By Sammi Turano

What made you decide to audition for MasterChef?
I have always loved to cook! MasterChef seemed like a great way to share my passion with the world.

What was the experience like?
MasterChef is difficult to describe. There are so many emotions involved at any given time! It is both scary and exciting. In one day you can feel totally disappointed in how you cooked but then super proud of your comeback.

What are some highlights from the experience?
My overall takeaway from the experience is an appreciation for the diversity in each of the contestants' backgrounds. We each approach our craft very differently based on where we are from, how we are raised, and different life events that have shaped us. The show does a great job of representing who we truly are and how that affects our cooking.

What were some of your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge for me was elevating my cooking to demonstrate plating techniques and finesse. I have always focused on recipes that are affordable, fast, relatively easy, healthy, and delicious. On MasterChef, I had the privilege of working with extremely expensive and rare ingredients. The judges wanted to see refined techniques that could set you apart from another average home cook. Anyone cooking for Gordon Ramsay would feel the need to step up their standard protocol weeknight dishes!

What is your signature dish?
My signature dish is steak and potatoes. I flavor the steak based on the season. In the winter I'll do pan-seared hangar steak and with mushrooms, red wine reduction, rosemary, and shallots. In the summer, I'll slice flank steak super thin and serve with fresh chimichurri. And nothing makes a more reliable side dish than thick-cut potato wedges, coated in duck fat, roasted in the oven until they are crispy and golden on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The fluffy texture of the potatoes helps soak up all the delicious juices from the steak!

What is one dish you want to learn how to make?
I love making all things fermented. Currently I make my own kombucha, sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables. I would like to expand to making my own yogurt and sourdough bread!

What would people be surprised to know about you?
I love country music!

What are you watching on TV these days?
Sex and the City reruns. Always.

Anything else you want to tell America?
Cooking at home isn't about having a MasterChef-worthy dish every time. If it comes from the heart and nourishes yourself, your friends, and your family, kudos!

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