The Chopped Junior Judges' Fond Food Memories with Their Loved Ones

The show's guest judges share their first food memories and the lessons they learned from the special people who taught them to cook — moms, grandmas, aunts and more.

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Scott Gries ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Steve Wilkie ©2014 Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: ADECARLOPHOTOBLOG.COM ©DECARLOPHOTOBLOG.COM

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Holiday Dinners and Desserts — Bridget Moynahan

"I think it was always family dinner, you know, holiday dinners with the family, helping my mom make the gravy, helping her mash the potatoes, helping with desserts, and when I was growing … my mother and her sister would swap off so my mother was cooking the dinner [and] my aunt would do the desserts, and back and forth. And I was always partial to my aunt’s desserts and my mother’s dinners, so I always liked when it landed on that."

First Memories of a Secret Recipe — Alan Thicke

"My grandparents had a fabulous recipe for bread pudding — we’ve tried since then in subsequent generations to steal it and to re-create it, [but] nobody has entirely and successfully done that. But I remember as a very young child the smell, the aroma, of that bread pudding simmering, and it seemed to take hours until it was ready, until it was cooked, and then you had to wait for it to cool down."

The Best Kind of Play Dough Is Edible — Katie Lee

"My earliest memory of being in the kitchen [is] way back from when I was about 4 years old. My grandma was my babysitter, and she would pull a counter stool over and I would climb up and help her make biscuits. Biscuit dough was my play dough."

Spreading a Taste of Mexican Culture — Aarón Sánchez

"I think the earliest memory for me was … literally being next to my mom at 10 years old, and I remember I wanted to make pico de gallo or guacamole for my third-grade class, and I remember how excited I was to bring all the ingredients to class and then share this with everybody I went to school with."

On Dinner Duty with Mom — Cheryl Hines

"I did a lot of cooking with my mom when I was growing up. So, I mean, from when I was really, really little I would just spend my time with her, helping her make dinner."

The Urban Jam-Maker's Assistant — Busy Philipps

"I think that one of my earliest memories is actually with my grandmother making jam … . It wasn’t like she lived on a farm — she lived in Chicago — but, I don’t know why, she just did that. So I have a very vivid memory of being in her little kitchen doing that with her when I was very little."

Learning the Passion at an Early Age — Angelo Sosa

"[My Tia Carmen was] really why I became a chef …. [She was] my Dominican aunt … and I have memories of her cooking and really teaching me the passion, the humility of cooking and the servitude of cooking, and for me that’s how I show love, and that’s how I express myself … cooking for people that I love."

The Little Bechamel Expert — Debbie Matenopoulos

"I was probably about 4 years old, and my mom was making pastitsio, which is like a Greek lasagna, and it requires bechamel, so I remember pulling up a little stool that my father had actually made for me — my mom had my dad make it — and I would pull it up and get in front of the burner and stir the bechamel. And I remember being so proud when that was on the table."

The Kitchen Taste Tester — Sabin Lomac

"My mother always cooked, whether it was cookies, Italian food or tacos, I always just remember being in the kitchen with my mom, talking with her, sampling, kind of trying, picking. I was always hungry — I was a growing boy, so I was trying to get scraps."

Pickled Mangoes and a Memory of Grandmom — Maneet Chauhan

"During summertime my grandmom would come, and we had a big mango tree in our backyard, and we would pluck the mangoes and pickle it, and just those smells of these Indian pickles. I remember just sitting over there and seeing those spices being mixed and the oils, and it’s just … my mouth starts watering when I think of pickles, because of this amazing memory."

Life Lessons Start with Scrambled Eggs — Kenny Gilbert

"The earliest memory that I have of being in the kitchen was when I was 3 years old scrambling eggs with my mom. You know, she literally held me at the stovetop. She taught me the importance of keeping things clean, and that fact that this is actually very hot, and you can burn yourself. So, I always had to have a towel on my hand, and I had to understand how the stove turned on and off. So, at a very, very young age, I was being taught the correct life lessons that got me to where I am today."

Cooking Can Be Done Anywhere — Raquel Pelzel

"I remember cooking with my great-grandma, who I called my nana, and we would roll these kind of lefse-tortilla flatbreads with this ridged rolling pin and lots of flour, and … just that memory brings back the holidays and cooking next to her. We did not cook in a fancy kitchen. She had an itty-bitty small city kitchen. … The stove was very small, but she was the best cook, and her apple pie still — like, to this day — [is] the best apple pie ever."

Forced to Fend for Himself — Andrew Gruel

"My earliest memory of being in a kitchen would probably be helping my mother remove the eggs from the microwave, because that’s how she cooked the eggs. I didn’t grow up in a culinary environment. We grew up in a Sara Lee generation, and by that I mean everything was frozen and went right to the microwave, so I was forced to learn how to cook just because I needed to take things to the next level."

Cooking Under Mom's Watchful Eye — Raiza Costa

"My mom always let me do anything, but in the kitchen she was always a little concerned, so I would be watched, and she would be by my side, you know, like watching exactly what I was doing, but it ended up that … I managed to cook ever since I was, like, 7."

Good Old Comfort Food — Meghan Markle

"My grandma would sit there and, just after school, make me grilled cheese. Like, easy: Kraft Singles, Wonder white bread. Like, that and a glass of Kool-Aid. That is not how I eat anymore, but I just love that. I love, like, the smell of the butter on the pan and the sizzle that you would hear and just the comfort that you found in something so simple."

A Hot Lesson in Cooking Grits — DeMarcus Ware

"I think my earliest memory of being in the kitchen was actually [that] my mom was cooking some grits — I think I was probably about 8 or 9 years old — and I knew they were up there, and I thought that I could just stir them, but I ended up pulling the pot off of the stove and dropping them on my feet, and you finally realize how hot fire is."

Dad, the Matzo Brei Maker — Alison Roman

"[My dad] made this thing called matzo brei, which is this super-classic Jewish deli food where you take matzo and soak it in eggs. And he made it with caramelized onions, and every Sunday we would have lox and bagels and some matzo brei."

Mom's Magical Cooking — David Alan Grier

"I remember [when I was] a child my mom would make special dishes, like she would make an oxtail soup, and to me that was magic. It started out with just boiling water, and then hours later it was this rich and complicated sauce. It was like alchemy — like, how do you take water and put these things in and it becomes something else?"

Impromptu Baking with Dad — Lazarus Lynch

“My earliest memory of being in the kitchen [was] with my father. ... I remember him waking me up, and he's like, 'Let's go in the kitchen ... .' We made these peanut butter [cereal] bars, and we ate it. It was so sweet, but it was one of the most-fond memories of my time in the kitchen with my dad."

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