Top Moments from Chopped Junior: Make Me a Judge

See what winning dishes the kids cooked in the first-ever tournament that gives them a chance to take seats behind the chopping block as judges, and find out who earned the open spots.

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Photo By: Anders Krusberg

Make Me a Judge, Part 3

In the last preliminary round of the tournament, cooks Sophia, Kiara, Joshy and Matthew compete for the last spot behind the judges' table. "The oven is so underrated," says Matthew. "Baking doesn't just have to be sweet," he says, explaining his view on the challenge. "I know what these judges look for, and it's about time the tables are turned," he says of the chance to become a judge.

Cooking in a Judge Mindset

"I'm channeling my inner Scott Conant powers," says Joshy, hoping it helps him become a judge. Using the empanada dough, Argentinian sausage and baked ricotta in the appetizer basket, he decides to make pizza. His finishing touch is a hot sauce for the plates. "I love that idea for this dough," says Scott of the pizza. But Alex wishes Joshy didn't dollop on the hot sauce.

Shortcuts Around the Challenge

"I spent half the round making my filling and there's no time left," says Kiara. She had planned to bake Creole pockets, but now she deep-fries them. "I'm going to finish them in the oven," she says, adhering to the challenge. The judges love the filling, and Alex commends her for frying and baking the pockets, which created lots of texture. But Scott points out her plate is "a little barren."

All About the Sauce

"The sausage is really savory, so I think it could take a bit of sweetness," says Matthew, deciding to blend up the basket's baked ricotta and medjool dates with tahini to create a sweet sauce for his sausage napoleons. "I don't really feel the ricotta," says Alex. And "everything [the sauce] touches, you get the same flavor profile," Scott says. Unfortunately, Matthew is chopped for that reason.

Spicing Up the Kitchen

Seeing the Peking duck in the entree basket, Kiara thinks she can use just the skin by crisping it up in the fryer for a topping on her open-faced calzone. She serves it with an arugula salad seasoned with cayenne. "To crisp it up is a great idea," says Amanda of the duck skin. However, she finds the heat level too much, with Scott calling the cayenne "a huge mistake."

Pot Pie by Another Name

Joshy's inspired to make chicken pot pie using the basket's crescent dough, cutting out circles, but he doesn't have enough for four baking dishes. "Why don't I make doughy croutons?" he thinks, cutting the rounds into smaller squares. But he realizes he can't present it as a pot pie in front of the judges. Still, the judges love his filling, but they call him out for not having enough dough.

Ducking Out of the Competition

Sophia rolls out the crescent dough to make the bases for her margherita pizzas, which she tops with the oven-dried tomatoes and duck meat, as well as deep-fried broccoli rabe. However, Alex feels she didn't taste enough tomato and duck, and Scott thinks Sophia missed an opportunity by not using the duck skin. Sophia's chopped for her lack of duck.

Colorful and Creative Risk

Kiara takes the confetti cookie dough from the dessert basket, splits it into three parts and dyes each one a different color to make tie-dyed cookies. Unfortunately, baking them in ramekins was not the best idea. "I'm hoping that the judges don't notice that maybe the insides are a little bit doughy," she says, but they do. "I wish you had put it in a different vessel," Scott says.

Practically Precise in Pastry

"To beat Kiara I have to pull out flavors that go well together," says Joshy, inspired by the basket's baked apples to make a strudel, which he's familiar with baking. He plans to serve it with a compote made from the basket's cranberries and goat's milk caramel. He smartly parbakes the puff pastry base. "I can't stop eating it," says Alex. But Amanda feels the pastry still could have baked longer.

The Third Kid Judge

The judges praise Kiara for her flavors and creativity in the dessert round, but they take into account all three courses, and she is chopped for her appetizer plating and her overspiced entree. Joshy is named the winner, earning the last place behind the judges' table. "I was waiting for those words," he says after hearing Ted call him a champion.

