I recently had a chance to connect with a few of the Master Chefs of San Diego. The show air’s May 22nd and will broadcast all summer long taking over the American Idol Slot. Out of over 30,000 applicants, Master Chef chose 100 people to compete in LA. They were asked to bring a signature dish to present to the judges. If the dishes are accepted, the judges decide who gets a white apron and who will continue to the cook off.
Cooking since she was 15 years old, chef Natasha Crnjac comes from a very unique family background. She was born in South Africa and moved to the states when she was 9 years old. “My father was born in Croatia, and my mother in Argentina,” she says. “I pursued my passion for food by applying to MasterChef.” Chef Natasha is a stay at home mom with a 16 month old. She currently bounces in and out of restaurants a few nights a week and enjoys learning all about the back end of the kitchen operations.
Born and raised in Chula Vista, chef Savannah Sturges is a native San Diegan. Working in education for over 5 years, Sturges teaches special Ed at Granger Jr. High in National City. “I started cooking in high school because I was over weight and wanted to loose weight,” she says. “I decided to diet and become a vegetarian, and my dad said that if I wanted “special” food then I had to cook it for myself. Since then cooking has been my hobby and teaching has been my career.”
As for MasterChef, Sturges explained it was an incredible experience. “The challenges were tough, but I think the whole experience taught me so much more about cooking, and really ignited my passion even more then when the competition began. I hope people have as much fun watching the show as I did competing in it!”
Chef Lynn Chyi is a photographer, web developer, and a food nut. His love for food started in college when he realized that cooking was challenging, but by no means difficult. “I realized that the passion I put in my cooking translated well to the table and I started hosting Sunday dinners and inviting friends,” he says. “I quickly found that I was able to use food to serve and love others.”
A couple years ago, Chyi started working on a food show with Sam the Cooking Guy. “The Sam Livecast is an innovative new cooking series delivered exclusively over the internet,” he says. “I love my job there, and working with Sam has been amazing.”
Chyi says his time on MasterChef has been nothing short of surreal, and still wakes up in the morning in disbelief that he had an opportunity to participate in such an amazing cooking competition with such unique culinary-minded individuals. ”Thank the Lord that it happened because I learned much more than just cooking from it. I learned a great deal about the people and the impact that food and cooking have on their lives,” he explains. “The stories of the competitors on MasterChef are unbelievable. It solidifies the premise that experiences and food are closely interrelated. Everyone has an incredible love for food and cooking because it is the basis for some of their most cherished memories in life.”
Of his experience competing on MasterChef, chef Howard Simpson says “It was an amazing adventure; being able to work with some of the most prestigious names in the culinary industry, was an achievement in itself. I thought my deployment to Afghanistan was tough, until I was under the pressure of chef Ramsay. He made fighting the Taliban a walk in the park.”
*Interviews by Maria Desiderata Montana