By Sammi Turano

Tell me about yourself. 
I grew up in the Boston area, and I’ve spent most of my life here short of my college years, which I spent in Florida. I grew up in Capeverdean household, meaning that we ate home cooked meals almost nightly. Food was such an important and influential part of my childhood. I am a recent father (my son, Victor, is just over six months old), a musician (I am the MC for the Boston based hip-hop band The Metro), and I am a substitute teacher for Boston Public Schools.

What made you decide to audition for MasterChef?
So this is a funny story. I have a cousin named Joao Macedo who lives in Portugal. Despite the distance, we’ve always been very close, he is my son’s godfather, and I his. Anyways, he was a recent contestant on MasterChef Portugal and earned himself a white apron. Having had his food, I told myself, if he can make it, then surely I can. And like clockwork, MasterChef held auditions in Boston the following year. Some friends brought it to my attention, and I went for it.

What are some highlights from the experience?
The whole thing was one amazing ride. It is definitely tough being away from loved ones (my fiancé was pregnant with our son at the time) but you remind yourself why you’re there and use that to fuel your fire and keep pushing you forward. Winning my apron battle was another highlight. No matter how the competition turns out for me, that apron is something only a small number of people have, and I earned mine. I met some amazing chefs, went to some great places and I am a better chef and person because of my time on MasterChef.

What were some of your biggest challenges?
If you learn to expect nothing, it’s harder to be surprised and caught of guard. I guess my biggest challenge was learning to stop trying to guess what was next. The second I stopped trying to anticipate and predict, I was able to let the competition come to me and take things one challenge at a time; one dish at a time. After my brother passed in 2011 from a short and unexpected battle with gastric cancer, I learned all you can really do sometimes is focus on what is right in front of you. Each day, each dish is its own challenge. My brother taught me about real strength and real passion. So I take that with me. Always.

What is your signature dish?
I’ve always been a big fan of whatever is fresh. Coming into the competition I would have said the filet mignon with a brandied mushroom sauce that won me my white apron, but after last week, it would be hard to argue against my coconut seafood stew.

What is one dish you want to learn how to make?
Growing up in New England we do a lot of summer barbecues and cookouts, but there isn’t a lot of traditional southern style barbecue. I’m talking “cooked in a 50 year old smoker for 12 hours” style BBQ. And real BBQ mastery comes from decades of repetition. That’s a skill I’d like to add to my resumé.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
Capeverdeans are known for having large families, and when I say I have a big family, I mean it. On my mother’s side alone, I have over 50 first cousins, and we are all very close. My mother is close with all her first cousins, and me with many of their children. Family reunions run into the hundreds, and everyone knows everyone. It really is an amazing thing. With a support system like that, daunting challenges become a little easier to take on. I love my family.

What are you watching on TV these days?
Ha! Since my son’s been born, there’s a 95% chance if you turn the TV on it will be tuned into either PBS, Disney or Nick Jr. When I do find the time to catch some TV with my fiancé it’s a lot of Netflix and catching up on series. We love Game of Thrones, Transparent, Bob’s Burgers and I just started rewatching the Sopranos. Again.

Anything else you want to tell America?
Leave this world better than you found it. Inject love. Create an environment around you of positivity good energy. Be the person everyone loves to be around. The person who brightens the path in front of them and behind them. Tell those you care about how you feel while you can. Remember what is important. I mean whats really important. And try not to lose sight of that. Its tough, but love is a powerful thing.


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