To the Max

This season of the Chopped Teen Tournament has its share of great quotes, dishes and competitors. We’ve learned that these teen contestants not only have culinary skills but also have deep passions in other areas as well. With a cake business and a gluten-free cookbook in the works, Max Aronson is definitely taking his talents to the max. We caught up him recently to learn about how he’s making it all happen!

Teen Chopped Contestant Max Aronson. Picture from
Teen Chopped Contestant Max Aronson. Picture from

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

MA: I got started with cooking when I was very young, watching my mom prepare food for our family at holiday dinners. It looked so fun and I always loved giving her a hand. After that, my interest for cooking just took off!

FP: Name some chefs that have inspired you.

MA: The first chef to really inspire me was Bobby Flay. I watched all of his shows, I themed my Bar Mitzvah after Throwdown, I went to book signings, he was such an inspiration. Then, when I started going to the high school that I am at now, I found new role models such as my culinary teachers, and my mentor, Emma Scher.

FP: Yes, we remember Emma Scher. She was great on Chopped also!

Tell us about your experience on Chopped. 

MA: Chopped was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was a little nervous going in, but once I met the other competitors and actually got into the flow of the show, it was just a blast.

FP: It looked like you were working hard but having fun at the same time!

Describe the feeling when you learned you would compete on the show. 

MA: I found out I was going to be on the show when I was at school one day and I was FREAKING OUT. I couldnt believe it. I had honestly never been this excited in my life.

FP: We can only imagine how excited you were!

What was the hardest ingredient to work with? 

MA: The hardest ingredient to work with was definitely the Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I knew I could use it as a starch compound, but the sweetness of it was SO overwhelming for the entree round.

FP: Do you keep in contact with the other contestants?

MA: Yes, the other contestants and I still keep in touch through Facebook and other social media sites.

FP: What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself and/or for guests.

MA: I honestly don’t have a “favorite meal” to cook. I love experimenting and switching it up, so I am always making something new. I am the type of person that gets bored with flavors very quickly, so I will go through stages of switching from Asian to Mexican to Italian and so on and that keeps everything exciting for me.

FP: When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places throughout NJ or other cities you’ve visited.

MA: So eating out is one of my favorite things to do. My birthday presents for the past few years have been nice dinners instead of material goods. I have been to fancy restaurants in the city like Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, and Per Se, and those are just off the charts incredible. For every day dining out, I am a creature of habit. Sushi and Japanese: Nagoya in Mahwah, Italian: Cafe Anello in Westwood, Greek: Taste of Greece in River Edge, Coffee/Breakfast: Sogno in Westwood, Thai: Malee Fine Thai Cuisine in Ridgewood, Pizza: A Mano in Ridgewood… there is a lot of great food around me and I love going to the same places because after you go there a certain amount of times, you start to become friends with the people that work there, and that just makes the experience even better.

FP: Sounds like a delicious list. Next time, we visit NJ, we’ll have to check the spots out!

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂

MA: Oh boy, guilty pleasures. I have too many. Ice cream and banana bread I would say are my top two guilty pleasures. But there is so much good food, I believe that if you enjoy it, there is no reason to be guilty!

FP: We like the way to you think… no reason to be guilty at all!

We read that your starting an internship at Gramercy Tavern this fall. Congrats! How did the opportunity come about? 

MA: Yes, I am going to be interning at Gramercy Tavern this Fall. At my school, we have a program called Senior Experience where every Wednesday, instead of continuing the typical classroom setting of school, all Seniors go out and intern at various places according to what field they want to go into. Since I started at Shake Shack, which is owned by the same company that owns Gramercy Tavern, I was able to make some connections and reach out to Gramercy Tavern, and I was lucky enough to be accepted!

FP: We’re sure you’ll take advantage of your time at Gramercy Tavern!

You’re working on a gluten-free cookbook and also have a cake business. Where do you find time to do other things? What’s a day off like for you?

MA: I do have a lot going on, but I really enjoy being busy! I don’t like down time, but on my days off, I hang out with my family and friends, play with my dogs, eat, of course, and just relax!

FP: Where will we see Chef Max in 10 years?

MA: Hopefully in 10 years, I will be running my own restaurants, and maybe even hosting my own show on the Food Network! That his been a dream of mine since I was very young.

FP: We have a good feeling that we’ll be eating at one of your restaurants and watching one of your shows on the Food Network! We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

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