The Judges' Memories of Their Very First Dishes — Chopped Junior

Getting into the kitchen at a very young age can be a very formative experience. Sometimes things go well, and other times it's a disaster. We asked the show's judges to name the first dishes they tried, no matter the outcome.

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

Finding a Love for Baking Early On — Sandra Lee

"The first thing that I can remember ever making by myself is a cake and decorating it with icing, and that's when I first fell in love with cake decorating, and from the time I was very young I loved to bake. I went to school to learn the savory sauces, but baking came easy and natural for me."

An Oopsie Learned Very Early On — Jamika Pessoa

"I know the first dish I screwed up was scrambled eggs. I was 7 years old, and I'm making breakfast, and I said, 'I'm going to cook breakfast,' and I start scrambling the eggs in the pan with a fork, and my grandmother walked in there, and BOY. Yeah, that was the last time I did that. Let's just say that. She almost had my head for that. So, never, ever scramble in a pan with a fork."

A Not-So-Good Recipe Developer — Meghan Markle

"Well, my mom has saved some of my childhood recipes, and I found one the other day, and it's a terrible dip. I don't know what I was thinking, and it was some sort of, like, sour cream, chive, yogurt — maybe like my little version of tzatziki, because it has cucumbers in there too. I'd written it all down, everything's terribly misspelled, and that was one of the recipes that she saved, sort of crunchy veggie dip."

Nailing the Most-Important Meal of the Day — Tyrel Jackson Williams

"The first dish I made by myself was probably just making myself breakfast — you know, an omelet, bacon and cheese and mushrooms and onions in it. And I remember being so, so, so proud of it, because it was the one thing I made by myself, for myself, and it tasted good."

Saucy Homesickness Remedy — Laura Vitale

"I was very new here in the U.S. I was extremely homesick. I had no idea how to make myself feel connected to my family, and I was on the phone with my grandmother … and I remember sobbing on the phone. She told me she had made sugo. I really wanted sugo, so she told me to just go ahead and make it. I wrote the recipe on the back of an envelope. … I asked my dad to give me the ingredients, and without knowing any better, I just kind of threw everything in the pot … no searing, no nothing, and it wasn't actually terrible."

Baking Sweets for Some Quality Time — Raiza Costa

"I've always been into baking, because my father had a sweet tooth, and my mom is totally into healthy cooking, like really, really mainstream, so I would do treats for my father, because it was our … way of bonding … ."

Scaring Off His Roommates — Alan Thicke

"I would say my college casserole was my first successful recipe, and that was also influenced by budgetary considerations, which is why it would include ground beef and occasionally a couple of hot dogs and potatoes, mashed potatoes, a lot of ketchup. And, as appetizing as that may sound to you right now, my roommates in college were not as fond [of it]. In fact, when it was my turn in the rotation of four guys to cook, they ate at restaurants."

Starting Simple with a One-Pan Dish — Brandi Milloy

"I'd say probably the first dish I ever made, besides cakes and cupcakes, was a stir-fry. I remember learning how easy it was to put rice in a rice cooker, get some awesome proteins and vegetables, hot oil and seasoning, and you could really do everything in one pan."

Learning Good Food Takes Time — Lazarus Lynch

"My first dish, I think, was a lentil soup, and lentil soup takes a while, because you've got to cook the beans from scratch, but I was in junior high school, and I remember just making that bowl of lentil soup, and I made a pot of rice on the side, and I used the recipe from some kind of website, I don't even remember where, and cooked it up. It was so good, so delicious."

A Star in the Making — Katie Lee

"The first dish I ever made by myself was when I was 12 years old. I had a dinner party and I made beef stroganoff. It was a snowstorm, and I invited my grandparents for dinner — they lived down the street — and they came over. I set the table and I made this nice beef stroganoff, and even though this was before the days of Food Network, I made my mom videotape me like I was on a cooking show … ."

Grilling Up A Batch of Comfort — Luke Thomas

"I remember I used to bake. My grandmother used to make cakes, and where I'm from in Wales we did grilled scones. So, you make a recipe with flour, eggs, milk, sugar, and then you put loads of raisins and things, and then you grill them so they get really nicely sort of toasted and caramelized and then all soft and delicious in the middle."

