If you're a fan of Food Network, and more importantly their reality contest show The Next Food Network Star, then you're probably familiar with Aaron McCargo, Jr., an outgoing Camden, New Jersey dad of three who won top spot last season and came away with his very own Food Network show. Aaron is outgoing, friendly and very relatable ... if you're not watching the show yet, you've got to. His dishes are down-home, comfort food, and perfect to take the chill off of the cold Winter weather. Big Daddy's House had a superb first season, and with the second season now underway, we recently got a chance to ask Aaron a few questions.
Your family joins you a lot on the show – will we be seeing more of them this season?
You will definitely see a lot of Justin, a lot of Donovan [his brother]. This is how big daddy lives. I always have my brother over. Really bringing family into the kitchen and having fun cooking.
Have your kids gotten used to you being on Food Network?
Yes, they still give me “Hey Daddy, that’s you in the commercials.” It’s always good and exciting. I have a two year old daughter and now she is following Justin in saying “Daddy, that’s you,” when it’s on television.
At home, do your kids like to help you in the kitchen? Any budding chefs in the making?
They help me a lot. Say if I am making guacamole, Justin will be the one to scoop it out and cube it up. Josh, he’s started practicing writing recipes on his own. As Justin gets older, now he’s moving on to the peeler. He’s my official peeler. No one gets to touch Big Daddy’s knife yet though.
What is their most frequent request when Daddy’s cooking at home?
Soup – My wife and the kids, they have been requesting soup a lot. It’s been a holiday request from my friends. Crab Florentine Soup was requested by friends for a gameday party recently.
Getting kids to eat a proper, well-balanced meal is universal struggle. What tips can you pass on to our moms to help them in their battle?
The one thing that’s been working for me and you will get to see it in the episodes of Big Daddy’s [is] I create a dipping sauce that works. Give them something to dip their vegetables with and they will eat more vegetables. Blue cheese, ranch, it seems to work for me. For fruit: Roll it in peanut butter and pretzels or coconut.
With juggling kids’ after-school activities, work and more, it’s an ongoing challenge to get a good, healthy meal on the table that everyone will eat. What tips can you give our moms for keeping everyone happy, well fed and sane?
What I normally try to do, since my wife is not one who loves to be in the kitchen [but we work together to prepare meals ahead of time on one weekend day], is on Sunday morning, I lay out meals, prep [and cook] and portion them, then freeze them. We’re literally (and I am doing this every day) – precooking. I build everything up in the refrigerator. Just take a day out and it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. I’m making meatloaf ... But we’re making them, we’re chilling them out and we are portioning them ahead of time.
To hear more from Aaron McCargo, Jr., and learn more about his hearty, down-home recipes, tune in to Big Daddy's House on Food Network, Sundays at 1:30 PM (EST).
* Additional reporting by Sarah Caron. Photo courtesy of Food Network.