January 31 — What does Chopped Junior champ Claire Hollingsworth say about cleaning up?
“ABC = Always be cleaning!” she insists. “To be honest, I know this because my dad taught me this and it is much better to clean along the way than have this big mess to come back to.
“I am much better at cleaning up than I used to be and my parents have noticed. I used to be a disaster.”
January 30 — The one thing about cooking that Chopped Junior winner Claire Hollingsworth wants other kids to know and learn from is this: Be confident!
“You can do this!” she shares. “Don’t be scared! Try things, and be safe when it comes to using a knife and heat. So always ask for help if you need it, and keep learning. Remember that you can teach your parents things. I teach my mom and dad things that I’ve learned about cooking all the tie — and they keep teaching me. It’s a lot of fun, and keeps us close, too.”
What happens if a dish tastes nasty? “Use it as a learning experience,” Claire says. “You learn more from mistakes than you realize. There’s always cereal for dinner. Just keep cooking, and smiling.”
January 29 — Cooking well is like creating a great science project, like a robot. And that’s the principle that Chopped Junior winner Claire Hollingsworth focuses on when she’s coming up with new recipes.
“I am really interested in the science of cooking,” says Claire, who knows that cooking is an experiment with benefits for her tummy.”
To keep her skills sharp, she heads to the refrigerator and pantry and picks a protein and starch ingredient — then she logs on to her computer to look online for recipes that will enable her to incorporate them into the dish.
But that’s not all. “I look for one thing I can change,” she adds, such as using cloves instead of cinnamon or Chinese 5 spice, instead of cumin. “The important thing is to only change one thing in the beginning when you are cooking so you can taste the effect and decide what you would do differently next time. If it is a recipe that I like, I put it in our family cooking binder. If I didn’t like it — I throw it away.”
I also am inspired by brilliant chefs like Alton Brown, and Julia Child, as well as classic texts such as Cooks Illustrated, and The Food Lab. “Study, experiment, and have a ball,” Claire insists.
January 28 — Chopped Junior winner Claire Hollingsworth says her best tip for prepping is … to play music!
“Prepping can sometimes be the boring part of cooking, however it is THE MOST BORING IMPORTANT,” she admits.
“My dad always taught me, mise en place, which is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place,” as in set up.
Claire says: “It is important to read the entire recipe first so you know what ingredients you need, what needs to be chopped or melted etc. There is nothing worse then starting to prep or start cooking something and then realize you need to chop up an onion after you had your hands in raw meat. I learned this lesson when making meatballs with one of my friends.”
January 27 — What did Claire Hollingsworth learn from being on Chopped Junior, which she didn’t know before?
“The basket ingredients are like a solving a mystery for the perfect dish,” she says. “This is like your own pantry and fridge. It is fun to solve mysteries.
“I learned that I needed to be very focused on my time management, which meant that I always had to be doing something. There was no down time at all and I learned to keep an eye on different things the entire time — like multi-tasking.”
January 26 — What is Chopped Junior winner Claire Hollingsworth top tip on cooking well? “Taste your food along the way,” she insists. “It keeps you from adding too much salt, sugar, and other ingredients that can ruin the dish.”
Other secrets include:
- Have onfidence!! Just try it. Ask for help if needed
- Whatever time the recipe says to cook for, I always check it 10 min before then 5 min before just to be safe
- When adding spicy spices, always put it in your hand first and sprinkle in about half of what the recipe says, then taste and adjust if needed
- Get your own set of knives. “I started out using kid-safe knives, and then my parents helped me graduate to a more grown-up set that is modified so I don’t get hurt. I love it, and it makes me feel like a real chef to have my own knives!”
January 25 — “Baking and cooking has always been something that we have done together as a family,” says Claire Hollingsworth, winner of the grand prize on the January 5, 2016 episode of Chopped Junior. “The kitchen has always been the heart of our home — literally, it is in the center of our house.”
Cooking is also near and dear to her heart, she adds. “When I was little, my father was a stay-at-home dad and let me help with the food prep. He didn’t make me feel like a kid who wasn’t allowed to cook. He taught me to bake first, and that was yummy. Then, when he returned to work, my brother, mom and I were involved when it came to making dinner. I loved it because we’d talk about our day while we were cooking our meal. My dad was always buying new vegetables for us to try. I liked the challenge of learning about new foods, then cutting, chopping them, and tasting the results.”
Here’s are tips on how you can do the same:
- Never be scared about how your dish will turn out because if it doesn’t taste good or you burn it, try again and learn from it. My dad always said, “We can eat cereal if this dish doesn’t work out.”
- Don’t be fooled by how easy things look on the cooking shows you watch on TV. Although the dishes always seem to turn out perfectly, that’s just the magic of editing. They can stop the camera and start over, and you’ll never know it thanks to the magic of the editing process. Those celebrity chefs make plenty of mistakes, too!
- If you really want to learn to be creative in the kitchen — experiment. Look in the fridge for a main ingredient you want to eat, then go through cookbooks or look online for a recipe.
- For fun, change one thing in the recipe — like a spice or a fruit or a seasoning. I love experimenting!
- Remember tip #1! Sometimes my experiments work out — sometimes they do not. One of the best desserts I ever made was a chocolate brownie marshmallow parfait. But I didn’t intend for that to be desert! I messed up the brownies I was baking, and I repurposed them. The result was even better. I love cooking!
January 24 — Nine-year-old Emily Waters of Richmond, VA was thrilled to be chosen to participate in the January 5, 2016 episode of the Food Network’s Chopped Junior episode, “Cuteness Overload.”
So what was the one big take-away lesson that she learned from being on national TV?
January 23 — In retrospect, if Emily could have made anything different than she did on Chopped Junior, what would it have been?
January 22 — “Always remember that cooking means experimenting, and sometimes experiments go awry,” says January 5, 2016 Chopped Junior contestant Emily Waters. “And even if a recipe doesn’t turn out quite right, it doesn’t mean you are a bad chef. You might just need to try again.”
After all, Emily says, she didn’t make it to the final round of the Chopped Junior. But that doesn’t matter, she knows. “I had a ball, and it’s an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.”