The Judges' Earliest Food Memories — Chopped Junior, Season 2

We asked the panel of celebrity judges to share their childhood memories of getting into the kitchen for the first time.

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: 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: 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: 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: Susan Magnano

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

Photo By: Susan Magnano

Pancake Flipping Gone Wrong — Donal Skehan

"We’d have Pancake Tuesday in Ireland … and rather than American-style pancakes, we cook off thin, almost kind of French-style crepes, and the competition is as a family to [see] who can toss the highest pancake. And so I have great memories of tossing a pancake and it … hitting the ceiling and sticking to the ceiling, and this was, like, the big joke in the family for years."

Sunday Morning Breakfasts — Amanda Freitag

"You know, it was rare that [on] any other day but Sunday … everybody would, sort of, be home and all be at a table. And so we would have Sunday morning breakfasts, and there would always be an array of different things, whether I’d be making bacon or scrambling up eggs or making toast and all of those things going on … and trying to help with it."

Early Childhood Labor — Geoffrey Zakarian

"I was in the kitchen very early. My whole family is Middle Eastern, and we cooked all the time together, so it was something that … your mother would enlist you to help right away, every day. So, you had no choice, sort of. You know, you were a pair of hands, as soon as you could help, 5 or 6 years old; you were a pair of hands, and you got used."

Independence in Chocolate Chip Cookies — Alison Sweeney

"I sort of always remember making chocolate chip cookies with my brothers, and the point at which we didn’t need my mom to help us with it anymore, like we knew the drill. There was sort of, like, a freedom and independence that we could make cookies ourselves."

A Birthday Cooking Party — Ayesha Curry

"I’ve been in the kitchen ever since I can remember, but my fondest memory is my 13th birthday. I had a cooking party for my 13th birthday, so my parents went out to the grocery store, bought everything you could imagine, and I invited my friends over and we literally cooked the day away. It was great, and the adults ate all of our food, so obviously it was good."

Learning to Cook in Stages — Jourdan Dunn

"I was always in the kitchen, if it was at my grandma’s house or my aunt’s house or just at home. I was always just fascinated with seeing my mom or whoever in the kitchen putting a meal together with different spices and the combination and the flavors … . Eventually my mom kind of got me into [it], like, first it was making rice — that was a boring process, and then [seasoning] the chicken, which is a bit more fun … and then it was actually cooking the chicken. So, it was [in] stages."

Holidays with Mom — Chris Santos

"My mom worked nights — she was a nurse — so I didn’t really get a whole lot of time with her, growing up, but she always made time around the holidays, so I would get in the kitchen with her on the holidays. … Then, when I was about 13, I started working in a restaurant … . [On] my first day I knew that that’s where I was going to be for the rest of my life."

The Layers of a Lasagna — Debby Ryan

"My earliest memory of getting in the kitchen is being at my grandma’s house, and she would make lasagna … I would say the most-memorable part was going in two days before it was lasagna time and watching her begin the sauce and have it going for hours and hours, and cooking the … different meats separately and really being intentional about the cheeses and things like that. You know, it made me realize that there are so many different elements to so many different ingredients, and all of those tie together to one dish."

Biscuits, the Path to a Passion — Eddie Jackson

"My earliest memory of getting in the kitchen is when I was about 5 or 6, and my grandmother, she used to be a chef at the high school, and she used to make biscuits, and I used to help her roll out biscuits … . And that’s when I actually fell in love with food, but I actually didn’t start cooking until I was maybe about 13 or 14."

The Regular Pea Snapper — Haylie Duff

"I grew up in Texas, and [my grandmother] and my mom would cook a lot when I was a kid, and they used to give me jobs. So, like, they would sit me up on the kitchen counter, and I can remember, like, one job in particular was that I would snap peas, and they would give me … two big bowls, and I would snap the peas and put the ends in the other bowl."

Pride in Apple Pie — Jennie Garth

"I remember when I was 7 or 8 making my first apple pie. Baking was a big part of my childhood, and I still love baking. … I remember being so proud of that pie. … I know now as an adult, when I cook something and my family eats it, there’s nothing that makes me happier than when I see them eat my cooking."