Make Me a Judge, Part 2

Sophie, Ryan, Jacob and Kenzie are the next batch of kids in the tournament, competing in a barbecue-themed battle for a chance to earn the second seat as a judge in the finale. "I'm feeling the intenseness, but yet it feels like a dream," Sophie says of the experience of cooking in the Chopped kitchen. "There is no better boot camp to kind of get you to a place where you can be judge for a day," explains Alex of the opportunity.

Meatball Meticulousness

Ryan decides to make meatballs by combining the burnt ends and the smoky shortbread cookies from the appetizer basket. But while working on his sauce, he realizes the meatballs are burning. "This could send me home," he says. He decides to toss them and goes back to some remaining meat mixture and forms new ones. Chris praises the meatballs but finds Ryan's deep-frying of the okra unsuccessful.

Putting a Personal Stamp on It

"North Carolina barbecue sauce is pretty good, but Texas is always better," says Texan Kenzie, who decides to doctor up the basket ingredient with corn syrup, ketchup, sugar and brown sugar to get it to mimic the kind she knows and loves. "I am actually amazed that you were able to develop these flavors in such a short time," Maneet tells her, impressed by the sauce on the sliders.

Nothing Worse Than Dry Barbecue

Sophie decides to imagine the burnt ends like a pulled pork, shredding it and getting it in a saute pan to crisp up and serve as a salad crostini topping. "It's such a smart idea to give a crostini," Maneet says of Sophie's appetizer, but Alex finds the meat dry and says it needed some moisture from a sauce. The judges chop Sophie for that reason. "They have to chop someone, and I understand," says Sophie.

Embracing the Basket

"I finally have my time to shine," Kenzie says, excited to see Texas-style barbecue sauce in the entree basket. She cuts her wild boar strip loin into chops and covers them in a dry rub before placing them on the grill. Then she finishes them with the sauce. Chris calls the pork his favorite of the round and praises Kenzie for embracing the barbecue sauce.

Making The Judges Want More

"I have an idea!" Jacob shouts, running to get mayonnaise to make his family's Comeback sauce, which is half mayonnaise and half barbecue sauce. He uses it as a dressing for his collard greens and also uses the barbecue sauce to cook his black-eyed peas as baked beans. "It's delicious. I ate the whole salad," Alex says. But Chris and Maneet find the boar overcooked.

When the Side Outshines the Main

"I think we might have a little trouble at Ryan's station," says Chris, noticing Ryan's grill pan is not hot enough to cook the pork, which Ryan transfers to the oven. Chris feels Ryan's collard greens shine. Maneet finds the pork cooked well, but she points out that the fat cap hasn't been rendered properly. The judges feel Ryan's dish wasn't as successful as his competitors' dishes, and he's chopped.

Tough Biscuit to Break

"I know exactly what to do to bring everything together and showcase the basket," Jacob says of the dessert round, deciding to make biscuits incorporating the halloumi cheese and pecan pie. But when he goes to remove the biscuits, he sees they're overcooked, but he plates them with his barbecue sauce caramel and blackberry whipped cream. Chris loves the caramel, but it's the texture of the biscuit that Maneet and Alex find tough.

Baking Hitches but Tasty Results

"I go to check on my cake to see if it's done, and it's raw," says Kenzie, who made the batter using the Kansas City barbecue sauce. After some additional time in the oven, it's still not fully baked, but she has no choice but to assemble her trifles. "This is an odd concoction, made up from a very odd basket, that is oddly delicious," says Chris. Maneet points out that Kenzie's ratios in her cake kept it from baking.

The Second Kid Judge

After taking into account both Kenzie's and Jacob's courses, the judges decide to chop Jacob. Maneet points out that the smoky shortbread cookies turned out soggy in his appetizer and the boar was overcooked in his entree. Kenzie earns the second spot at the judges' table in the finale. "I'm really, really, really excited to be a judge," she says.

