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Aarón Sánchez
Born February 12, 1976 (1976-02-12) (age 47)
El Paso, Texas
Cooking style Cajun cuisine, Louisiana Creole cuisine, Mexican cuisine
Education Johnson & Wales University
Official website

Aarón Sánchez (born February 12, 1976) is a Mexican American celebrity chef, restaurateur, television personality, cookbook author and philanthropist. He is the executive chef and part-owner of the Mexican restaurant Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans.

He co-starred on Food Network's hit series Chopped and Chopped Jr. and hosted Cooking Channel's Emmy-nominated Taco Trip. He has appeared on Iron Chef America, and is one of the few chefs whose battles have ended in a draw, tying with Masaharu Morimoto in "Battle Black Bass" in Season 2. He was also a contestant on The Next Iron Chef. He is the author of two cookbooks, and had a memoir released October 1, 2019. An active philanthropist, Sánchez launched the Aarón Sánchez Scholarship Fund, an initiative empowering aspiring chefs from the Latin community to follow their dreams and attend culinary school. As of 2017, he is one of the judges/hosts of FOX's hit reality-TV culinary competition series MasterChef since Season 8 onwards after previously guest-starring in a select number of episodes in Season 7 as a guest judge, co-hosting alongside Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich (Season 8 finale-present) and Christina Tosi (Season 8-Season 9 (guest judge, Episode 11)). He has also joined the judging panel of MasterChef Junior since its 7th season, which debuted in March 2019, after guest-starring in Season 5, which debuted early 2017.


Aarón and his twin brother Rodrigo, an attorney in New York City, were born in 1976, in El Paso, Texas, to Zarela Martinez, a restaurateur and the author of several cookbooks, and Adolfo Sanchez. He began cooking at an early age, helping his mother prepare traditional Mexican foods for her catering business. In 1984, the family moved to New York, and his mother launched the acclaimed Café Marimba, and Sánchez began to cook in a professional kitchen. At age 16, Sánchez's mother sent him to New Orleans to spend the summer working with Chef Paul Prudhomme. In 1994, Sánchez graduated from The Dwight School, and began to work full-time for Prudhomme in New Orleans. Aarón was married to singer Ife Mora from 2009 until 2012. He also has a son named Yuma. On episode 21 of MasterChef season 9, he revealed that his mentor was Jonathan Waxman


In 1996, after working under Prudhomme, Aarón returned north to study culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1996, he returned to New York, and worked in the kitchen at Patria under nuevo-Latino chef, Douglas Rodriguez. Sánchez met his future business partner, Alex Garcia while working there.

Garcia left Patria in 1996 to open Erizo Latino, taking Sánchez to help open the restaurant. Reviews were positive, referring to the restaurant as "casual" and "earthy," and "the fare is enticingly wholesome, and the kitchen's best dishes make a fine introduction to the cooking of Central and South America."

Sánchez then became executive chef at L-Ray, which specialized in foods from the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. This was followed by another executive chef position at Isla, a restaurant inspired by pre-Revolutionary Cuba. Sanchez then moved to San Francisco, working under Chef Reed Hearon at Rose Pistola.

Eamon Furlong hired Sánchez in 2000, to open Paladar, a pan-Latin restaurant on the Lower East Side. It opened in February 2001, and won Time Out New York's award for Best New Lower East Side Restaurant that year. It went on to be named the Best Latin American Restaurant in their 2002 Eating and Drinking Guide. Paladar had been reviewed as being "colorful, lively circus of a restaurant that’s equal parts serious cooking and serious partying," and was named a Critic's Pick by New York magazine. Sánchez sold his interest in the Paladar restaurant in 2010.

Sánchez went on to become chef of Mexican New York eatery Centrico, which closed in 2012.

He opened the restaurant Johnny Sánchez in Baltimore with fellow chef John Besh in August 2014. The Baltimore location closed in September 2017. The pair opened a second Johnny Sánchez location in October 2014 in New Orleans. As of February 2019, Besh is no longer a part of Johnny Sánchez; Aarón Sánchez and partners, Miles Landrem and Drew Mire, purchased and now own the restaurant. The three partners also are planning to develop a second restaurant in New Orleans, eyeing the Mid-City area, though the name and location have not been announced.

In 2017, he joined Masterchef US Season 8 as a judge alongside Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi, replacing Graham Elliot, to taste and help judge contestants' cooking and baking with Ramsay and Tosi in order to crown the next Masterchef. He is an expert in many cooking techniques and global cuisines, but his specialty of cooking traditional Mexican cuisine is often used throughout the season.

In 2019, he guest-starred on the first episode of Gordon Ramsay's 24 Hours to Hell and Back season 2 as an extra expeditor, and revealed he lives nearby The Trolley Café in New Orleans. Sánchez announced he will be releasing a memoir, Where I Come From: Life Lessons From a Latino Chef, on October 1, 2019.

In 2020, he guest judged a Mexican food challenge on season 19 of Hell's Kitchen.

