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Review: Master Chef Cookbook

MasterChef CookbookThe hot-off-the-presses MasterChef Cookbook is striking the first time you look at it.  It’s satiny metallic cover embossed with the MasterChef logo is almost intimidating.  Looking at it I was left with the impression that it might open up at any moment to reveal a bright red spandex suit that would give me super powers.

The book contains recipes from each of the 14 finalists plus a contributions from hosts Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot Bowles.  Glaringly absent from the book is Chef Gordon Ramsey but honestly if you wanted a cookbook by Gordon he’s already written over a dozen.  However, if you saw a recipe on MasterChef that you just really loved then this is the book for you.

Within its 272 pages you’ll find 75 recipes and a 150 photographs making it first rate food porn.  Additionally you’ll find an essay by Bastianich entitled “Wine Notes.”  The chefs of the MasterChef kitchen have also assembled step by step instructions intended to help you master the basics of cooking called “Master the Basics.”  Now that’s branding.

graham elliot joann cianciulliThis torrent of culinary data is masterfully brought together by veteran cookbook author and producer JoAnn Cianciulli.  Cianciulli (chan-chew-lee) is one of the food industry’s top insiders having worked with most of the country’s best chefs.  She has also worked behind the scenes on some of the most popular food shows like Bravo’s Top Chef and numerous Food Network programs.

MasterChef Cookbook is a great companion to the hit series.  It brings together a behind-the-scenes look at the contestants and hosts, recipe made famous on the show and ample bonus material.  If you are a MasterChef fan then you need to get the MasterChef Cookbook published by Rodale Books and available at amazon.com.

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7 Questions with Nicky Mores, the Racing Chef

There are plenty of channels on the dial these days where you can get tips on how to use a chef’s knife or recipes for chocolate covered macaroons.  Of course there’s the Food Network and it’s kid sister the Cooking Channel, TLC, FOX, NBC and the SPEED Channel.  Don’t reach for your bifocals, you read that right – the SPEED Channel.  Racing’s premiere cable channel has it’s own cooking show, the Racing Chef starring award winning chef Nicky Morse.

Morse travels the NASCAR circuit cooking and teaching with the sport’s best drivers, pit crew members and even fans. The Racing Chef is part Iron Chef and part Talladega Nights.  In his post as NASCAR’s culinary pit boss, Chef Nicky has seen everything from a crew member that makes the best authentic, old-school manicotti to a guy roasting a whole alligator in the infield of a super speedway.  But just how did a gourmet chef well known among the country club set suddenly find himself rubbing elbows with blue collar stock car fans?

That is no short story.  Morse was a very successful chef by the time he was 30 years old but that is when fate entered into his life in the form of the big “C.”  Hodgkin’s lymphoma meant an end to the 70+ hour work week of a professional kitchen.  Something had to change.  A chance meeting with Jeg’s Drag Racing Team of the NHRA was just the ticket.  After eight years as the crew chef for the championship team, the Racing Chef just kind of fell into his lap.

A few critics have described the show as campy.  Really?  It’s a show about cooking and tailgating at stock car races, what were they expecting, Mad Men?  The reality is that the Racing Chef is wildly popular with it’s target audience.  That’s all you can ask for from any TV show.  Recently I spoke with Chef Nicky Morse and he agreed to answer 7 Questions:

Nicky Morse o9n WannabeTVchef.com1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Professionally 18.  Of course when I was in diapers I said I was going to be a chef.

2. Is that really when you decided that you could make food your career, when you were in diapers?

You know what?  To be honest with you, yeah.  I didn’t ever want to do anything else.  That’s it.  That’s all I was going to do.  You know it’s funny, the other day my mom pulled some stuff out from when I was in grade school and read me some of the stuff where I had said I was going to be a chef.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

I’ve had a lot of chefs influence me.  There’s a guy named Harmut Handke, he’s kind of given me a lot of inspiration in the culinary world. I looked at his work and I studied his work and I looked at a lot of his recipes.  He was the international chef of the year.  He was the manager for the United States for the Culinary Olympics.

