If you’re here, I’ll assume you already know what happens and I can’t spoil it for you.
Final three. What? What???
Something happened when I was eliminated on Episode 5. I realized how much I really wanted this and that I was holding back. Why? Well, it’s scary to put your whole self on the line. The higher I reached, the farther I could fall.
But after I was eliminated, a switch went off. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and if I didn’t leave it all on the plate and in front of the camera, then I’d regret it forever.
In the beginning of the season, I tried to strategize and plan. That was ultimately my downfall on the show -- too much head and not enough heart. So I promised myself during Star Salvation that I wouldn’t think -- I’d just do.
At some point, I’ll write a post about the mind jujitsu I had to do to before competing on Star Salvation (it involved lots of journaling, visualizing, BREATHING) -- but in the meantime, I’ll recap. We have a lot to cover, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.
First, Star Salvation.
I love, love, love Alex Guarnaschelli and felt an instant connection with her. Maybe because she’s from NYC, or because her mom is a cookbook editor, or because her Dad is a Chinese cooking enthusiast. Don't be fooled -- under that Iron Chef exterior is an exceedingly kind and caring person.
For the last challenge, Classic On-the-Go, I made a cheeseburger samosa, a version of an iconic family recipe. I was competing against Palak, Harrison, and Chris. They are all incredible chefs with interesting, distinct culinary POVs. The camera loves all of them and whenever they appear on screen, they always bring a smile to my face. When we faced Alex, waiting to hear who the winner would be, I knew it could have been any of us.
But it was me. I was absolutely floored. Of course, that was my goal in competing on Star Salvation, but it also seemed so far-fetched. Normally you just have to not be on the bottom in order to advance. In this case, you had to be on the top.
And...I was. That felt great and gave me a massive boost of confidence. But I wasn’t finished yet…
Once I returned to competition, I was raring to go. If I stopped to think about it, I probably would have psyched myself out about competing against Christian, Manny and Amy -- the three strongest competitors all season. But I was riding high off Star Salvation and just focused on keeping that momentum going.
Bobby and Giada presented us with our final cooking challenge: make a dish that’s “the ultimate expression of your unique culinary style”. I made braised gojuchang chicken and miso eggplant terrine. Not only do I use these flavors all the time, but I also thought it was a good representation of how Asian cuisine doesn’t have to be what you normally see on a menu. You can serve a dish with Japanese miso, Korean gochujang, French technique -- and make it all your own.
I was so happy I picked Rebekah's name. We cooked alongside one another in Orlando and on the same Pasta Fest team. Even though we have very different cooking styles, she knows flavor and we communicate well together. She’s also a joy to be around -- a major plus during the cook of my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.
By the time eliminations came around, I thought what I always think: you can feel proud of your cooking and presentation, but you never know what the judges want. While you’re competing, you lose all perspective so it’s impossible to assess the situation with any objectivity. All I could do was hope for the best.
And… Bobby and Giada said they wanted to see a pilot from me.
Um... WOW. Getting a pilot is a clear sign from the network that they see you as a potential star -- so much so, they want to give you a test run.
But it’s not enough to just have the opportunity. You must seize it.
I’ll write more about shooting the pilot next week, after you can see the whole thing in its entirety. For now I’ll leave it at this:
I’ll admit, I was very intimidated of Robert Irvine. Wouldn’t you be too? But over time, something happened. Robert got me to let. It. Go.
The perfectionism, the control, the self-consciousness. What a gift he gave me, and not a moment too soon.
Can’t believe we’re almost there. I’ll see you next Sunday for the FINALE!! If the meantime, you can catch up on all my Food Network Star recaps here.