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  • Writer's pictureAriana Zajac

Food Networks Chopped Jr.

Being on Food Network's Chopped Jr. was a dream come true. In fact, it's a goal I set for myself when I was only 9. I am going to share with you how I prepared, how the actual filming and experience was, and how it has changed me since.

I have wanted to be on Food Network's Chopped Jr. since the day I saw it on TV. I always loved to cook and always will. To me, cooking is a therapeutic outlet and a way to express my creativity and experiment with ingredients. Cooking allows me to show my gratitude to others and indulge in the joy of culinary creation, and that love remains unwavering.

I started cooking more independently when I was 10. I got a French chef who gave me tips and fundamental knowledge. With consistent practice, I began to commit recipes to memory and was able to alter basic recipes. Little by little, I delved into the basics of cooking and realized how much it can be personalized and experimented with. This new understanding opened the doors to endless creative possibilities and intensified my passion for cooking. When I was almost 11 I decided I was going to audition for Food Networks Chopped Jr, and unfortunately, I did not get in. Although I was disappointed, this gave me an opportunity to persist and work harder towards my goal. When I was 12 I decided to audition again, and this time, the work payed off and I was casted for the premier of season 8. I was beyond excited, and even 5 years later, I am beyond proud of my hardwork and where it has led me. Being there on the stage of my dreams was so exciting and an incredible experience.

The moment I walked in and saw the judges, I was stunned. Standing infront of me was Ted Allen, Scott Conant, Amanda Freitag, and Jessica Alba! I was so excited and determined to win.

The first round, I was feeling confident. The ingredients weren't too hard and I could put some impressive skills to use. The second round was not my best; I had an idea that I thought would work perfectly, but when I realized I would not be able to finish in time, I had to go back to stage one. Although this was very overwhelming and stressful for me, I pulled together a dish and completed the challenge. The third round, I started making a tart and ice cream. The ice cream was great, but the tart was… not. My lack of experience in the dessert department was certainly showing. For a long time after filming the show, I was so disappointed in myself, knowing that I could have done better and that this round was not a fair representation of my skills. The final decision resulted in me coming in 2nd place. The moment when they revealed the winner is a feeling that I will never forget. In the moment (not to be dramatic), I felt crushed and absolutely defeated. I was upset with myself and of the stupid mistakes I made. I knew that I was better than how I performed.

It took me a long time to accept and appreciate my victory as runner up. Over time, I began to look at it through a different point of view. I started to accept the end result and appreciate the effort I put in and the skills that I demonstrated. The experience taught me resilience and reminded me that failures are not the end, but rather stepping stones to future success. I learned that loss, no matter how bitter, can be a powerful catalyst for growth. Accepting my victory changed me as a person, making me more determined and focused, and teaching me the importance of grace in both winning and losing. Instead of dwelling on my mistakes, I channeled that energy into self-improvement. I improved my skills, worked harder and took on challenges with renewed enthusiasm. I became more open to risk and was not afraid of failure, knowing every fail brings valuable lessons. It shaped my character, making me more empathetic, humble and appreciative of the journey, regardless of its outcome. In the end, coming second wasn't a sign of my limitations, but a testament to my persistence. It taught me that victory is not defined by title or status alone, but by the growth, strength and wisdom gained along the way.

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