Fox’s MasterChef has quite a following due to its fast-paced nature and strategy of putting amateur chefs in the hot seat. With a diverse range of chefs, each seems to have their own cheerleaders and critics. After a recent episode, we reached out to contestant Stacey Amagrande (@MC3Stacey) to learn more about her experience on the show as well as her cooking experiences in general.
FP: We read that your grandmother was a big inspiration in the kitchen; how did she inspire you to start cooking? What do you enjoy most about cooking?
SA: My grandmother on my Dad’s side is first generation over from Italy so naturally she cooked all of the time. The smells of authentic rustic Italian cuisine was enough to make any chubby little Italian girl want to cook! I learned from my Mom that good home cooking can be made easy if you enjoy what you are doing. I receive full pleasure from cooking. All of my senses are active and awake, even tantalized! I cook also to be able to share nutrition and love with others as well as the instant gratification you get when eating your scrumptious creation!
FP: We couldn’t agree more. There is nothing more gratifying than eating a home cooked meal! Name some of your favorite chefs and why.
SA: Michael Symon, hands down! He’s Italian and Greek like me! HE LOVES his wife and mother, which is always admirable. Most importantly, I love Michael Symon because of his flavor profiles. HE is the PORK GUY! He can take you to anywhere in the world in your mouth and have you laughing the whole way there with his incredible sense of humor! LOVE Michael Symon!
Mario Batali, Alice Waters, Chris Constantino, anyone who ever cooked at Aframe restaurant in Culver City, and Sandee Birdsong from Top Chef Masters. I have more chefs that I adore but I wouldn’t want to keep you here all day.
FP: Tell us about your experience on MasterChef from casting to filming. What was it like to compete with the other chefs? Did the judges offer helpful commentary?
SA: My experience was that of learning, growing, sharing, practicing patience and warrior skills! No sleep some nights, 20-hour days other times and becoming friends with people you are trying to defeat…just a little crazy! Competing with the other chefs was exhilarating! It pushes you to your limits and then beyond and all of a sudden you are doing things, completing tasks and executing recipes like never before. The competitive edge makes you work harder, want it even more and do better than your very best. The judges gave wonderful criticism with a wrapper of nasty around it. They only wanted us to do our best, but for the sake of TV they were super tough guys LOL!
FP: Sounds like quite the adventure! What are your “go to” dishes to prepare at home? What are some of your guilty pleasures (if any)? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
SA: I “go-to” Thailand a lot! I love the balance of flavors in Thai cuisine. I also make a lot of salads and sandwiches. I am probably the fastest sandwich maker west of the Mississippi! Salads come in every shape and form and any time of day in my house! Fresh is best! OH YEAH! I really think I just eat whatever I want and then run four to six miles to burn it off! However, if I must succumb to admitting my guilty pleasures, well then they include Twix, Cheetos and cheese. Please just let me live in a stinky cheese shop. I would make a great mouse in a situation like that.
FP: We’d love to sample some of your salads! Name three individuals you would want to invite over for dinner and what you would prepare for them.
SA: Michael Symon of course and I would make him BBQ pulled pork perogies, his hometown favorite, with a Stacey spin
FP: We understand you’re from Apple Valley, CA. How has CA inspired your cooking?
SA: It inspired me to cook because there is nowhere to eat in Apple Valley better than my own house.
FP: Something like that will definitely drive you to be creative! Speaking of, what should we expect from the upcoming cookbook that you are writing?
SA: Chapters based on the four seasons; what is growing in the peak of each season is highlighted and celebrated through joyous colorful photos and stories of my life and inspirations that helped craft each recipe.
FP: We can’t wait to get our hands on a copy! Where will we see you in ten years?
SA: Running multiple successful restaurants in Hawaii, Paso Robles, Ca. and Portland, OR. Successfully teaching children how to grow, harvest and prepare healthy delicious meals for themselves and their families as an alternative to choosing a life of drugs and violence. My husband, Mike and I will be relaxing in the rural open country of Southern Italy. Actually, anywhere in Italy. Babies, hopefully before the ten-year mark and owning some land to create a B&B as a place to retire…much after the ten year mark.
FP: Definitely keep us posted as we would love to visit your restaurants and your B&B as well as get our hands on a copy of your cookbook! We have no doubt you will succeed in all your future endeavors. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with us!