Television appearances

Year(s) Title Network Notes
2001-2002 Melting Pot Food Network Co-Host with Alex Garcia
2002 Boy Meets Grill Food Network Season 1, Episode 1: "Latin Style Sizzle"
2007 Throwdown! with Bobby Flay Food Network Season 3, Episode 2: "Puffy Tacos"
2009 Food Detectives Food Network Season 2, Episode 1: "Tastes Like Chicken"
2009 Chefs vs. City Food Network Co-Host (7 Episodes) with Chris Cosentino
2010 Food(ography) Cooking Channel Season 1, Episode 11: "Hot and Spicy"
2010-2011 Unique Eats Cooking Channel Season 1, Episodes 1-10

Season 2, Episodes 1–3, 5, 9-11, 13

2011 Mike & Mike ESPN September 23, 2011
2011 Aarón Loves New York Fox Network TV Series Documentary
2009-2011 The Best Thing I Ever Ate Cooking Channel Season 1, Episodes 1, 5, 7-9

Season 2, Episodes 1, 4, 5, 7, 9

Season 3, Episodes 5, 7, 9-11

Season 4, Episodes 2, 6, 11, 12, 14, 15

Season 6, Episodes 4, 6

2011-2012 Heat Seekers Cooking Channel Co-Host (16 Episodes) with Roger Mooking
2012 Food Network Star Food Network Season 8, Episode 10: "Pilot Greenlights", Panelist
2011-2013 The Best Thing I Ever Made Food Network Season 1, Episodes 2, 3

Season 3, Episodes 7, 13

2005-2013 Iron Chef America: The Series Food Network Season 2, Episode 4: "Morimoto vs. Sanchez: Black Bass", Challenger Chef

Season 10, Episode 30: "Thanksgiving Showdown: Thanksgiving Leftovers", Team Chopped

Season 10, Episode 31: "Holiday Battle: Gingerbread", ICA Judge

Season 11, Episode 13: "Tournament of Champions: Michael Symon vs. Geoffrey Zakarian: Battle Wings", Judge

2014 The Taste ABC Season 2, Episode 3: "Guilty Pleasures", Guest Mentor
2014 Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off Food Network Season 3, Episode 6: "Sink or Swim", Judge
2014 Southern Fried Everything Great American Country Season 1, Episode 7: "Tasty Taters"

Season 1, Episode 9: "Yankee Fried"

2014 Rewrapped Food Network Season 2, Episode 5: "Boy, Ar-Dees Good!"
2014 Finding Your Roots PBS Season 2, Episode 5: "The Melting Pot"
2015 Beat Bobby Flay Food Network Season 3, Episode 9: "Pot Calling the Kettle Beat", Judge & Mentor
2015 Best.Ever. Food Network Season 1, Episode 1: "Best.BBQ.Ever"

Season 1, Episode 2: "Best.Pizza.Ever"

Season 1, Episode 3: "Best.Burger.Ever"

2014-2015 Taco Trip Cooking Channel Host (18 Episodes)
2016 All-Star Academy Food Network Season 2, Episode 2: "Geography", Co-Host & Judge
2016 Celebrity Food Fight Food Network Season 2, Episode 1: "Tom Arnold and Melissa Rivers: Down and Dirty Dinner Battle"

Season 2, Episode 3: "Andy Dick Is Coming to Dinner"

2014-2016 Chopped After Hours Food Network 12 Episodes
2016 Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse Amazon Prime Video Season 1, Episode 6: "Forbidden Cuba"
2015-2016 Guilty Pleasures Food Network Season 2, Episode 1: "Thanksgiving Madness"

Season 2, Episode 11: "Big Game, Big Eats"

Season 3, Episode 2: "Pizza and Pigzilla!"

Season 3, Episode 7: "Super-Stuffed Gluttony!"

Season 3, Episode 13: "O.M.G. Food!"

2015-2016 Chopped Junior Food Network Season 1, Episode 10: "Birthday Cake Crush", Judge

Season 3, Episode 7: "Think Fig", Judge

Season 3, Episode 8: "Curry Hurry", Judge

Season 4, Episode 8: "Got Elk?", Judge

2009-2017 Chopped Food Network Judge (143 Episodes), Competitor (3 Episodes)

First Runner-Up on Chopped All-Stars

2016 - MasterChef FOX Season 7, Episode 6: "Gordon Ramsay Masterclass", Guest Judge

Season 8 to Present, Co-Host & Judge

2017 Simply Ming PBS Season 15, Episode 3: "Aaron Sanchez"
2018 - MasterChef Junior FOX Season 5, Episode 3: "Just Like Gordon", Guest Judge

Season 5, Episode 10: "Winter Wonderland", Guest Judge

Season 7 to Present, Co-Host & Judge

2019 24 Hrs to Hell and Back FOX Season 2, Episode 1: "The Trolley Stop Café"
2020 Hell's Kitchen ITV2 (UK), FOX (US) Episode: "Hell Starts Taking Its Toll"
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