LIVINGSTON, NJ — An 11-year-old Livingston resident became the winner of $10,000 and the highly coveted “Chopped Junior” chef’s jacket when she appeared on the reality cooking competition, which aired on Tuesday, May 31 on Food Network.
Amanda DeFuria was selected to compete against three talented junior chefs from across the country in the three-round competition, and ultimately won over judges Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, Comedy Actress Christine Taylor and Food Network Star Eddie Jackson, with host Ted Allen encouraging the junior chefs throughout the competition.
In her casting video, Amanda explained that she began cooking at a very young age, when she would help her great grandma and grandma add spices the pasta gravy. At six years old, according to Amanda, she began cooking meals on her own.
When asked what she would do with the $10,000 if she won, Amanda said, “I would save some for college. Also, I would like to save some to open a restaurant when I’m older, too.”
“Chopped” is a contest that pits four chefs against each other for three rounds—appetizer, entrée and dessert—and requires the chefs to incorporate unusual combinations of ingredients into cohesive, creative dishes. This particular episode used ingredients like heart-shaped pasta in the appetizer round, shellfish that were still on the shell for the entrée and a creative take on cookies and milk in the dessert round.
Amanda consistently wowed the judges with her interpretations of the ingredients provided to her. Her competitors also did not underestimate Amanda despite her appearance.
“I’m definitely keeping an eye on Amanda,” said her fellow 11-year-old junior chef, Ally. “She’s small and she looks really cute, but she’s really a fierce competitor.”
Throughout the competition, the judges described Amanda’s dishes using adjectives like stunning, clean and refreshing.
“Your presentation is flawless,” Jackson said in the first round. “For an 11-year-old to make a plate this beautiful just shocks me.”
“There are so many wonderful things that you’ve done here,” Guarnaschelli said about Amanda’s entrée.
“Amanda, I can’t stop eating this ice cream,” Taylor said in the dessert round. “It’s silky, the flavor is very robust—super yummy.”
Amanda experienced a minor setback in the dessert round when she realized there was no heavy cream to remake the whipped cream that she wasn't thrilled with only minutes before. In the final seconds, she also realized that she overlooked one of her ingredients, but ultimately got it on the plate and took home the victory.
“If I was one of the judges, I couldn’t pick,” Amanda said to her 12-year-old competitor, Luke. “It could go either way.”
“I’m neck and neck with Amanda because she put out really good dishes and so did I,” said Luke.
Despite her minor setback in the final round, Amanda was confident that she served the judges the best work she could and that she deserved the win. Amanda acknowledged that her competitors were great chefs, but refused to be intimidated by any of them.
“This is the best day of my life, this is awesome, thank you,” she told the judges. “For the rest of my life, to call myself a Chopped Junior champion, that means me so much to me. I’m so happy.”