Junior chef Nicole Bidun poses on set, as seen on Food Network's Chopped Junior Make Me a Judge
Nicole Bidun poses on the set of Food Network’s Chopped Junior. Photo via Food Network.

By Keith Marder

Upper West Side native, Nikki Bidun, a fifth grader at P.S. 9, will make her television debut on Food Network, Wednesday, March 8 at 8 p.m. as part of Chopped Junior: Make Me A Judge tournament.  She will compete for a chance to become a judge in an upcoming episode and rate the food of some of the show’s regular judges, all professional, celebrity chefs.

It was an amazing experience for the 10-year-old, who also lists tennis, hip-hop dancing, school theater and playing the cello among her hobbies.  She got to cook for professional chefs, had a show wardrobe person hand-select a dress for her and got a pre-show tour of the show’s well-stocked pantry

“The experience was thrilling,” said Nikki, whose cooking style ranges from American comfort food to Belarussian delicacies. “It was like going on a rollercoaster, but with 10 times the adrenaline. I was ‘nervited’ – a combination of nervous and excited. “

Getting selected by the show is no easy task. After several interviews, videos and photo submissions, getting to hone her skills in the professional kitchen at Prohibition on Columbus Avenue and cooking, cooking, cooking, Nikki got the call.  On the other end of the phone was a Food Network producer with the news Nikki was hoping for: she would be a contestant on Food Network’s Chopped Junior.

“I’m always commenting on the contestants when I watch the show on TV,” she said, “but now I’m that person on the big screen.”

Full disclosure: Nikki’s mother is Keith Marder’s business partner.

FOOD, NEWS | 11 comments | permalink
    1. Meatball's wife says:

      Not sure what the chef’s equivalent of “break a leg” is but… all the best Nikki!

    2. Leda says:

      Good luck Nikki!! I’ll be watching!

    3. LuluT says:

      Yes! (love the new word “nervited”)

    4. UWS_lifer says:

      This is AWESOME!!! All these young Westsider’s lately doing us all proud.

      Good job to all the unsung Moms and Dads out there. Keep up the good work.

    5. I love Chopped Junior, and I love to cook. My name is Sophie, I’m 14 years old, and I’ve been cooking for about a year and a half. Please check out my website. Thank you so much.

      • Independent says:

        I had a look at your blog and wanted to say that you have a commendable and inspiring attitude.

        I found much truth and insight in what you wrote about human nature and the struggle between good and evil within each of us. (I also found it to effectively encapsulate the classic Judaic view on the matter.)

        I wish you well and I hope that more people of your age will benefit from and appreciate your writing, which sounds as it is from the heart.

    6. Leda says:

      You were fantastic, Congratulations! Tough competition you had, wow! You’re going to be a great judge.

    7. Independent says:

      It is nice to see youth taking-up a useful, practical and even wholesome hobby such as cooking.

      Young people still in their formative years who cook and bake have an especially good opportunity to develop and acquire healthful culinary and dietary tastes and habits– ones that will increase the likelihood of being able to enjoy both preparing as well eating food for many years to come. Perhaps the single most critical piece of advice that could be given in this regard– one that I don’t think anyone would dispute the validity of– would be this: Work toward minimizing sugar consumption (in all forms*). A few specific tips:

      1.) Try to discover and develop tastes for treats other than sweets.

      2.) When indulging in sweets, try to find and choose options that are relatively low in sugar.

      2a.) When preparing sweet items, begin to gradually use a little less sugar than typical recipes call for. Eventually, you may find yourself able to use considerably less sugar while still enjoying the result.

      (*Remember that honey; agave nectar; brown rice syrup and fruit juice are all concentrated sources of sugar. “Evaporated cane juice” is just a fancy, euphemistic way of saying “sugar”.)

    8. It’s me again. I’d like to get in touch with Nikki to interview her for me blog. Since you interviewed her yourself, do you have any ideas on how?