Season 4 Winner: Aaron McCargo Jr.

What was your favorite thing about being on FNS? And your least favorite?
My favorite thing about NFNS was meeting great people that I probably would not have met had I not been on the show. My least favorite thing was getting up early and having to share a bathroom.

Other than the obvious, in what ways did winning change your life?
Winning changed my life by allowing me to cook food the way I like to cook it for a larger audience. I am excited by how many people share my passion for flavor.

What has been the greatest (unexpected) part of fame? Any downside?
Honestly, I don't feel like I am "famous." I'm still the same person I was before, so I haven't experienced any great surprises or disappointments.

What advice would you offer the next Star?
I would encourage the next Star to surround himself or herself with family and friends and always live within their means.

Do you keep in touch with other finalists?
I keep in touch with Adam Gertler, Shane Lyons, Lisa Garza and Kelsey Nixon. We text and e-mail one another just to say hello.

What was the funniest/coolest/weirdest (or worst!) incident to happen behind the scenes?
One of the worst/funniest incidents was when we all had to use the bathroom at the same time. We only had one bathroom for the guys and one for the girls, so we were fighting to be the next person to get in there.

When you look back, what would you have done differently?
The only thing I would change (oddly enough) is the purple sweater I wore in the finale — it made me feel like Barney!

What was the greatest lesson you learned from your time on FNS?
The greatest lesson I learned is to stay true to yourself and your culinary point of view.

What's your current favorite recipe, and why?

I enjoy all of my food, so it's hard to pick a favorite! A few that stand out from Big Daddy's House are the Inside Out Burger, Braised Pork Belly Sandwich with Pesto Mayo and the Valentine's Day meal I cooked for my mom.

Next Up

Aaron McCargo Jr.

Aaron McCargo Jr. competed on and won Season 4 of Food Network Star in 2008, beating out thousands of culinary hopefuls for the ultimate dream job — his own Food Network show. Big Daddy’s House premiered August 3, 2008, and ranked as the number one “In the Kitchen” weekend show during its initial six-episode run. With the show’s continued success, Aaron consistently films new episodes of Big Daddy’s House with Follow Productions outside Philadelphia. On Big Daddy’s House, Aaron shares his passion for big, bold flavors and fun, family cooking, from comfort foods to barbeque favorites to breakfast delights, Aaron whips up mouth-watering recipes inspired by many years of culinary experience and his fun-loving family while bringing a down-to-earth vibe and warm smile to the kitchen. Whether cooking with his children, relatives, friends, or even by himself, big food and big fun reign supreme. A family man who adores all things flavorful, Aaron’s passion for cooking was sparked at the age of four when he started baking cakes in his sister’s Easy Bake Oven. At the age of 13, Aaron was as a Junior Volunteer in the kitchen at Cooper Hospital University. From there Aaron’s entrepreneurial spirit set in as he began making and selling cakes and cookies to his childhood friends. He has since worked in nine New Jersey restaurants including casual and fine dining. In 2003, Aaron opened his own restaurant in Camden, N.J., called McCargo’s Restaurant. Most recently, Aaron served as the Executive Chef of Catering at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. He attended Atlantic Cape Community College’s Academy of Culinary Arts. Born and raised in Camden, N.J., Aaron regularly speaks to youth at community schools and events illustrating that they too can succeed despite the odds. Honoring him for his success and service, Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison presented Aaron with the keys to the city in 2008 and designated September 25 as Aaron McCargo, Jr. Day. Aaron continues to donate his time to non-profit organizations such as Share Our Strength; he served as the 2009 spokesperson for its Great American Dine Out campaign to help engage the restaurant industry to help end childhood hunger in America. Aaron comes from a large family (he has three brothers and two sisters) whose constant support has helped him achieve his goals. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys Bible study, tennis, Buffalo wings, watching sports and traveling. Married with three children, Aaron lives with his family in New Jersey.

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