By Sammi Turano

Tell me about yourself.

Well my real name is Caitlin - friends and family calls me every nickname for Caitlin you could imagine. I grew up loving life, and being a super duper tomboy. I would ride my bike with friends from playground to playground in the City of Chicago. When we were hungry, we would ride from restaurant to restaurant to get all of our friends' favorite treats: Chinese food, Chicago dogs, Kosher ice cream, elotes street corn and the list goes on! Food has always been a fun, enjoyable, delicious hobby I enjoyed. As I got older I started cooking more and more until I got really good at it. Everyone that had my food enjoyed it. Seeing other people smile really made me love my passion of cooking even more. One day, I said “hey I need to get myself out there and try showing people you don’t need culinary school to be a great cook”. I felt like I had what it takes to do well on a cooking show, so I googled some things, with no luck. About a week later, I saw a MasterChef promo on a commercial for auditions in Chicago and said I will never make it, but why not try!

What made you decide to audition for MasterChef?
Once I saw the commercial I saved the date in my calendar because it was still about a month away. In the meantime I had like 4 or 5 friends send me the link to the same commercial and said "Catie you have to do this", so I told them I'd be there! I showed up with lamb sausage jambalaya in a hot thermos and my honey jalapeño cornbread in a warming carrier. Next thing you know I was on a plane headed to LA. and I was about to cook for my favorite Chef in the entire world!

What was the experience like? 

Unbelievable. I lived it and still don’t believe we made it through some of those challenges even though we now have video evidence to prove it!

What are some highlights from the experience?

I loved sitting on the ground watching my soufflés rise in the oven and have Gordon Ramsay just come sit down right next to me to chat and see how I was feeling. It was a moment that definitely froze in time. I also loved feeding the judges. Every different dish was still as exciting as the first. I couldn’t wait to hear what they thought, good or bad! It was just like HOLY S**T they are eating MY food!?! Winning the Family Circle challenge with Eboni was also a huge highlight. Same with the Mexican Tag team challenge. That was this most impossible challenge to finish on time, so far…..

What were some of your biggest challenges? 

Yelling at people, and being a team captain. I have always hated yelling it’s like a fear of mine or something. Being yelled at is no problem, but yelling or watching two people fight with each other, I want nothing to do with. I don’t believe a chef needs to yell and scream to have great food. A little hustle, a lot of skill, and some organized chaos, and I will be all set! The clock is so real too. Time just flies. Even when I felt like I was going faster than ever, I still needed more time!

What is your signature dish?

My family would say it’s my porcini rubbed rib-eye with a pan sauce, spinach, bacon, twice baked potatoes and sautéed wild mushrooms. Everyone who eats this, loves it and wonders when I’ll have the next dinner party. 

What is one dish you want to learn how to make?
Jason Wang inspires me to learn more Chinese and Asian cooking styles and dishes. I would love to learn how to make traditional dashi broths and the delicious sauces - they make the best egg rolls and lumpia!

What would people be surprised to know about you?

My favorite two cuisines to cook are Middle Eastern and Indian food! I love all the flavors and spices. And the low and slow stews. I replace the rice with cauliflower rice, it works great!

What are you watching on TV these days?

Cooking shows and Scary movies. I also LOVE Cash Cab, it cracks me up!

Anything else you want to tell America?

That one day I will have my own brand of food products from dressings to frozen coconut flour pancakes and waffles to my cauliflower and sausage crust pizza! It will be awesome, healthy, and delicious!

I also want to thank anyone who has cheered for me throughout the season! It has been so fun getting to meet and talk to fans! I wish you all the very best!

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