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Craig Melvin helps teen cook a meal with chef Andrew Zimmern

Juan Murguia, for whom cooking has been a source of comfort during conflict, has long looked up to the chef and TV personality.
/ Source: TODAY

For Juan Murguia, cooking with his family is a celebration and a time of comfort. He, his parents and his grandmother share a "mutual love for food," and time in the kitchen has turned into an important part of their daily lives.

While his family is close now, 19-year-old Murguia told TODAY's Craig Melvin that it hasn't always been that way: There used to be "a lot of conflict" and "a lot of fighting" in the family, and his parents didn't get along to the degree that Murguia "couldn't speak either of their names in a different household." The family divisions led him to focus on cooking.

"Food is the one thing that'll never turn its back on me," Murguia said. "You get lost in your own world with cooking and it's like something takes your mind away from everything completely. Family left but the food stayed. It's something that's always been there and it's something we've always bonded over."

Cooking together has become a group activity for Juan Murguia and his family. TODAY

While the family has come together and "forgiven each other a lot," Murguia said that the experience has left him determined to share his love of food and family with the world. One of his biggest inspirations, chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern, has done exactly that during his career — so Craig and TODAY connected the two.

"You're going to spend some time with Andrew," Craig told Murguia. "You're going to share your dreams with him. He is going to cook with you, eat with you, to hang out."

While the two had to connect over Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic, Murguia and Zimmern had the opportunity to work on a meal inspired by Zimmern's travels with his father. The two served up escargot and pasta while talking about the impact food had had on their lives. Zimmern said that he had also used cooking as a way to cope with troubles in his life.

Juan Murguia and Andrew Zimmern cooked a meal inspired by Zimmern's travels with his own father. TODAY

"When I was 21, 22 years old, and a really messed up kid, I would be cooking in restaurants," Zimmern said. "And all I was focused on was doing the task at hand, and it really helped me."

After the two finished cooking, Murguia said he would love to help Zimmern with any future projects, offering his help as a "sidekick."

"Life has a wonderful way of bringing people together. There are no coincidences," Zimmern said. "You're not going to be able to get rid of me; you have a friend for life. And if there's anything that I can ever do for you, that's what I'm here for."

“Tomorrow’s Voices” was created by TODAY with our sponsor and parent company, Comcast, which helped find the students profiled.

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