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Wednesday, July 24

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« Friday Foodpic: D'Amato's Four Summer White Wines For Your Next Dinner Party »

Interview Mon Jun 23 2014

Elise Mayfield: Master Chef

Elise Mayfield MasterChef

Have you been watching "MasterChef" on Fox? You should be! There is nothing more fun/anxiety ridden than a TV show hosted by Gordon Ramsay. But who cares about cranky Ramsay, when there's a real live Chicagoan cooking her heart out on the show? Elise Mayfield is one of the show's standouts, and not just because she calls the Windy City home.

What was the audition process for the show like?

The audition process took a very long time! I started at an open call last September and I didn't get invited to the final audition in L.A. until January. There were lots of conversations and emails with the "MasterChef" Casting Team over those months, and it was so awesome to get to meet them in person once I arrived in L.A. Even though we'd never met face to face, I felt like I already had some friends before I even arrived.

How did you prepare to be on "MasterChef"?

As soon as I realized there was even a small chance that I might end up actually cooking for the "MasterChef" judges, I started preparing. I read, and I don't mean skimmed, I mean I read cookbooks cover to cover, and picked out recipe basics that I knew I needed to master before arriving. I love cooking but I'm relatively green in the kitchen. I've been baking for probably a decade, but I only really started cooking proper meals about two years ago, so I knew getting my basics down would be key. The Joy of Cooking became my text book. I've read it probably three or four times now. I also love the cookbooks from two of my favorite restaurants, The Hot and Hot Fish Club and The Loveless Cafe. I also held a tri-weekly dinner and lunch club during December and January so that I could test out my new skills.

Who is your favorite judge?

Ah! Ummmm... no offense to the other judges, but I have to say that I really enjoyed working with Chef Elliot. His passion for food is so evident, but I also really appreciated that he appreciated us. Chef Elliot made a point to let us know when we were doing good work and when we could improve, but overall, I think he really believed in each and every one of us cooks.

Most of the drama on the show seems to come from the judges, what about the contestants. Do you all get along?

You know, working on this show with this particular group of people was really amazing. We were all thrown together and because we were the only support system we had during filming, we had to form a little family. And, like most families, we were a little dysfunctional sometimes, but we always managed to sort out our differences and remain supportive. I'm happy to report that many of us still talk to each everyday, and I can honestly say, they are some of the best people I've ever met.

How grueling is the taping for each show?

The shooting schedule for the show was pretty intense! It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

What is your favorite thing to cook?

Ooh, this is a tough one. I think my favorite thing to cook is probably cocoa and biscuits. My Mawmaw used to make it for breakfast when I would spend the night at their house. Cocoa is like chocolate gravy. Yeah, that's right. Chocolate. Gravy. And, with buttermilk biscuits, it's "slap yo momma" good!

Pie seems to be your nemesis on the show. Are you afraid to make a pie now? What's your favorite kind of pie to make?

Ugh, pie. Pie used to be my most favorite thing to bake! I have to say, I've been making more cakes lately, but I'm not "afraid" of pie, really. We're just taking a little break. Believe it or not, my favorite kind of pie is blueberry pie, (Spoiler Alert) which is why it was so upsetting when I under-baked my pie on the show. It was my favorite and I totally messed it up!

Speaking of pie, the hand pies you made on the first episode look amazing -- I still think about them. Can we get the recipe and share it with Gapers Block readers?

Now, now Gapers Block, a girl's got to have some secrets. All I can tell you is that the filling has blueberries, basil and goat cheese in it, and that's all the hints I can give you.


In tonight's team challenge, contestants must prepare an upscale seafood menu for a beachfront wedding. After an emotional challenge, tensions are high, but both teams complete their dinner for the wedding guests. The team who most successfully finishes the dinner is safe from elimination, while the losing team faces the pressure test featuring a traditional American meal with steak and fries. Find out who will stay and who will be sent home in the all-new "Top 17 Compete" episode of "MasterChef," airing tonight on FOX.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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