Essex County News

Essex County Fifth Grader to Appear on 'Chopped Junior'

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WEST ORANGE, NJ – Local fifth grader Megan Hackett will appear on Food Network’s popular cooking competition “Chopped Junior” on Tuesday, April 11 at 8 p.m.

Hackett said she has always enjoyed cooking and took several cooking classes before deciding to audition for the show.

The contest pits four junior 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. During each round, a contestant is eliminated until there is one remaining.

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Ten-year-old Hackett joins three peers in a circus-themed episode to compete for a $10,000 prize and the title of “Chopped Junior champion.”

After learning she was selected for the show, Hackett began working with several chefs for additional training, including Chef Ariane Duarte, who has appeared on “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef.” Duarte opened the kitchen at her restaurant, “Ariane Kitchen and Bar,” to allow Hackett to see a professional kitchen at work.

She also worked closely with Chef Karan Fischer of Montclair Culinary Academy, Chef Suzanne Lowery of Classic Thyme in Westfield and Chef Darius Butherde of Fabulous Appetizers in to learn the art of preparing various cuisines. For her audition, Hackett prepared Teriyaki Salmon, truffle macaroni and cheese and sautéed spinach.

Her palate and culinary talent have given her the opportunity to appear as a food critic for Bon Appetit and filmed projects for Glamour magazine.

When she’s not cooking, the Mt. Pleasant Elementary student plays basketball and soccer on local teams. In addition, she has also worked professionally in commercials, Off-Broadway theater and as a television extra.

Hackett writes music and plays several instruments including piano, bass guitar and trumpet. She also plays in a rock band on weekends, studies voice and dance, and has even done stand-up comedy.

If she wins Chopped Junior, Hackett said she would use the prize money to create an after-school program to serve inner-city youth.

“I want to create an after-school program that allows children to have the same experiences I have,” she said. “I would like for them to have classes in cooking, art and music because when school budgets are cut, often the arts are the first to go.”

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