Love Knows No Bounds — Kristen Kish

"First dish that I ever made? Chocolate pudding. We didn't have chocolate in the house, so I used soy sauce. I'm not even sure how I got it to be pudding consistency, which is a little terrifying in itself, so obviously no, it did not taste good. It was not successful. My sweet father — I put it in the refrigerator, because I wanted to show my parents, and he was like, 'Oh, that looks really good,' and I didn't tell him not to eat it. I just let him eat this soy sauce, sugar-laden Jell-O essentially, and he was very kind. ... I mean, he's my father."

A Smart Lesson for an Eager Kid — Aarón Sánchez

"The first dish? Maybe around 6 years old I learned how to make a quesadilla. And it was one of those things out of necessity. I'd keep bothering my mom that I was hungry, so then she taught me how to make the quesadilla, and then every time I would complain about being hungry, she'd be like, 'Make the quesadilla; I taught you how to make it.' So that was definitely the first thing."

Learning to Get Her Hands Dirty — Michelle Trachtenberg

"We call it broccoli pie, but it's more like a broccoli quiche that had cheddar and bacon, and just, like, the soft, great pie crust, and my mom would always let me grate the cheese and mix it all in together, and I'd be like, 'Eww, it's gross on my fingers,' and she's like, 'Well, you have to get in there with your hands if you want to cook.'"

Baking in the Wee Hours — Cheryl Hines

"I did a lot of baking when I was growing up … . And I would drive my family crazy … but I would like to bake in the middle of the night, so I ran an extension cord outside to use the mixer so I didn't wake anybody up."

A Vital Lesson in Cooking Pasta — Tiffany Derry

"It was spaghetti. … But my first spaghetti did not come out great. In my mind it came out excellent, and the sauce ... oh, the sauce was delicious. So I had chicken and sausage and shrimp, and it was just so good, and I threw the pasta in the water and it clumped up, and yeah, we still ate it, though. My mom was like, 'Well, you did try. You tried very hard.'"

Tostones Master in the Making — Angelo Sosa

"Coming from a Dominican home, cooking tostones, which is the green plantain fried, smashed, seasoned with salt. I mean, I could probably be labeled as a tostones master. It's one of my earliest cooking memories, and it's something that I've just learned to not only love, but perfect."

A Recipe to Set Him Up for Life — Chris Colfer

"There was this dish in a cookbook called A Man, A Can, A Plan, and … when I moved away from home, my mom sent me with that, thinking that I would never starve if I just was able to follow the simple instructions of opening a can, and there was a pasta dish in there … and to this day it’s my go-to dish when I'm hung over."

Happily Taking the Spotlight — Jennette McCurdy

"I think the first dish I learned how to make would be green bean casserole. I actually made that a lot for Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. And my mom asked me one year to be entirely in charge of it, and I felt like, 'Oh, it's my time to shine,' like 'I've got to really bring it,' and I think I did OK."

Avoiding Boredom with an Entire Meal — Maneet Chauhan

"My parents weren't at home. They had gone alone for a concert with my sister, and I didn't want to go, because, you know, singing songs [is] so boring. Cooking was fun. So, I made an entire dinner for them, which was matar paneer, which is peas with Indian cottage cheese, some pilaf, and I made a dessert which is a bread, deep-fried, soaked in sugar syrup with saffron, and a reduced saffron milk right on top of it."

Path from an After-School Snack — Raquel Pelzel

"I was a latchkey kid of the '70s, so I would come home to an empty house and be hungry after school, and' you know' my mom was working, and I would make myself cinnamon sugar toast. So, that was the first thing I made, and now I have a toast cookbook out, and there is a cinnamon sugar toast recipe in the book, so it's come full circle."

Finding Out Heat Is Important — DeMarcus Ware

"The first dish I ever tried was spaghetti, and it was funny … . So, I didn't have the water boiling the first time I cooked the noodles, but figured out that you have to have heat before anything else gets moving. It's the same thing with steak. You want to heat the pan before you put the steak in there. So that was a lesson learned."

Growing Into Pudding Making — Rachel Hollis

"The first dish that I learned how to make successfully as a little kid was banana pudding. … They'd put me up at the kitchen counter with a butter knife, and I'd, you know, chop the bananas and then make the pudding and then layer it. … It's still my favorite dish, because I've been making it for as long as I can remember."

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