Inspired by Dad's Cooking — Jerome Bettis

"When I was young I used to always watch my mother do a lot of the cooking, but it was especially interesting when my father did some cooking. … So, every dish that he made became a dish that I was pretty good [at] making, and there was one in particular: He made a stir-fry, and so I always watched when he made it, because he didn’t make it very often, but when he made it I was right there, and so to this day I make my dad’s stir-fry."

The Kitchen Helper — Monti Carlo

"I actually know exactly the first time that I was in the kitchen. I grew up in Puerto Rico in a farmhouse with my grandparents, and the very first memory I have is of being with my grandmother in the kitchen making a dish called sorullitos, which is a cornmeal fritter we have in Puerto Rico, and I remember her showing me how to roll the dough using both my palms, and I really think she set me up on the career that I have today."

Dinner for Breakfast — Ali Khan

"I think I was, like, 10 years old, and it was a Saturday morning, cartoons had just waned, and … I don’t know, my family liked to make lamb chops a lot. So, there was some in the fridge, I think they were for dinner, and I was like … '[I'm] going to make some lamb chops and eggs.' And my dad comes home from work and he sees me, and he’s like, 'Are you cooking eggs?' and I’m like, 'Yeah,' and then he goes, 'Are you cooking lamb chops?' and I’m like, 'Yeah,' and … in his Indian-accented voice, he goes, 'What 11-year-old boy has lamb chops and eggs for breakfast?' Yeah, that’s a classic one."

Kitchen Prisoner — Marc Murphy

"My parents used to have dinner parties, and they used to make me stay in the kitchen. They didn’t want me at the table, because I was probably going to say something wrong."

Early Bonding Moments — Marcus Samuelsson

"I was always, sort of, on that apple box in the kitchen hanging out with my grandmother, Helga, and I couldn’t have had a better teacher than [her], because it was just not about knife skills and what to do, it was also this sense of purpose and love that you got, and this bonding opportunity that you obviously don’t think about when you’re really, really young, but you miss it as you grow older."

It All Started with a Baking Book — Roblé Ali

"My earliest memory of getting in the kitchen is when I got a cookbook in the fifth grade at a book fair, and it was a baking and pastry book … . I was like, 'Wait, hold up, I can spend $8 on this book and make all my own cookies, brownies cakes whenever I want to? OK, that’s a great deal.' And I immediately went home and made a really bad batch of brownies, but I stuck with it, and, you know, all these years later I can make a really good batch of brownies."

Messy Mother's Day Breakfast — Sam Kass

"There was a pretty famous story, which I do remember doing. I remember the beginning part; my mom reminds me of the second part. … I made her breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day when I was, like, 7 and I cooked her eggs … and biscuits from scratch, which I was very proud of and which were great. She reminds me that … after having breakfast [that she saw] the kitchen was just totally destroyed and there was flour everywhere, and she spent two hours having to clean up everything."

Earning Girl Scout Badges — Carla Hall

"My first memory of getting in the kitchen was Girl Scouts. I made spaghetti and apple crumble … not together, but on the same day, for the same badge. And I didn’t really get back into the kitchen until I was in my 20s."

Memories Rooted in Kitchen Aromas — Scott Conant

"I remember my mother making fresh bread in this particular bowl that … had … a towel over the top of it as the dough was rising, and the smell and the scent of that, of the yeast and the dough. I mean, little particular things that to this day as I walk in kitchens — and I’ve been doing this for 30 years now — I’ll smell a dough and it’ll bring me right back to that moment."

Mom Setting an Early Example — Alex Guarnaschelli

"I have a memory of being a spectator to cooking for a really long time. I watched this live TV show called My Mom Is Cooking. She was making souffles. She was making trifles. She was making layer cake. She was baking bread …. She cooked every little different thing, and I got such a … moveable feast as a kid, but as far as actually cooking, I didn’t do that much as a kid. I peeled potatoes; I did tasks."

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