Make Me a Judge, Part 1

Tyler, Nikki, Arjun and Olivia are the first four kids to compete in the Chopped Junior: Make Me a Judge tournament, and they're facing burger-themed baskets. "One of these four kids will be seated at the judges' table for our finale," Ted tells judges Marc, Alex and Amanda. "It's hard to be objective as a judge," says Alex of the duty. "This judging panel needs some young blood," says Arjun.

Well-Versed in Judging Criteria

Upon seeing ground venison and quail eggs in the appetizer basket, Olivia immediately thinks schnitzel, although she adorably pronounces it "snitchel." She says, "I have a really big vocabulary, so I think I could be an excellent judge." But her chances are getting slimmer when she realizes her burgers aren't cooking on the grill pan, so she transfers them to a skillet; she cooks them just in time.

Egg-cellent Skills

"I've worked with quail eggs before," says Nikki, who knows just how to crack them open, by peeling the tops, so the yolks don't break. She decides to add bacon to her venison burgers. To cut the richness she prepares a green salad with strawberries. "I'm never a fan of strawberries in my savory course," says Marc, but he changes his mind after tasting Nikki's dish.

Hiding Ingredients

"I've made the leaning tower of venison," jokes Arjun of his presentation on top of an overturned burger bun top. But Marc can't discern the basket's pickle pops, which Arjun hid in the patty. And Amanda thinks the bun "needed a little more love." Arjun feels he qualifies to be a judge because he's already a restaurant critic on his food blog. Unfortunately, he's chopped first.

Make Me a Burger

"I almost think it's too easy," says Amanda of the entree basket, which consists of shallot marmalade, ground beef, Taleggio cheese and Texas toast. "If anything, this basket is telling you: 'Don't be creative. Come back here; just make a nice cheeseburger,'" Alex says in a singsong voice as if she were a talking basket. The judges watch as some kids go down the burger route while others get extra creative.

Crafty Bread Swaps

"I'm going to use this Texas toast as a binder inside my ground meat," says Nikki, instead of using it for a bun, which would have been the more typical choice. She grabs sesame seed buns from the pantry to serve her burgers on. "That's what I would have done," says Alex, impressed by the move. And Nikki's pickled apples go over really well with the judges.

Good Instinct, Rookie Move

"I wanted to make something different," says Olivia, deciding on a burger kebab with a creamy Taleggio sauce that incorporates the shallot marmalade. However, a splash of vinegar curdles the mixture. "I keep going back for more," Marc says of the sauce, but he also notes its curdled texture. And Amanda says she wants to dip everything in it. Still, Alex compliments Olivia's instinct in adding acidity.

Undercooked and Out of the Game

"I need to step up my flavor game," says Tyler as he begins the entree round. He decides to make meatballs, stuffing them with the shallot marmalade and melting the Taleggio cheese over top. "With just minutes left, Tyler plates his meatballs despite realizing they're not cooked all the way through. The judges can't see past the mistake, and Tyler is chopped.

Burgers, Even for Dessert

"I'm making a dessert burger," says Olivia, inspired by the basket ingredients. She decides to make an ice cream infused with the candied bacon and studded with bits of the chocolate marshmallow cereal treats. She also ingeniously uses the same custard base to make French toast with the brioche buns. "I think the ice cream that you made is tremendous," says Alex. And Marc appreciates the burger-themed dessert.

Getting Metaphoric with Food

"I'm going to show the judges an essence of a burger," says Nikki, baking individual chocolate lava cakes that incorporate bits of the cereal treats. She cooks the Sharon fruit for a compote, but she burns the mixture. With little time left, Nikki caramelizes slices of the fruit in sugar. "I don't have any lava in the middle," Marc says, pointing out the dryness of the cake. But Alex loves Nikki's technique on the fruit.

The First Kid Judge

Taking into account both girls' three courses, the judges decide to chop Olivia. Nikki wins $10,000 and earns the first seat at the judges' table for the finale. "The next time we see you, you'll be sitting up here while our regular Chopped judges compete," Ted tells her. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Nikki says of the honor.

More Chopped Junior

Meet the kid competitors, go behind the scenes of the set, and hear more from the judges and Ted.

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