The Chopped Junior Judges Reveal the First Dishes They Cooked As Kids

When we asked the judges to think back to the first dishes they tried making, some revealed their truly successful forays in the kitchen, whereas others admitted to having trouble even as adults.

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Susan Magnano

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: ADECARLOPHOTOBLOG.COM ©DECARLOPHOTOBLOG.COM

Photo By: ADECARLOPHOTOBLOG.COM ©DECARLOPHOTOBLOG.COM

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

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Photo By: Susan Magnano

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

Baking Bounteous Biscuits — Eddie Jackson

"By far the first dish that I learned how to make was actually homemade biscuits, and that was my grandmother’s specialty, just rolling out biscuits. She used to make, I mean, dozens and dozens and dozens every single morning, and so she taught me her recipe, and that was it."

Helping Out with a Quick Dinner — Ayesha Curry

"The first dish would be pineapple fried rice. So, it’s something that I would make for my family on weeknights when my parents were both working and I needed to, you know, help out a little bit around the house. That’s what I would do: I’d make pineapple fried rice. It’s one of my favorite dishes …."

Winning Over Friends with Brownies — Donal Skehan

"I loved baking when I was growing up, and simple chocolate cake was my go-to. So, I actually think one of my first baking recipes was a brownie recipe, because … I think you can win friends with brownies, and there’s ultimate satisfaction in … not only making the recipe but also giving it to people as well."

Perfecting Pancake Flipping — Carla Hall

"We had pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and just … I remember thinking about the edges being dry, the bubbles coming up, you know, and just sort of flipping them over, and I could only do one pancake at a time, because … I sort of flipped them onto the other."

Burning Trial and Error — Jerome Bettis

"Grilled cheese. I was pretty young, and it was to the point where I could use a stove, I didn’t need the supervision, so the easiest thing for me was to experiment with … the grilled cheese, and there was a couple burnt grilled cheeses. The problem was my mother made me, whatever I cooked, I had to eat, so I had a couple of rough experiences with the grilled cheese, but I quickly figured it out, because I knew that it was always better a touch undercooked than overcooked."

Maybe Too Much of a Good Thing — Haylie Duff

"I made, like, a Mexican chicken, a baked chicken that I really remember sort of being my first dish that I made for my family that I was like, "I made this myself," and it had cumin and cheese across the top of it. I was pretty proud of that dish, and I think I made it a lot. I have a feeling they were like, 'Please stop making this.'"

The Carbonara Connection — Marc Murphy

"I think the dish that I really … sort of mastered was spaghetti alla carbonara, which is probably still my favorite dish, and it was always my favorite dish as a kid. And when I lived in Rome, carbonara was one of those dishes that is in every restaurant, and when I wasn't in Rome anymore, I was like, 'I've got to learn how to make that thing, because it’s a long trip back.'"

Passing Down Pies Through the Generations — Jennie Garth

"The first thing I learned to make by myself was pies, homemade pies. That was a big part of my childhood. My grandmother passed it to my mom, my mom passed it to me, she’s passed it to my daughters, and we like our pies."

Scrambled Eggs, the Gateway to Cooking — Rico Rodriguez

"Probably some scrambled eggs. I mean, that’s kind of like the initiation to cooking. If you don’t know how to make an egg, I don’t know if you know how to cook at all."

Making Grandma Proud — Kardea Brown

"Macaroni and cheese. Definitely. My grandmother’s macaroni and cheese, which, surprisingly, I made very, very, very similar to hers. … That was the first dish I ever presented to my family."

Learning through Close Watch — Roblé Ali

"The first recipe that I perfected as a kid, I would say, would be the good old classic egg in a pocket or toad-in-a-hole. You know, take a piece of bread, cut a circle out of it, little butter in the pan, crack an egg in there, flip it over nice and easy. My mom used to make them all the time, so I just I watched from observing her, and even to this day I’ll still have one of those every once in a while."

Lasagna Attempt No. 1 — Alex Guarnaschelli

"I made lasagna, and I took, I think, all day to do it … Lasagna is the kind of thing where if you get all the components, you lay them all out and you just build it and bake it, you can get somewhere. So it came out of the oven, and I tried to cut into it and it kind of fell apart and I was heartbroken, and then we just let it cool, and we cut into it and I thought, 'Not bad. Not particularly good, but not bad.'"

When Too Much Is Too Much — Sam Kass

"I remember the first dinner that I did. I sauteed chicken thighs with, like, a bunch of herbs and mushrooms … . I did that really on my own, and everybody was super-impressed. And then, I remember, I tried to do it again and, like, way overdid everything, like threw in five times too many dry herbs of all kinds — it was just disgusting. So I remember learning that lesson …."

Passing the Test of Roast Chicken — Kelsey Nixon

"Probably roast chicken. It’s silly, but my mom … made me promise that before I left home I was going to learn how to roast a chicken, and I think I went through some sort of qualifying round before actually leaving the nest. But I do remember making roast chicken for my parents."

When Flavor Thankfully Trumps Looks — Scott Conant

"The first dish that I learned to make, I was 11, and I made an apple pie. I made 3-2-1 dough, which is your most simple, basic dough, and an apple pie filling, and then I made it for my family when we were on vacation at my grandparents’ house. So, I think somewhere my mother still has a photo of that, and it was, like, a disaster looking, but it tasted good. So, maybe I get zero points for creativity, but I get all the points for flavor."

Learning Prep Skills from a TV Star — Alison Sweeney

"I learned to cook, or felt like I could try to learn to cook, watching Emeril Lagasse on Food Network. … I watched him … teach me that chiffonade is basically rolling up an herb and cutting it. I was like, 'I can do that,' and he just made it all seem so relatable, and fun."

More Chopped Junior

Go behind the scenes of the set, hear more from the judges and host, and tune in for the new season.

Chopped Junior

More from:

Chopped Junior