After winning season four of The Next Food Network Star, Aaron McCargo, Jr. has been blazing up the kitchen on his sizzling show, “Big Daddy’s House.” The reality star-turned-TV host’s friendly stove-side manner and out-of-the-box approach to everyday cooking has earned him many loyalists and the trust of self-professed foodies. This season, the 38-year-old, Camden, New Jersey native promises to continue delivering food in a big, flavorful and fun way. ESSENCE.com spoke with the TV chef about licking cake bowls, Big Daddy’s secret ingredient, and perfecting one’s cleaning act.
ESSENCE.COM: When did your love affair with food begin?
AARON MCCARGO, JR.: It started since birth or more realistically like [when I was] four years old. I was intrigued with the Betty Crocker cook books my mom had and just hanging around her in the kitchen, watching her splatter grease all over me from frying good chicken and licking the cake bowls.
ESSENCE.COM: How would you describe you cooking style?
MCCARGO: I call it freakish; I call it flavorful; I call it off-the-cuff. It’s not traditional cooking and outside the box. It’s all about big flavors so you don’t have to add salt and pepper to it. Just follow the recipe. It’s real. It’s been tested. I eat it at home. It’s just all good loving in the cooking.
ESSENCE.COM: What’s a typical meal like in the McCargo household?
MCCARGO: At home, it could be homemade TV dinners. I get creative and make it in a tin pan, pop it in the oven then surprise my kids. One dinner we’ll have pizza and French fries and a whole cob of corn. I’ll use foil packages, wrap it up and throw them in the oven. It’s pretty fun.
ESSENCE.COM: What’s the one ingredient that you can’t live without?
MCCARGO: I would have to say pepper it’s good stuff. You name it, cayenne, black pepper. I just love the flavor of pepper and chilies and things of that nature.
ESSENCE.COM: If you had to teach someone the basics of cooking, what would you school them on first?
MCCARGO: The first thing that I ever teach anyone is that you got to love it. Whether it’s a bowl of cereal or grilled cheese if you don’t love what you’re making it’s going to be the worst. Secondly, you got to know that you can’t be scared to be creative and taste everything. And lastly, be clean and neat! If you ain’t clean in the kitchen you’re going to feel like you’re working ten times harder. So, always clean as you go.
Check out Big Daddy’s House on The Food Network on Sundays, at 1:30 PM PT/ET