting to me. Because again, it's different to what my dad does, it's different to what I know. So it's just exciting learning.

And then being around Daphne, for me, she's like a role model. She's so cool. She is also so knowledgeable, and I've learned her story of how she became who she is and what she does, all the different ways she learned about food, and all the different experiences she had. Hearing that just excites me, and the things that I could do and what different routes you can go down, which is pretty exciting.

I felt like I was constantly learning, even hearing them critique a dish, hearing them say their personal changes, what they would do slightly differently, or what they really liked. Then I go home and I'm like, "Oh, if I'm making that, remember, Aarón said he would do this and Daphne would do that." It just felt like I learned so much.

What it was like working with her dad as a judge

Was it difficult at all for your dad to turn off "dad mode" and treat you like a professional peer?

Yes and no because he knows how hard I want to work, and it's a big thing. I've grown up with both my parents busy in different jobs and doing different things and I've seen their work ethic and it's always inspired me to be like them. Dad's always said, "You put in the hours, you get results." So, I'd like to think he didn't have to feel like he had to turn off dad mode. That he could see that I was trying my best to be as good as I could be in a new situation.

You guys seem like you have a great relationship. Was he at all a micromanager, or did he let you do your own thing?

I'd say he let me do my own thing for sure. There are times he's a micromanager. When I'm cooking at home, he'll come in and be like, "No, no, no, remember, do it this way." And I'm like, "No, Dad, I'm doing it this way." 

And as much as it pains him to hear the words "no," I think he's learned that I've got to learn to have my own style and hold my own in just a certain way. So, no, I wouldn't say he micromanages. He only really does that when he wants to get involved with what I'm doing in the kitchen.

Were there any challenges you faced working together?

I personally wouldn't say that was a challenge. I enjoyed every minute of it. I felt so lucky seeing him, and trying to be like him was really cool. We just wind each other up a lot of the time. We tease each other. We just have fun. That's always great. The challenge would be trying to be as good as he is. That's what I always want to be, like have his work ethic, try and gain as much knowledge as I can to be like him.

Her favorite restaurants in Los Angeles and first meal she mastered

Beyond the dishes you enjoyed on the show, what were some of your most memorable meals while filming in Los Angeles? Did you go to any restaurants in the area that you enjoyed?

We were quite busy, so a lot of the time, Dad and I would get home and cook something together, or Mum would have something ready for us when she was there. I love LA, everything there. The food is so good in so many different places. 

We had a really good, delicious pizza at Jon & Vinny's. That was excellent. What I loved about that is I feel like when you go to a restaurant like that, and they've got all the different starters you can have, it's a big sharing meal. You can have a bit of everything.

We also went to Rose Cafe, which was, again, really cool. It was wild how the restaurants in LA can be so different to ones in London, for example, and it's really exciting getting to experience all the different food.

Your Tilly burger, demonstrated on the show a few years ago, famously features cheese stuffed into the patty. Do you have any other favorite burger hacks?

I've actually experimented with different mushroom burgers because one thing now you hear a lot about, there's a big movement for veganism and just how you can do different styles of food. 

Having a big, delicious mushroom as a burger is different. It's fun. Trying new things or if you've got a fried chicken burger, it doesn't always have to be the same protein or the same filling. That's what I quite like doing: experimenting. I'm quite experimental in the kitchen.

That sounds delicious! I have a two-year-old daughter, so I'm curious: what was the first dish you mastered growing up?

One of the first things I remember doing was scrambled eggs on the weekend. Dad used to just sit me up onto the counter. I used to watch him, and then I started being able to hold the spoon or put a tiny bit of the salt in. I remember that very well. 

But I'd say I started off baking when I was young because It's quite a common thing, to bake with my family, making cookies, making cupcakes, and that was great fun. 

I truly felt like I was mastering food when I did my first Sunday roast, which are massive in the U.K. You sit down, and you've got roast chicken or roast pork, Yorkshire puddings, gravy, carrots, and roast potatoes. I made my first one for my family and homemade everything from scratch. I wrote it all out: the orders, what time things needed to go in the oven. I spent pretty much all day doing it.

Wow, that's impressive. How old were you when you did that?

I grew up around doing it with everyone in the kitchen, but I did my first one by myself just about when I was, I want to say, 17, 18 completely myself.

Gordon Ramsay's approach to teaching her how to cook

What's an easy meal you recommend kids try to make for their first time cooking?

I'd say stuff that doesn't involve too much chopping. That's a scary thing, is if you're letting your kids in the kitchen, you've just got a knife. Baking is a great place to start. Stuff that I remember when I was cooking with my mum and dad, it was just things that I like to eat. 

So it's like, if you enjoy a Bolognese, helping your mum do that or something along those lines, seeing the process of it. It's a hard question because I feel like everyone finds different things difficult, but a nice pasta dish with just a simple tomato sauce, that can be underrated sometimes. Because you can level it up slowly. The better you get, the more you can do.

