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Vanessa Lachey would rather get eliminated from 'DWTS' than send a kid packing on 'Top Chef Junior'

Jennifer Kline, AOL.com

Each week on "Dancing with the Stars," Vanessa Lachey knows there's a risk she'll get sent home -- but after filming "Top Chef Junior," she realized she'd rather get booted than be the person doing the booting.

Despite a packed "DWTS" rehearsal schedule, Vanessa made time to stop by New York to chat about her new show, which just launched on Universal Kids. As the competition (and kitchen) heats up, Vanessa and renowned chef Curtis Stone are faced with the task of eliminating some of the world's most talented young chefs -- and things get emotional.

"My hardest line on the whole show was 'Pack up your knives and go,'" Vanessa told AOL as Curtis nodded in agreement. "There's an emotional layer to this show that we didn't expect. After the first elimination, we both left and sat in our cars for a few minutes, like, 'What did we just do?'"

Vanessa Lachey, Curtis Stone and the top 12 young chefs of "Top Chef Junior" season one (NBCUniversal)

Things became less painful, they said, after realizing that they were taking the eliminations harder than the kids themselves. "They're so resilient," Vanessa said. "They want to learn, they want constructive criticism. That made it a little better."

And although she continues to leave it all on the dance floor each week, Vanessa instantly admitted that she'd rather get cut from "DWTS" than deliver bad news to a young hopeful. "If I'm eliminated from ['DWTS'], it'll be sad, but I'll get to go home to my family," she said. "So I think -- I know -- it was harder to say 'Thank you, pack up your knives and go' and hand them their personalized knife case. Every single time we did it, it was a hard day."

But for the kids, their enjoyment of the process trumps any disappointments. "Their attitudes are, 'I'm a chef,'" Curtis said. "'Top Chef' has been on the air for 15 years, so these kids ... they're into it, it's really their passion."

For what it's worth, "Top Chef Junior" benefits uninvolved parties, too: After learning a recipe from one child, "I went home and I did it, and literally, my husband and his brother inhaled the whole thing," Vanessa said. "I felt like, yes, I can do it!"

"Top Chef Junior" airs Fridays at 8pm ET on Universal Kids.