By USDR. Exclusive for USDR, Provided by the Fox Network
The international phenomenon and FOX culinary competition series MasterChef gives everyday people the chance to live their dreams and express their passion for food and cooking. Each week on MasterChef, at-home chefs with no formal training, compete in various individual and team-based culinary challenges for the chance to win $250,000 dollars. The contestants are judged and mentored by world-renowned chefs Gordon Ramsay; Graham Elliot, the youngest four-star chef in America, restaurateur, and wine maker Joe Bastianich.
This is an ongoing series, check often to see new profiles.
1. How would you describe your experience on MasterChef?
It was the worst best experience of my life- meaning that it was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to go through to ultimately become a better cook and a stronger person. The stress, the living situation with so many ” personalities,” and the loneliness severely got to me. It felt like I was taken away from my loved ones for years even though it was only months of no communication. MasterChef was not only a cooking competition but a mental and physical competition as well. I learned so much about time management during the long hours of challenges to the matter of seconds to menu plan after seeing a mystery box. I feel like I could handle anything that is thrown at me now. I became a much stronger cook by learning new techniques and using utensils I had never seen before, in addition to new flavor combinations and ingredients.
Ultimately I tried out for MasterChef because I needed to see if I truly had what it takes to become a chef and make a career out of cooking. I thought if by some chance that I could even get on the show then it was a sign that the culinary field was the direction I was meant to be going in. I hoped that it would also create job opportunities that I couldn’t get on my own due to the fact that I had never cooked in a restaurant before. It’s hard to get hired when you don’t have experience.3. What is it like to cook under pressure from Celebrity Chefs Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich?
SCARY! The whole time I would be cooking I could not help but think “wow, they have had the best of everything (food, presentation, technique), why am I even cooking for them, it must be a joke compared to what they eat on a regular basis.” Once you finally get a complement from one of these celebrity chefs then all those thoughts quiet down and it drives you to get their approval on the next challenge.4. What cooking challenge were your most proud?
It’s not necessarily the cooking techniques I learned while there but what I earned about myself in team settings/challenges. I had never been a captain of anything before or put in a major leadership role before coming on MasterChef. Trust me I wasn’t even sure I wanted that responsibility at the time either!! I really underestimated myself before and MasterChef pulled the leadership qualities out of me.
I can only describe it as an eye opening experience as a whole. I’ve never been far from Philly, never even was on a plane. The furthest west I had ever been was Penn State University. I had never been away from my child for more than a day or two. LA was like another world for me. Being thrown together with people who were not like me at ALL was tough also. I had never been outside of my comfort zone, especially in the culinary world. Sure I experiment here and there, but for the most I perfect my Italian, Italian-American and comfort foods. I cannot put into words how much knowledge I gained in the kitchen. I learned about ingredients I had never even heard of before and how to put more finesse on a plate. All in all, it was a huge life lesson, in and out of the kitchen.2. Why did you decide to try out for the show?
I had absolutely no intentions on trying out. I could never leave my kid, who would pay the bills, who would take care of the dogs? Ever since Season 1, my son has BEGGED me to try out. One day in November, a week before the tryouts in NYC, my son posted the info on my Facebook wall. All of a sudden everyone started comments and telling me DO IT, DO IT!! So I said “what the hell, let’s do this thing” with the intention I would never make it past the first audition. Lo and behold, here I am today. Absolutely unreal.3. What is it like to cook under pressure from Celebrity Chefs Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich?
I feared Gordon because well, he’s nuts (haha), knew I had to impress Graham because he’s so finicky with plating, but my biggest pressure was Joe. His mother is my culinary idol. The Bastianich family to me is the equivalent of the Royal family to Brits. I wanted nothing more than to impress him and show him my Italian and Italian-American skills. Watching us butt heads on tv, I see now that he only expected more of me and I let him down, and instead of taking it like I should have, I stomped my feet and argued like a 2 year old. I wish I wouldnt have been so hard headed at the time.
4. What cooking challenge were your most proud?
So far, my most proud dish was in the Sausage Mystery Box challenge. I knew I nailed that Italian sausage because I know it probably better than anyone in that room. I wanted to bring the comfort of one of Philly’s most beloved dishes, sausage and peppers, to another level. I knew my sausage was going to be on point, so my goal was to get those peppers tender and that broth amazing. Paired over my grandmother’s recipe for polenta? STOOOOPPPPP. It was ridiculous and definitely the dish I am most proud of at this point.
5. What will you take from your experiences on the show to your future endeavors?
Like I said, I definitely learned some life lessons. There is a great big world outside of Philly and I know it now. I’ve learned how to be more articulate with food, less homey, but still while maintaining my roots. I’ve learned how to be more diplomatic and forgiving and how to control my temper. I’ve made friends from all walks of life on MasterChef, I’m going to be travelling more to see some of them and try new foods, experiment more. I am very excited for what’s in store for me. And even if I never get a penny richer than I am now, I am rich in something so much more powerful.