BNP had a chance to talk with some of the Top 18 Home Cooks on this season of Fox’s MasterChef. The following are our interview highlights. Due to Independence Day, MasterChef aired a repeat on 7/4. Instead, join us this Wednesday (7/11), for the wedding of Shaun O’Neale (MasterChef Season 7 Winner) officiated by Gordon Ramsey. It’s an event you won’t want to miss!
This Miami event promoter won her apron in her ‘bloody-shoes!’ She promised, ‘I cook how I look: bold, tough, daring.’ She is ready to take down her competition as a part of Joe Bastianich’s team!
When asked if she’s watched any of the previous seasons of MasterChef, Shanika cheerfully replies “ever since Season 2!” She loves cooking shows in general, citing Chopped (also a personal favorite among the BNP staff) and the work of Anthony Bourdain. “Anything that combines cooking and traveling” is very much in this event promoter’s wheelhouse. Her occupational experience taught her how to act on her toes and manage different personalities. Both are crucial aspects when cooking individually or during the team challenges.
One of the remaining chefs representing Joe Bastianich, Shanika calls Joe “the best mentor” before adding that Chef Ramsey and Chef Sanchez have helped her on cooking dreams; stating “everyone helps.” Although there were some challenges where it was entirely up to her. “The crab challenge was the most difficult. I’m allergic to crab, lobster, all of it; but I couldn’t let that stop me. There are no excuses in the MasterChef kitchen.”
When it comes to the other members of the MasterChef competition, she says that everyone in the kitchen has a bond: from the fellow competitors and even the judges, although she does single out Bowen as a bright spot.
As we wrap up, Shanika leaves us with these words of wisdom:
Anyone out there with culinary. Keep trying. Keep cooking. A failure is not a failure. It is one step closer to success.
Follow Shanika on Twitter.
Ashley is a 29-year old Opa-Locka, FL native who not only earned the last apron as one of Chef Ramsay’s mentees, but also pulled off the first Mystery Box Challenge win! She left her career as an educator to pursue her entrepreneurial/culinary dreams!
Ashley herself has been a fan of the show for 5 seasons. She views it as such a blessing to get to compete on the show now. When asked if there are any other cooking shows she partakes it, she happily answers “MasterChef is the *only* show right now. It’s all about MasterChef.” Her enthusiasm is clear. A former educator, Ashley made a slight change in career trajectory and started trying out cooking in a more professional capacity and just embracing the world of food.
She explains how when she heard that the judges were going to be mentors to the contestants this season, she knew she had to work with Gordon Ramsey. Success came in getting one of his coveted aprons. Describing the mentorship style as “tough love”, she always wants to bring “top-notch flavors” with every dish she brings up to the tasting table.
Her most difficult test on the show was the team challenge. Having to cook for a hundred guests and trying to get 51 votes; all while working with new people? That’s a whole different type of energy, but Ashley is a fan of all of the contestants. She highlights Farhan, the dental student, and Ryan, the drummer with a Southern flair: two chefs that she particularly admires because of how they strive to “put themselves and their culture on the plate.”
When asked if there was anything she wanted to tell the BNP community, she excitedly noted how much she loved the platform. Ashley considers herself a black nerd when it comes to food culture and culinary interests, and loves how the platform empowers all sorts of people. She says she hopes that she is doing right by all the black culinary masters, past and present, before ending the interview with this:
Be proud of your upbringing.
Follow Ashley on Twitter.
Gerron, the former high-school English teacher and Nashville native says that being a part of the MasterChef competition has reignited his passion for cooking. “My mother taught me to cook. After she passed away, I became the one who cooks for my seven siblings and their families on holidays and other gatherings,” Hurt said. “They love my turkey and stuffing, and Nashville hot chicken.”
Gerron had a slightly different response about the show than Ashley and Shanika.
“I hadn’t seen any of the previous seasons of MasterChef. It wasn’t really on my radar until they came to Nashville.”
Gerron explained how cooking was always a hobby for him — something he did in his spare time. It took the encouragement of his fiance, Brandi, to get him to try for the show. “She really pushed me and told me ‘you’d be successful.’ I owe it all to her.” Now, he’s working alongside Gordon Ramsey and Aarón Sanchez: chefs he grew up watching alongside his mother, and getting mentored by Joe Bastianich himself. Gerron calls the mentorship with Joe one full of tough love, but he knows that Joe wants him at his best and wants him to get better.
Like Shanika, Gerron also found the crab challenge to be quite difficult. “I’m an arachnophobe. You maybe couldn’t see it on my face, because I knew I was on TV, but those crabs creeped me out!” He also shared his teammates’s fondness for Bowen, his “Chinese brother from another mother.”
Gerron also had nice things to say about how personable Ashley was and how he bonded with Cesar, another teacher Home Cook on the show, about their students and their summer reading lists. Gerron’s experience as an educator has helped him in the kitchen by making him very cognizant of the feedback process. He’s very aware of what he’s putting out and makes sure to take all of the constructive criticism he can.
His closing thoughts were also ones of encouragement.
Always follow your dreams. Follow your heart. Nothing is too big.
Want to get Black Nerd Problems updates sent directly to you? Sign up here!