I worked for a guy named Ziggy (Allespach).  Ziggy trained me and gave me the base for my education.  He had a French restaurant , well Continental cuisine but mainly French, and this was when I was just starting out.  He influenced me a lot.  He was top notch.  There was no other 4 star restaurant in Columbus, Ohio at that time to work at so I worked for him.

Your asking me for one I’m giving you two.  They kind of set my path for me.  I didn’t ever work for Hartmut but Ziggy I was probably with him four and a half years.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

You know what?  This is crazy and it’s going to sound nuts.  You’re going to be like, “What?”  I would love to do, like, somewhere between street magic and Candid Camera.  I love messing with, I mean I love messing with people.  I could mess with people 24 hours a day.  I love it.  And I’d love to do card tricks.

5. What’s the highlight of your career so far?

I’d have to give you a couple of highlights.  When I started and I was working for Ziggy and I became his sous chef.  I mean I was the sous chef at the only four star restaurant around here.

And then what I’m doing now I would have to say is the highlight of my career.  It’s almost like two different careers.  Working on television and working in a restaurant are two different things.

6. What aspect of your professional life do you enjoy the most?

I like working with my family.  Mitzi, my wife, she takes care of the web site.  I like my wife working with me.  My brother, Matt, wrote the theme song for the show.  My nephew, Martin, made my chef hat.  It’s an amazing hat!  He had one day to make it.  My sister wrote and produced the show for years and her husband is still a producer.  I have a brother that helps me with graphics and a sister that helps me write things, checks my grammar.  I have a niece that created the logo.  Getting to work with my family and have everybody work and influence the show, that is the best part of my professional career.

7. What’s next for Chef Nicky?

I’m going to open an online store.  Since I started this TV show I’ve had so many people e-mail me.  They want to buy a cookbook.  They want to buy a T-shirt. They want to buy something.  So I guess the fans, hopefully, are going to dictate to me what I’m going to do nest.  I’m at a point right now where I have to open a store.  There’s too much demand for me not to open a store.

The Racing Chef with Nicky Morse airs Mondays at 9PM (ET) on SPEED.

MasterChef: Meet the Contestants

“MASTERCHEF” STARTS COOKING TUESDAY, JULY 27, ON FOX

NATIONWIDE SEARCH BRINGS 50 AMATEUR HOME COOKS

TO LOS ANGELES TO VIE FOR FIRST-EVER “MASTERCHEF” TITLE

Top 14 Revealed Tuesday, August 10

Sharpen your knives and fire up your stoves! Famed chef Gordon Ramsay’s newest culinary competition series, MASTERCHEF, based on the smash international hit, is set to start cooking Tuesday, July 27 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. After a nationwide search for the best home cooks in America, the series will turn one of 50 hopefuls into a culinary star and America’s first-ever MASTERCHEF.

Sheetal Bhagat of MasterChefIn the premiere episode, the hopefuls will have one hour to prepare their signature dishes and present them to the distinguished MASTERCHEF judging panel: Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay; restaurateur and wine maker Joe Bastianich; and the youngest four-star chef in America, Graham Elliot. The judges are looking for passion, creativity and most importantly great flavor and taste. Only the most deserving home cooks who impress the judges will win the coveted white apron and will move on to the next round of the competition.

On Tuesday, Aug. 3 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT), the judges will reveal the Top 30, and each week, the stakes will be raised as more hopefuls are eliminated until the Top 14 are announced on Tuesday, Aug. 10 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT). Then, beginning Wednesday, Aug. 18 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT), the show moves to a new night and expands to two-hour episodes as the hopefuls dish out their absolute best in an effort to impress the judges and continue in the competition.

Are you looking for recipes from the show? Check out my review of the MasterChef Cookbook HERE.

Click HERE for a chart listing the hometowns, professions and signature dishes of the 50 home cooks.

Also a good read is Chris Spradley’s blog post about his Casting Call Experience for MasterChef.  Read it HERE.

Review: Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef

MasterChef is the latest American incarnation of a successful British reality competition.  The original MasterChef has been a hot commodity for years in the UK as has its cousins MasterChef: Australia and MasterChef: Hungary.  For the American version Fox has teamed Gordon Ramsay, one of the world’s greatest and most renowned chefs with two of the kingpins of the US restaurant industry, Chef Graham Elliot Bowles and restaurateur Joe Bastianich.  Fox was nice enough to let me catch a preview of MasterChef’s debut episode, a sneak peek so to speak.

