The Judges' First Impressions of the Chopped Junior Contestants

When the contestants step into the Chopped kitchen, the judges take note of more than the food that appears on the plate. They keep a keen eye on the kids' professional composure and how the young cooks handle themselves in the kitchen.

Watching the Kids Come to Life — Allison Williams

“My level of impressed is probably a bit unique because I truly don’t cook and can’t really. So, when I come in here and I see these kids just come to life as soon as they’re in a kitchen and as soon as they have all the ingredients in front of them, it’s like watching people in their flow and in their element, and that to me is so impressive.”

Learning from the Kids — Bryan Voltaggio

“Seeing kids at such a young age with such a great skill set already is very, very impressive. We actually learned some stuff that we could probably take back to our kitchen. So, I mean, it was pretty amazing to see these kids, you know, at such a young age being on top of their game.”

The Benefit of Food and Entertainment Coming Together — Michael Voltaggio

“I think it’s proof of the benefit of food and entertainment and media sort of coming together. I mean, in some cases these kids are already cooking better than adults that I know.”

Being Comfortable in Their Own Skin — Nguyen Tran

“I understand that these kids are as accomplished and as overachieving as they seem on TV. You know what I’m really impressed with? When I was a kid, I couldn’t come to terms with being comfortable in my own skin, and they seem way more comfortable in their skin than I ever was until I was in, like, my 30s, so I’m impressed.”

Committed to the Arts — Misty Copeland

“I didn’t start cooking until I had to when I moved to New York at 17 on my own, so to see someone at that age — committed to these arts — it just says a lot about them as individuals and their maturity.”

Feeling Good About the Future of Food — Jernard Wells

“My first impression of seeing the kids compete today is how excited they are about food. It just lets me know that our future in this industry is endless.”

Inspiring a Generation of Kindness — Ashley Graham

“What’s really sweet is how nice they’re being to each other and how compassionate they are when one is chopped. So, it’s really encouraging, because it also makes me feel like, as a body activist, I’m doing my role in impacting this younger generation of just being kind to each other.”

The Power of a Blowtorch — Harley Morenstein

“I watched the kid turn on the blowtorch, and we’re like, ‘Whoa, do you want to use that?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I have one at home.’ My mom would just die; she would just fall over and die if she was supposed to watch me from another room turn on a blowtorch when I was 10 years old. It’s amazing. It’s really impressive.”

In Awe of Their Passion — George Mendes

“I’m in awe at the level of skill and the level of passion at that age. Their level of basic combinations of flavors and seasonings, basic cooking skills, the fundamentals, and how they are just so precise — I was really amazed.”

Having No Fear — Valerie Bertinelli

“You can see that they’ve really put thought in and they’ve seen the show multiple times, and it’s fun to watch them, actually. No fear.”

Thinking on the Spot — Dan Churchill

“To think that they can think of using four ingredients in a short amount of time to put something together with such creativity is mind-blowing. It just shows that things like Food Network, YouTube, cooking shows in general are clearly having such an ongoing effect to the kids’ skill [sets] and imaginations.”

Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse — JB Smoove

“A lot of kids can cook, let’s be honest, but to put together a dish, taking ingredients you don’t even know about and use your imagination and creativity to put a meal together — that’s totally different. I hate to throw the zombie apocalypse in there, but just in case it ever happens, these kids are going to know how to survive.”

Watching the Wheels Turn — Kevin McHale

“It’s kind of baffling because they’re so calm; they’re super focused. And when they open the baskets, you can see their brains instantly start and the wheels turning, and they don’t freak out. To see how quickly they can pull something together out of these crazy, random ingredients is a testament to how much they love what they’re doing and whoever taught them.”

The Sky’s the Limit at Any Age — Ruben Studdard

“I don’t think there’s a limitation on kids being able to do something that adults can do at this age. I just think the thing that’s hard for most young people to do is to maintain their cool in certain situations and not allow emotions to take control of them. These kids have really been stealth focused.”

Using a 10-Inch Chef's Knife — Rebecca Lang

"I thought as a kid I could cook well, but now I know that I couldn’t. I think they have a lot more access to food, certainly because of Food Network, to see how people are cooking and what to do and safe ways to do that. It’s kind of mind-blowing to see a little person pick up a 10-inch [chef's] knife and go to town with it.

Expressing Themselves Creatively — Ziggy Marley

“I enjoy seeing the kids express themselves creatively in the kitchen, and I actually enjoy the meals. At the end of the day, we’re going to judge them, but for me, I could have eaten any one of the meals. If I didn’t have to be judgmental, everything would be cool with me.”

Gets the Creative Juices Flowing — Ryan Guzman

“I think [seeing the kids compete] really inspires the creativity and gets those creativity juices flowing. It’s interesting to see where these kids’ minds go and how they use the certain ingredients they’re given to make something I’ve never even thought of or tasted before.”

Surpassing Expectations — Stephanie Izard

I’m way more impressed than I thought I would be. I thought that coming here I was going to say that and not really mean it. The food was really good, and I could cook when I was little, too, but not maybe to that level. I’m very impressed so far.”

More Chopped Junior

Go behind the scenes of the set, hear more from the judges and host, and watch exclusive clips from the show.

More from:

Chopped Junior