By Nathalie Tomada - Judy Ann Santos takes on the hosting challenge via Junior Masterchef Pinoy Edition. ‘It’s a risk I’m more than willing to take,’ the actress says. — ENIE REYES | Zoom MANILA, Philippines - For her showbiz comeback, Judy Ann Santos has opted to take another route. She has readily accepted the hosting duties for the Philippine edition of the hugely popular reality cooking game show Junior Masterchef, which will debut on ABS-CBN come Aug. 27.

It will be recalled that Judy Ann, also called Juday, decided to take a respite from showbiz when she got pregnant with son Lucho, whom she gave birth in October of last year.

And it’s a whole new world for the 33-year-old mother of two (the eldest is Yohan), who is more recognized as a movie and TV actress. “Hosting is really a different world that’s why I’m nervous. It’s a learning process especially for someone like me who’s been acting since I was a child,” she admitted during the Junior Masterchef Pinoy Edition presscon last Aug. 10 at 55 Events Place in Scout Rallos in Quezon City.

“(In fact) I am more nervous (in taking on this project) because I’m not a host. What I know is how to memorize lines, act, get into fights in scenes,” she quipped.

But the project is affording Juday the opportunity to reinvent herself — something that she has been openly hankering for a time now.

“I’m in that stage wherein I’ve been asking myself, ‘What more can I give?’,” says Juday. “If you’re in this business, you cannot just limit yourself to giving one thing only, right? There has to be more so people will not grow tired of you.”

Given her share of acting awards and blockbuster movies, there’s more than enough reason for Juday to believe that she has proven her capability and drawing power as an actress. “So, I wanted to challenge myself in other aspects of show business. I know hosting is not my line (of expertise). But I am more than willing to take the risk,” she said.

What makes the project harder to resist is the fact that Juday is a self-confessed fan of the original edition Junior Masterchef Australia. “When the project was offered to me by (business unit head) Laurenti Dyogi… just seeing the logo made me cry,” shared Juday. “It’s a dream come true to be really honest about it because I follow the show. I’m a fan.

“I never thought that the Junior Masterchef franchise would reach the country. I remember thinking then: ‘Would there be somebody interested in joining the show if ever there was a Philippine edition?’” So when it did, she said it “no longer involved much discussion. I accepted immediately. It wasn’t a hard decision to make.”

Because she’s dealing with kiddie contenders, several of whom naturally broke into crying spells when they couldn’t cope with the more difficult cooking challenges, her newfound motherhood has come in handy. “I have to arrive on the set emotionally ready. Dapat handa rin ang emosyon ko bilang nanay,” said Juday.

But to be offered this project shouldn’t come as a surprise because she has always been into things culinary. Juday has opened two restaurants, gone to the Center for Asian Culinary Arts Studies and expressed every intention to be called chef one day.

She is also a very hands-on cook at home, and the only time she wasn’t manning the kitchen was during her pregnancy. But no problem: She found a willing “robot chef” in hubby, Ryan Agoncillo.

Of course, she also gets her hosting pointers from Ryan, who has an impressive portfolio as host for different TV networks.

And his advice? “He tells me to go with the flow. Whatever I want to say, I will just have to say it. And to trust the production people because they will tell you if there’s something wrong with what you’re doing,” Juday said. “Me, I’m open to comments regarding hosting (because) I’m just starting out. I don’t know a thing about it. I know there will be people who will be happy with my decision. There will also be people who will criticize me. Criticism is something I seem to have experienced all my life. So, I’m ready for anything.”

Juday is joined on the show, the latest reality franchise acquired by the network, by top Pinoy chefs Fernando Aracama, Rolando Laudico and JP Anglo who will serve as the mentors and judges to the initial 60 contestants. Catch the Junior Masterchef Pinoy Edition primer on Aug. 20.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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