On "Celebrity MasterChef," you said your dad was a pretty harsh food critic. What's the toughest cooking criticism he's ever given you?

Oh, the toughest-ever cooking criticism. It was probably when I started doing things like cooking a steak. I don't know how he's got this ability, he just touches it and he's like, "Well, yeah, that's medium rare." I overcooked it once, and he was like, "Oh, a little less," or "slightly over-colored the outside." And he is tough but he also knows that when those kinds of things were happening, I was learning and you've got to start somewhere. 

No one's going to be perfect the first time. No one's going to do a medium rare steak absolutely perfect just off the bat. So it's stuff like that, learning cooking times. That was for me, quite a difficult experience because as I said, watching him just be like, "Oh yeah, medium rare," just feeling it, it's pretty fantastic. But that comes with experience.

What was his approach to teaching you how to cook — was it tough love, or was he patient?

I wouldn't even say it was tough love. I think it was just getting me involved. That was his approach. It was, "You can watch. If you fancy joining, I'll give you a job. I'll do this." Dad wants to always share his knowledge. He always wants to excite other people to the same level that he feels. 

He's so passionate about food that as soon as I started expressing an interest, he was like, "Well, this is great. She wants to learn." It was more teaching than tough love because, at the end of the day, I always say, "Well, I'm learning from you, Dad."

I had read that he wanted to teach all of his children how to cook just as a basic life skill. It wasn't about trying to get you guys to be professional chefs; he just wanted you to have that knowledge.

Exactly. Mum and Dad have always said when you grow up and you go to college and university, you have to learn how to cook at some point. So, they taught all of us from a young age. We can all cook, and we all enjoy it. Obviously, I do slightly more than the others, but yeah, it's a life skill.

The special meals Gordon Ramsay makes for his family

We're all familiar with your dad's signature dishes, such as beef Wellington and fish and chips. Do you have a favorite meal of his that his fans might not be aware of that he makes?

He does this amazing homemade tomato sauce with pasta, and then he does some lamb over the top. He cooks some lamb deliciously. I don't know how he does it, to be honest. It is honestly one of my favorite things that he makes. It's not a signature dish, so people probably wouldn't know.

That sounds amazing. Is there a special dish that he prepares just for the family?

We do our own Christmas style. We wake up in the morning, we do a cup of tea and coffee, then we go to our presents, and then we have the most delicious brunch. Again, it's just scrambled eggs and toast and all that. I'd say when I think of the one thing we all love when he does is Christmas day brunch. He is pretty good at scrambled eggs; I have to say, it's always so delicious. Then we do the Christmas dinner in the late afternoon or early evening, but there's just something about that brunch that I love.

Is there a certain dish that you are proudest of that you make for him?

That's a hard one. I always feel pretty proud when I make a dish involving fish as protein because I feel like fish can be so hard. It's such a delicate thing. It can very easily be over and then it's dry and rubbery or when it's under sometimes you can't eat it. If I ever do a fish dish for him, and he's like, "Oh, it's delicious," I'm like, "Okay, phew."

I love cooking with salmon. One of the things I'm really into at the moment is ramen. I make that a lot of the time. It's so cold in winter. It's such a good way to get so much veg in there because I just look at what's in the fridge and just chuck it all in. I've made that for family a couple of times, with some nice, almost like a teriyaki salmon on the top, instead of a chicken ramen. So yeah, he likes that dish.

The chefs that inspires Tilly Ramsay (and what she has coming up next)

With Easter coming up, what are some meals that you and your family enjoy making for the holiday?

It's massive salads and finger food because I feel like you're constantly wanting to be outside, and you do all these different things and activities. The thing with our family is we always make things that you can share, whether it's a taco night and everyone's kind of reaching across the table; it's chaotic. You're grabbing this, you're grabbing that because when we get to be together, it's so rare. Now that we're all doing different things, we like a social meal. That's something that my family always strives for.

Yeah, I'm sure it's nice getting everyone together. What are some chefs not named Ramsay that inspire you?

There are so many. I love Nick DiGiovanni. I think he's really cool. I love Daphne Oz, Aarón Sánchez. I like everyone. You can learn from so many people. The more people you look up to, the more you're going to learn because everyone's different in the kitchen.

So true. Are there any other projects you want to mention or talk about? I know that you have a show coming up, "Dish It Out."

I'm very excited for that. That's going to be about connecting people through food, which is exciting. And it's slightly different from the show I did when I was younger, where it's just aimed primarily at young children. This is aimed at everyone. I'm just excited to keep cooking and hopefully inspire more people to get into it.

"MasterChef Junior" Season 9 premieres March 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.

This interview has been edited for clarity.