Emily Roche, a 12 year old Chopped Junior winner from Mandeville, Louisiana, received $10,000 and a highly coveted Chopped Junior chef’s coat by baking a classic New Orleans dessert that she loves: bread pudding!!!!!
“I like to hangout with my friends, play sports, and I like to run!” said Emily when I asked her what she likes to do besides cooking.
“It was so long! It was like Skype, emails, then they were like, ‘Ok, wait ’til December’ (when it was October), but in December, we found out and filmed in early February. Then, it aired on May 10,” is what she told me about the process of auditioning.
When I asked her about the experience, this is what she said. “Meeting all the kids from the episode and Haley from the first episode and being friends with Moses from the Mother’s Day episode was so fun! I loved it! The cooking part was amazing, and to be in that kitchen and to cook for all the AMAZING judges was such an honor. And winning was the BEST!!!”
Haley and Moses competed in different episodes, but Emily still became friends with them. “…So, we just kind of got to talking, and Moses was really nice, and he posted a good luck picture to me, so we are all kind of friends because we like speak the same nerdy cooking language 😂😂😂😂”
She also told me about her competitive nature, kindness, favorite part about competing, and how she wants to inspire other people. “I’m a competitive person, and I play sports, so I love competing! But, don’t worry; I’m a good sport, as you can tell in the desert round of my episode 😏😉😉 My favorite part was just the experience, and it was so great to meet all of my Chopped Junior friends and to be able to have that oppourtinity. It was a dream come true!! Cooking is my passion, and I have a nut allergy, so I want kids who are like me with allergies to not be scared to cook in the kitchen, and I want to inspire people to get in the kitchen and cook.”
The cameras, unfortunately, weren’t always her friends. “It was good and bad,” Emily told me. “It was good because I’m not shy at all, and it was “bad” because there were wires everywhere and cameramen everywhere, so it’s hard to run to grab stuff in the kitchen, and they’re always following you.😂”
She wasn’t nervous knowing that people were watching because she’s not shy and loves to be around people. “I was also on my school’s broadcast team. I was on my school’s broadcast team because I love to be on camera. We did a weekly broadcast each week and interviewed 1 class each week.”
“..,we shot the episode in February, and it aired on May 10,” she told me.
This is what Emily told me about the process of the show taping. “When we walked on it was so exciting! We saw the bright lights, all the cameras, and the cooking stations all set up. Then, we got all suited up with the aprons and basically started cooking. We had absolutely NO clue about the ingredients! So, Ted was, like, ‘Ok, are you ready?’, and we were, like, ‘Yeah!’ But right before the round, we shot the scenes when we walked in. Then, we opened the baskets and had no time to think! We started cooking, and in between each round, we took a break. Right before Isaiah was chopped, we ate a great lunch. Then, the long day went on! After I won, we filmed the scene when I wore the coat and jumped up and down, and then the next day, I did the interview that says what I’m making and all of that.”
In the competition, there are three rounds: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Each round has its own basket of mystery ingredients. Every ingredient must be used in each competitor’s dish in some way. Each round is timed. Dishes are judged on taste, presentation, and creativity. If someone’s dish isn’t good enough to have them move on to the next round, they’ll be “chopped”, or eliminated.
Emily didn’t get any time to think about what she was going to make. “…no extra time or no stopping the clock at all,” she said.
In the appetizer basket, the ingredients were baby romanesco cauliflower, polenta log, rock shrimp, and beef tongue. This 7th grader decided to whip up a simple salad with beef tongue and a cauliflower and polenta crunch to make all of the ingredients come together. For the entrée round, Emily didn’t struggle to work with the quail that was in the basket. There was also spinach artichoke dip, mini mirepoix veggies, and stuffed bagel buns. The bagel buns were stuffed with cream cheese, so she decided to scoop that out and stuff them with pesto instead to go alongside the little bird that she seared and her spinach and artichoke pan sauce. For dessert, star fruit, horn corn chips, pink lemonade concentrate, and vanilla tie-dye cake inspired this junior chef’s rainbow cake bread pudding with a homemade lemonade whipped cream and a star fruit and bugle chip crumble that won her the title of Chopped Junior Champion. This kind girl was also willing to give some of her pink lemonade concentrate to her competitor Zoe Gelsi, who thought she opened the can successfully, but was surprised when she realized the can was upside down and accidentally spilled this mandatory ingredient.
“I thought all the rounds were challenging, and all of them were slightly easy, too. My favorite ingredient was the tie dye cake because I could be really creative with it, and my least favorite ingredient was the polenta because I had no clue what it was, or what to do with it, but I did succeed with both of those items,” she said when I asked her about how difficult she thought the ingredients were.
“The introduction when you walk in was filmed before the competition, and introduction was filmed the day before. The interview is after the competition…When you see us cooking our specialty dish that is in a studio in NYC.”
“I knew I was in the show in December, but it was to be filmed in February and air later, so it was extremely hard to keep the secret, especially since I won!! You are not supposed to tell anyone because the word could get out and then people wouldn’t watch the show because they could know what happened if someone said what happened. We had to sign confidentiality forms to say that we wouldn’t tell anybody that I was on the show before it came out. Also, they had a fine which was tied to the form, so if you broke a rule, you had to pay a fine. They don’t want other people to know that you are going to be on the show until you can tell them, but otherwise, it will break the contract you signed.”
Emily said she was probably closest friends with Zoe because they were in every round together, but before the appetizer, she really was good friends with Owen! “We’re still all friends and talk a lot,” she said.
“I was so happy and proud of myself!” is what her reaction was when she won. She plans on saving the money and spending a tiny bit, like a reward for herself!
When I asked her what Emily wants to be when she’s older, she said, “I’m not sure quite yet. I still have a while to think about it, but I know in the future, no matter what, I will still be cooking!!!!”
“It is crazy because now I’m “famous” and known. It has good and bad things to it, but mostly good! The money didn’t change me personally, but the experience did, and I’m glad!”
“I have a food allergy, tree nuts and peanuts, and I’ve always wanted to be able to eat foods that have nuts in them that I can’t eat, so I wanted to get into cooking, so I could make my own nut free food. I also want to inspire other people with allergies that can’t eat certain types of food. I want to tell them they shouldn’t be afraid to get in the kitchen and cook. Plus, who doesn’t like to cook?!!” she told me.
“I can be as creative as I want!!!! I’m am super creative, and I can definitely show that in my food.”
Her style of food is anything! She loves it all, but mostly food from around the world! Her favorite cuisine is Mediterranean because she loves all of that food, especially pita bread! Her best dish she could prepare is probably any homemade dessert because she loves to bake! Her favorite kind of food to prepare is probably baked or seared because she loves the look of the seared meat and the taste, and baked stuff is always good no matter what! She doesn’t really have a favorite because she loves them all! When it comes to cooking, her inspiration is her mom because she truly taught her how to cook!
Emily, thank you so much for this wonderful oppourtinity!!!!! I hope you pursue a culinary career when you’re older and that you keep working hard to achieve your goals. Dream big, reach for the stars, and just know that you’re an amazing chef no matter what. Keep on cooking!!!!!