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Chopped Junior Judges' Earliest Food Memories

We asked the judges to share their first memories of food and cooking, whether it was getting in the kitchen for the first time, cooking with grandma or sitting down to eat a family meal.
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Photo: Scott Gries ©

Watching Nonni Cook — Valerie Bertinelli

"I [remember] sitting on the stool watching my nonni roll out gnocchi, cappelletti and fry bread, and asking me what I wanted in the fry bread, whether I wanted it sweet or savory, jelly or cheese. I still have her rolling pin and it’s probably one of my most-prized possessions."

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Photo: Scott Gries ©

Drawn to the Kitchen Out of Curiosity — Amanda Freitag

"Breakfast was always my thing. I would scramble eggs. ... And then at work, I started working as a busgirl, and then I was constantly going back to the kitchen and seeing what they were doing. There was an incredible pastry department that I would look at all the different cakes, and the guys on the line looked really mean. So, I was like, 'What is this mystery behind these walls?' And, you know, of course, eventually, I got in there."

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Photo: Scott Gries ©

Inspired to Cook from Uninspired Leftovers — Chris Santos

"My mom worked nights, and so [when] I would come home from school ... typically it would be me pulling out leftovers. ... I wasn't satisfied with the leftovers, you know. ... So, I started playing, and we had a grocery store right around the corner, and I was able to go there and kind of have carte blanche. ... I would buy things I never had before. Some things were probably awful, but I like to remember it as being all awesome."

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Photo: Jason DeCrow ©

Sneaking a Treat When Grandma's Not Looking — Elizabeth Chambers

"My grandmother was an incredible chef and owned a very successful catering company. I distinctly remember sneaking into her walk-in freezers and stealing these little shortbread boats, and she had this huge Cambro of lemon curd, and I totally thought I was getting away with it, but obviously she knew I was in the refrigerator, scooping out the lemon curd with the little shortbread boat."

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