Meet the players:
Graham Elliot Bowles on WannabeTVchef.comBowles is a prodigy who became America’s youngest 4 star chef at the age of 27.  He is a pioneer of the trendy molecular gastronomy movement that couples cooking and chemistry.  His groundbreaking restaurant, graham elliot, combines cutting edge American cuisine with humor and just a touch of moxie to create Chicago’s first “bistronomic” restaurant.  His accolades are many having brought home traditional culinary affirmation like the coveted James Beard Award and new age recognition as a competitor on both Bravo’s Top Chef: Masters and the Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

Joe Bastianich on WannabeTVchef.comIf the name Joe Bastianich sounds familiar it should.  His mother is famed Italian cheflebrity Lidia Bastianich.  He is also friend and business partner to America’s most successful Italian chef, Mario Batali.  But Bastianich’s life is about more than just great restaurants.  He is also a noted winemaker who is described as a “street-level philosopher.”  He has been honored as both vintner and restaurateur by the likes of Food & Wine and the James Beard Foundation.  His book on wine pairing, Vino Itialiano (available at amazon.com), is considered the standard by which the genre is judged.

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Gordon Ramsay on WannabeTVchef.comFew people in the western world are not familiar with the name Gordon Ramsay.  Though his reputation in the states is built mainly around his explosive temper and colorful use of metaphors in Europe he is thought of as one of the best chefs in the world.  It is a shame that most Americans only know the exaggerated personality shown on TV because he is one of the most gifted and passionate people in the culinary world.

The premiere episode features 100 hopeful home cooks vying to be one of the 30 finalist competing for the title MasterChef.  To earn one of the coveted MasterChef aprons each competitor is asked to cook the meal of their lives for the three judges.

The first round of dishes fails to yield a single plate worthy of remaining in the contest.  This forces Chef Ramsay to give a pep talk to the remaining contestants filled with the bleep riddled prose that the host is known for as well as a bit of the overcharged, dare I say forced drama that is the mainstay of virtually every “reality” show.

As with every “reality” contest on TV there is a plethora of over-critiquing.  Negative comments are far more negative than they need to be and positive comments are stuffed with Pentecostal exuberance.  Nothing is ever mediocre in “reality” TV; it is either dreadful or the best thing ever.  This lack of gray area is why television is anything but real.

The best example of overly-negative critiquing is when Gordon takes a stuffed bell pepper garnish from one plate, dumps out the contents so he can spit out the mouthful of fish taco he is tasting.  The best example of made-for-TV positive shtick is Bowles tasting one contestant’s Korean duck wrap and stating, “That is like sex in your mouth . . . in the best possible way.”  There are plenty of the tear jerking moments that producers love to show as well.  MasterChef follows the American Idol formula to a “T.”

But, as with any of Ramsay’s shows, there are truly honest moments.  It is these glimpses of lucidity that make him a star.  At his soul, Ramsay is a compassionate person and it is evident that he genuinely cares for other people.  It is likely that his persona and Graham Elliot’s lovable big guy personality will produce a similar chemistry to Paula and Simon.  Although I highly doubt Bowles would look as good in a short red dress.  Bastianich is the wild card; he lacks that biting English snark while at the same time he is cold and calculating in his critiques.

MasterChef separates itself from “Worst Cook in America” because it starts with ametuers who can already cook and seeks to make them better.  It also separates itself from “Next Food Network Star” because it allows Southern cooks to compete.  The best home cooks in America traditionally hail from the South but NFNS has clearly avoided casting calls in the South for some reason opting for mainly East Coast and West Coast auditions.

MasterChef also separates itself from all other TV cooking contests with its prize – $250,000 cash and a major cookbook deal which is potentially worth millions.  I like MasterChef more than I do Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen or Chopped and far more than I do NFNS.  But at the same time it is a far cry from Iron Chef America.

MasterChef premieres Tuesday July 27th (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Fox.  For more information check out the official press release HERE.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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