Escoffier Student Tries Out For MasterChef
Student Spotlight: Lynn Montana Freeman
Student Lynn Montana Freeman has always had a passion for cooking and decided to take it to the next level. Recently, encouraged by a co-worker she decided to try out for the famous show Master Chef. Knowing that she was attending the Escoffier online culinary program her coworker insisted that she take a stab at it. Looking to impress the chefs with her cooking, Lynn dished up a herb and mint panko crusted lamb chops served with sweet noodle kugel and fried eggplant. Not knowing what to expect but going into the tryouts with an open mind, she makes it through the first audition and interview! Giving insight into the show-business cooking life style, Lynn shares her experience and takes us back to how she prepared for the try out.
Escoffier: You recently tried out for MasterChef, what was that experience like?
Lynn: The experience was especially challenging and equally wonderful for me. From a personal perspective, it was an exercise in overcoming several fears, including traveling to the city and dealing with a relatively large crowd. From a culinary perspective, it was a challenge to stay true to my roots and cook what would best express who I am and what my foods are all about. I initially experimented with dishes that were outside of my comfort zone, thinking I should do what Gordon Ramsey would like, rather than showcasing my style of cooking with the intent to wow the judge(s) with quality food. I was over thinking it, ready to make a pad Thai, which I had never made, rather than my “specialty,” which is kugel and lamb.
Using 20/20 hindsight, I should have blended my decision and gone with something a little more unique, and pared it down to just one item on the plate. If I had just made the kugel, which the judge thought was delicious, I might have gotten a callback. But because I plated an entire meal, I risked too much — while he thought my lamb was cooked perfectly and the kugel was delicious, he did not like the simplicity of the eggplant I served and that ruined my chances for a second interview.
In the long run, I know without a doubt I plated the very best meal I could have plated for the judge. I took the leftovers home to my niece and nephew-in-law, and we depleted them — ice cold — and the food rocked. I could not have done any better. I am extremely proud of my work and my overall audition.
Escoffier: What was the competition like?
Lynn: Most of the day was spent waiting. I pulled my meal out of the oven at 10:00, got to the auditions around 11:00, and did not get called in for a tasting until after 5:00. We were not allowed to reheat any items. They were to take into account the fact that the food was probably sitting for several hours prior to being tasted.
There were hundreds of home cooks trying out. I saw young and old, all with a variety of foods for tasting, from appetizers, to main courses, to desserts. One woman made a sweet potato and goat cheese galette, and I know she got a callback. A gentleman made stuffed dates with a Mediterranean beef dish, and he got a callback. A young woman made a pineapple upsidedown cake with a buttered rum sauce, and she got a callback. I unfortunately did not get a callback.
The competition started well in advance of the actual day. I tested, retested, made and remade several different dishes. Some were phenomenal; others were okay; the lamb was the best and it was the right choice for me. However, in my effort to create my “signature dish,” I did not go far enough outside of the box. Had I perfected and plated just one recipe, I would have had a better chance.
Escoffier: Is there anything you learned from the program that you showed that day during tryouts?
Lynn: I actually used the rack of lamb recipe, with an added touch of my own. That plus some plating ideas helped out a lot.
Escoffier: Do you have any suggestions for your fellow peers about competing for shows like Master Chef?
1. Be yourself — just be MORE than you usually are!
2. Find a unique dish that will be easy for you to perfect. They are looking for unusual dishes as well as unusual people.
3. Keep in mind this is TV, and it is reality TV at its finest. They love drama and people who will foster that drama.
4. Watch prior seasons — especially the auditions. Take a look at who gets an apron, and what they prepared and what their personality was like. That will give you a major leg up!
5. Have fun … and definitely DO NOT take it too seriously!