What I Learned as Part of the Top 21 on MasterChef

Yep, I said it; top 21.  While I know I can’t change the outcome of my battle against Paige, I can certainly disagree with it.  Call me salty, I am okay with that.  Regardless of the result or disagreement of such result, MasterChef season 8 was nonetheless a fantastic eye-opening experience for me.  The following is a list of things I learned throughout it.  I am sure there are many things I am leaving out, and things I have yet to discover, but here is what I have so far:

  • I can cook.

I made the top 40 out of 35,000 home cooks.  There is no shame in that.  Under bright lights, in front of dozens of cameras, in front of millions of people, I lost.  Sort of.  Whether it was deserving or not, it is what happened.  Live and learn; prep and cook; do it again.  If I am given that opportunity once over, the outcome will be different.  Funny thing is, I did not notice until the very moment of my writing this post, but I actually had the opportunity arise again recently to cook on TV (post MasterChef), and it was truly humbling.  When a white apron is not on the line, and when Michelin star and James Beard award-winning chefs are not staring down your every move, cooking on television is rather enjoyable.  Needless to say, the outcome was very different.

  • You fall.  You get up.

Nothing hurt more than being sent home without a white apron in front of my wife and son on set.  Nothing.  The entire process of applying, preparing, studying, and planning, was so draining.  And to have nothing to show for it in the end is disappointing.  But why am I so serious?  I beat myself.  I over-complicated my dish trying to show off and it hurt me.  I took a risk which didn’t pay off.  I can live with that and learn from this once-in-a-lifetime experience.  You slip, you fall, and you get up.  No regrets.  Repeat as many times as necessary and everything will take its course.

  • Reality TV is not reality.

I am very blessed to be able to say that in my short time on this earth, I have succeeded more times than I have failed.  Being told, “No,” is sometimes necessary to put things into perspective.  While MasterChef closed the doors on my reality television cooking life, I realized my life reality has some great things to offer as well.  I am a husband, and a father, to the most beautiful family I could have ever asked for.  I am a son, grandson, nephew, uncle, cousin, and friend to the best support system I have ever witnessed (time and time again).  Without them, my accomplishments would never have become my reality.

  • MasterChef is not the end.

Coming into this opportunity, I put everything on the line.  I quit my job to make it to LA.  I was focused only on winning and beating everyone else in the process.  I was so focused I forgot to have fun.  I forgot the reason why I cook.  I forgot to be myself.  However, this competition quickly turned 79 other competitors (maybe a few less, ha!) into friends.  I noticed they are just as passionate about food as I am.  We were all thrown into this experience not knowing what to expect.  The comradery we shared turned into a sense of family.  We have helped each other in so many ways to realize MasterChef is not the end.  It was never the destination.  It was part of the journey.  One which has just begun.  I wish I had known that much sooner.

Our van from the airport: Tom, myself, Oliver, Mark, and Julia. Four of five of us made the top 40.
  • I didn’t let them down.

The feeling of coming out of the MasterChef kitchen without an apron around me gave me a sense of insecurity in front of my wife and my son.  Letting them down was almost enough to get me to give up cooking.  Almost.  Until they helped me realize my fate and my accomplishments are not in someone else’s hands.  Until they helped me realized I did not let them down, but did just the opposite.  I took a risk and put my life on hold to chase a dream.  I had a goal in mind to make it to the MasterChef kitchen (finally!) and to cook and learn from Gordon Ramsay.  I did just that.  What happens now is only on my shoulders.  From here, I build my dream.

  • My wife is a saint.

This woman is an amazing human being.  No matter what ridiculously unplanned idea I bring to the table, she has never said no to me, nor has she told me how foolish it is.  Whether crossing state lines to audition for a cooking show, or serving crepes to lines of hungry people in the middle of a Florida summer out of a 10’x10’ tent, or spending our life savings on a food truck serving said crepes while pregnant with our baby boy, or even getting on a plane with a 12 hour notice to fly across country just to watch me cook, she has done it all with a smile and still told me she loves me and she believes in me every night when it’s all over.  I wish everyone a life cheerleader like mine.  No matter the dream, it’s attainable with someone like her.