Weymouth, Massachusetts resident Camryn McLelland was jumping for joy when she saw that her dish was not on the chopping block after the dessert round of her episode of Chopped Junior. This 13 year old cooked and baked her heart out all through the competition, and it all paid off because the 7th grader won $10,000, a highly coveted Chopped Junior chef’s coat, and received the title of Chopped Junior Champion as three awesome prizes for the St. Francis Xavier student’s hard work and determination.
Other than cooking, she told me that she enjoys dancing.
“It was really long and hard. There were lots of video calls and videos I had to make,” said Camryn about the audition process.
“I was very cool. I never thought I would be on TV,” she told me about being on the show.
“My favorite part was dessert round. It was fun ’cause I got to use the ice cream machine.”
The cameras didn’t scare this tween at the time. “I wasn’t really nervous with them. I just thought of them as regular people.”
“It didn’t really make me nervous ’cause I knew I would do good even if I lost,” said Camryn about her reaction to people watching.
“They shot it in May (5th), and it aired in August (16th). They said it was going to air in January, but it turns out they had it ready by August.”
“When I walked on to the set, we got our aprons on and mics on. Soon after that, we started to cook in each round. They were very intense and hard. When I found that I had the best dish in each round, I knew I would win. When I was called the winner, it was amazing.”
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.
In the appetizer round, the basket consisted of bird’s nest (spaghetti and meatballs), cherry peppers, sugar snap peas, and antipasto platter. Camryn made a cheesy meatball with cherry tomato and snap pea tomato sauce. In the entrée round, this junior chef was surprised to find poussin in the basket accompanied by pickled garlic, graham cracker rainbows, and red kale. She made graham cracker-crusted poussin with sautéed red kale and pickled garlic sauce. In the dessert round, cookie mix gift jar, blood orange chips, kiwi, and flaxseed milk inspired Camryn’s kiwi-ricotta muffins with chocolate chip and blood orange-flaxseed ice cream.
“I think the ingredients to me were on the easier side. Some may have thought they were hard,” she said.
“I shot them the next day,” said Camryn about the introductions and interviews.
“I made them a few months before,” she told me about the parts of the introdction where she was cooking at her house.
“I had to keep it a secret since April. If you told someone that you were going to be on the show, or you won, you would get fined $750,000. They wanted to keep it a secret. I have no clue why, though.”
The day of the competition, the competitor she was closest friends with was Melinda.
“…we still talk even now,” said Camryn.
“I was shocked, and I didn’t even know what to do with myself. I was so happy,” she told me about when she won.
“I’m going to go on a trip; we’re not sure where we’re going to go yet, but yeah…” she said about what she’s going to do with the money.
She wants to be a doctor when she grows up. “I’m just gonna be a good chef in the world; I don’t really want to own any businesses.”
“It changed my life after I won because now when I go places, like, everyone knows me.”
“My parents are really good at cooking, and they taught me how,” she said.
“My favorite part about cooking is the creativity. You got to make your own kind of dish and be creative.”
“My style of cooking is simple, easy, fresh, healthy, and yummy”
“My favorite cuisine is Italian. I’m Italian, so that’s where my roots are from, and it’s really creamy and dreamy, I think.”
“My favorite type of food is probably baked because you can really bake anything. You can bake anything, and I just think it’s flavorful other than fried because fried is very greasy”
“The best dish I can prepare is probably any homemade pasta.”
“My favorite food to cook is any homemade pasta with any kind of sauce.”
“My biggest inspiration is Giada; she is Italian just like me, and I like all the food she makes, and I want to meet her one day.”
Camryn, thank you so much for letting me do this!!!!! I love your food personality and point of view, and I hope you never stop. Just keep cooking!!!!!