Thursday, September 6, 2012

Master Chef Finalists Reveal Inside Info

During a conference call with the media this afternoon, the two finalists in the FOX program, Master Chef, revealed that their competition to be named the best home cook in the U.S. includes some help from professionals.

When this reporter posed a question about what goes on "behind the scenes," the two answered, but first turned to executive producer Robin Ashbrook to make sure they didn't reveal show secrets.

Josh Marks, the seven-foot contender from Mississippi who works for the U.S. Army, said the Master Chefs are given cooking lessons and have the opportunity to study recipes from a library full of cookbooks, "pretty much every cook book ever written."

He said they work and film six days per week during the 11 weeks of the competition and when they're not filming, they're practicing and studying.

Marks said the cooking classes during the past season included those on how to make a pie crust and other techniques for creating pastries and desserts, perhaps in anticipation of the high stakes souffle bake-off from a couple of weeks ago.

The participants did make it clear that there is no direct assistance for the dishes the chefs are tasked with during their challenges, and that no actual recipes are provided.  There does seem to be some coaching that prepares them for each.

"During the challenge, there's no way in heck that you have a recipe in hand," said Marks.

Christina Ha, his competitor, a fiction writer and grad student from Houston, who is blind, said it's up to each person to decide how much prep to take in.  Some avail themselves; others don't.

"We don't go into the challenges knowing what we're going to cook," she insisted.  "It's up to you to decide how much you're going to study."

Questions from other reporters revolved around which professional chef among the three on the show - Gordon Ramsey, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich - are the most intimidating and when each realized they had a shot to win the whole competition.

To the first question, Josh said Ramsey was the chef he most liked to impress because he sees Ramsey as the best of the of the three.  Not surprisingly if you're a viewer of the program, Christina thought Joe Bastianich was the toughest.

Ha also said the oft-bombastic Ramsey didn't favor her because of her handicap, that he had cursed at her and told her at least once that her food didn't taste good.

Both thought their opportunity to win became most real during the past five shows as the other competitors fell away.

In their final challenge, the two will be asked to conceptualize and prepare a three-course meal before the judges determine the winner who will receive a cookbook deal and the $250,000 grand prize. The final episode airs Monday, Sept. 10 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

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