Aarón Sánchez Says These Are The Foods He Likes To Cook At Home - Exclusive Interview

Aarón Sánchez has always discussed the importance of teaching the next generation to cook and passing down information to ignite a passion in younger generations in the restaurant industry. But with season 14 of "MasterChef," Sánchez, along with the other judges, is pitting members of four demographic cohorts against each other to find out once and for all which generation reigns supreme. 

We got the chance to talk to Sánchez in an exclusive interview about "MasterChef: Generations" and learn some of the cooking wisdom that has been passed down through his family. While Sánchez is known for cooking predominantly Mexican food at his restaurants, such as the New Orleans-based Johnny Sánchez, the Chef's expertise and experience reach far beyond any single cuisine. Sánchez told us all about what he likes to cook for his family and passed on some delicious meal ideas you'll want to try at home.

What's coming on 'MasterChef: Generations'

I'm super excited for this new season, "MasterChef: Generations." Can you tell us what sort of food challenges we can expect to see this season?

Oh my lord, there's so many good ones. And there's some classics. One of the ones that stands out for me is being a chef is very competitive. Obviously we're in a cooking competition. We were able to cook for the professional soccer team in Los Angeles and get out there on the pitch, and Gordon used to play professional soccer in Europe, and I'm an athlete as well actually. So the fact to be out there and cooking for the team and their executives and just having fun there was something that was so neat and we had a lot of fun doing it. And then of course, there's the classic restaurant takeover. I'm sorry, that always is just ... It's chaotic. Chef Gordon's taking out the earpiece and he's in rare form. And thinking back a month and a half ago, you were literally a lawyer, and now you have an apron on and you're cooking at a two-star Michelin restaurant. You know what I mean? That kind of stuff is just, wow. It's a wild moment for me every time we do it.

Were there any standout dishes that came from these challenges?

Oh my God. Well, [I loved] most of the dishes where you interpret what is sporting food, what would you have at a sporting event and how can you elevate that and make that a little bit higher end. And then as far as the restaurant takeover, being able to interpret some classic dishes that Chef Gordon has had on his menu for over 20 years, for instance, whether it's a scallop dish with a little apple puree, or one of his classic beef Wellingtons. That was really neat to see them think, "Wow, I'm doing a Gordon Ramsay dish." You know what I'm saying?

Pizza all around

This season, "MasterChef: Generations" is going to feature four generations of cooks and you've previously spoken about the importance of generational cooking. Are there any favorite foods that you enjoy making with your family?

Oh, absolutely. Well, the idea on season 14 is "MasterChef: Generations." We came from the regional thought process last season, and then now we're going to go into another prideful thing that really defines your identity, which is the generation. Baby Boomers, Gen X is who I am, Millennials, and then Gen-Zers. And the fact is that each one of these generations has something so different they could bring to the table, whether experience from the Baby Boomers, whether travel from our generation, or Millennials being up on the food trends. Then you have the Gen-Zers who are just completely brazen and just adventurous. So it's just really cool to see the different ways that comes forward. And what are some of the foods I cook with my family? What I cook with my family all the time is everything but Mexican, believe it or not.


No, I cook Mexican food at my restaurants, but I don't necessarily cook it at home. I'm always adventurous. I love Italian food, so I whip out the pasta machine. I have a beautiful Breville pizza machine, like a little oven, and I'm making pizzas in there for the fam. Stuff like that.

What are some of your favorite pizza toppings?

Oh, that's a good question. It's funny, my son who's 13 now, when he was younger, he didn't like red sauce. He only wanted cheese and a bechamel. So he'd just throw down the cheese, the ricotta, maybe some sauteed spinach right on top. I like to maybe put pine nuts on it and then hit it with a little bit of shaved fresh fig or whatever kind of stuff, either ricotta or goat cheese. And then as far as my reds, I like to take Mexican chorizo, not the Spanish hard sausage. I like Mexican chorizo on my pizzas. Because it's more like a ground meat texture on top, almost like a bolognese. I put that on top of my pizza and kind of Mex-ify it.

Cooking through the generations

Did you notice any differences in the way that the different generations were approaching the challenges?

Yeah. Well, I just thought that initially the generations really stuck together and they had a lot of camaraderie. But as you start to progress in the competition, people start leaving the competition. And in the midpoint of the competition, you start seeing a lot more interaction between the Millennials. I saw some of the maternal and paternal feelings of the boomers, for instance, with the younger generations and wanting to teach them a little bit and help them out. It was just beautiful in that respect. There's just a lot of emotion, a lot of pride from all the different generations. It was beautiful to see. And everyone will see that.

For Mother's Day, Johnny Sánchez, your restaurant, posted a photo of you and your mother cooking together when you were quite little. Was there a lesson or something that you really took from learning and cooking with your mother when you were young?

One of the biggest things she told me was to develop your own cooking style. Make sure that when somebody eats your food, they know it's an Aarón Sánchez dish. And that's why initially I delved into Nuevo Latino food, which is a broader approach to Latin food, and didn't touch Mexican. Because that was my mom's deal. I felt like I was not well-read enough, I hadn't traveled enough in Mexico. So later on in my career, as I got older, I finally felt that I could tackle Mexican food. That's one of the ways that she taught me a valuable lesson.

Can you tell us a little bit about some of the upcoming guest judges?

Yeah, of course. Well, we have Sean Evans from "Hot Ones" who's awesome. We have Christine Hà, the season three winner, an amazing woman who's kicking butt. Vietnamese-style cooking, just crazy. We had Lidia Bastianich, speaking for the Baby Boomers, Joe's mom was in the house and she was busting his chops. It was this really cool, really eclectic group of people that we invited on. We had Nick DiGiovanni speaking to the younguns. It was just a fun group.

Would you say there was any particular dish that still stands out in your mind?

Oh my God, there's so many. There's so many. I'd have to get back to you on that. I have to go through the Rolodex in my head. I'm sorry.

The best barbecue

With barbecue season upon us, do you have any favorite barbecue dishes?

Oh yeah, absolutely. You can't go wrong with pork butt. It's just the ultimate canvas. I've been really getting into double cut stuffed pork chops. I like to get a beautiful double cut of Duroc pork. And then I like to slice them, put a little sofrito in there, a little roasted peppers and capers and all this yummy stuff, and then stuff that and then smoke it. But not cook it, just smoke it, and then grill it. And then hit it with a nice little glaze right at the end. And that right there for me is what I'm into right now.

What would you pair that with? Any sides or anything?

Oh yeah. For me, you can't go wrong with a little Mexican street corn, a little sauté. I could do that all day. I love barley salads, cooked barley or greens. Get some beautiful greens, sauté those in there. Tomatoes with a nice bracing vinaigrette. I love those things. Maybe some chopped fresh apricots, plums. Whatever's in season.

I like that you've mentioned a couple of times pairing fruits with savory things and bringing those sweet elements.

Absolutely. I spent time in California and New Orleans, and they have completely different styles, completely different climates, but they all have their different things that they bring to market, which inspires my food.

Watch new episodes of "MasterChef: Generations" starting May 29th, 2024 on Fox.