Fox’s reality cooking competition MasterChef follows amateur chefs on their journey to sharpen their skills and impress the judges, including well-known restaurateur Gordon Ramsay. After weeks of challenges, a winner is crowned—but for the mothers on the show, being away from their children is definitely an added pressure.
With the sixth season of the show currently airing on Fox, the moms of Masterchef took the time to tell us about the struggles, and joys, they experienced during the filming of the show.
As a single mother, this La Mesa, CA mom had never spent more than a few days away from her nine-year-old daughter. Although she says the distance was rough, each phone call with her daughter was filled with supportive messages—“You got this, Mom!”
According to Claudia, being a mom definitely helped her out during the competition. “I think that one of the really, really big things that benefitted me was creativity,” she says, adding that cooking for your kids requires creativity in the sense that you’re always searching for ways to sneak healthy ingredients into meals.
She also says that being a mother has taught her how to stay calm under pressure and how to separate her bad days to start the next one with fresh eyes.
Claudia learned to cook by helping her mom and her grandma in the kitchen. Coming from a large Latino family, she says that their conversations when they got together involved not what they were going to spend their day doing, but what they were going to spend their day cooking.
She has passed her love of cooking on to her daughter, who helps her in the kitchen at least three times a week. Some of their creations have even been streamed over Periscope. Claudia says her daughter especially loves to help create corn masa dumplings.
Her time on the show has showed her the value of mentorship, as she says that having the opportunity to learn from the judges and listen to their critiques is invaluable. Claudia says each challenge was special for its own reason, she really enjoyed recreating Ramsay’s famous beef wellington.
At home, she specializes in seafood, especially mariscos, and has gained a newfound love for being creative with her cooking.
This mom, hailing from Bailey’s Harbor, WI, struggled with the limited communication she had with her daughter. “She’s not very good at keeping secrets,” she says, explaining that she couldn’t reveal much of what she was experiencing to her little one.
Although Sara says it was nice to escape the stresses of being a mom and take some time for herself, it was really difficult to be away from her daughter for so long.
Her ability to multitask—something that is essential to parenting—helped her in the competition. After juggling laundry and cooking and cleaning back at home, she was able to jump into the challenges with an unmatched talent at juggling tasks.
Sara started cooking around the age of five by preparing a Mother’s Day meal. After that, she started watching cooking shows on the Food Network and PBS to learn as much as she could. Though she took a home economics class in high school, most of her knowledge came from watching and recreating, which she says was her only creative outlet.
She says her daughter loves to make cookies, but ultimately would rather draw or play outside than work in the kitchen. She does, however, occasionally stop in to stir or pour something for her mom. Sara hopes it is an ability her daughter will learn to appreciate in the future.
“People should know how to cook. It’s a skill. We need it to survive,” she says.
During her time on the show, Sara was thrilled to have Ramsay eat her food—something she said has been on her bucket list for a while. “When he walked out on that first day, I just lost it,” she says of her star struck moment on a patio. Her favorite challenge was the Las Vegas challenge, which her team won.
At home, Sara loves to make anything with curry—specifically shrimp curry or curry chicken salad.
Though the Brooklyn, NY resident says she has been away from her daughter before, this was a lot harder because they couldn’t talk or video chat often like they usually do when she’s away. Although it was difficult emotionally to be away from her family, who she says understand her completely, and to be surrounded by strangers, she also says she knew the experience could change her life forever.
Having been raised by a single mom, surrounded by strong women, and being a single mom herself, Shelly says she felt empowered, strong and determined in ways she didn’t know she could. She says motherhood prepared her to think on her feet and figure things out along the way, something that aided her in the competition.
Growing up in a Jamaican household, Shelly likes to say she learned to cook through “kitchen osmosis”. Watching her mother, grandma and uncles cook allowed her to pick up a lot of skills and knowledge. Having a daughter gave her a reason to cook, but being in the kitchen also instilled in her an interest in having others try her food.
“My daughter is my biggest fan and the best sous chef anyone could ask for,” Shelly says. “She’s a ball of light when it comes to cooking.” Shelly says that they make mistakes together, but keep moving forward.
On the show, Shelly says she transformed herself with the help of her mentors. She says she never lost, only learned. The Knott’s Berry Farm challenge doubled as the first team challenge, which Shelly said was her favorite because of its larger-than-life feeling. “I thought, ‘wow, this is happening’,” she says.
At home, she loves to cook things like jerk salmon with mango pico de gallo and banana pudding.
The show airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox and will run into September.