No experience required to cook on ‘MasterChef’

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A passion for cooking is the only prerequisite for auditioning for the television series “MasterChef,” said casting director Holland Weathers.

Weathers and her associates will hold a casting call at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin on Saturday at 10 a.m. for prospective amateur cooks to audition for “MasterChef.” She said casting directors are particularly interested in students, alumni and faculty because they often appeal to a younger audience.

“We want to stress that we are looking for everyday chefs and amateurs,” Weathers said.

Weathers said candidates for the show should not be deterred by the thought of competing with a large number of other amateur cooks.

“A lot of time people think there’s going to be insanely long lines,” Weathers said. “They think, ‘There’s no way in hell I’ll make it.’ That’s not the case. The number of people that are coming are nowhere near what you see on American Idol.”

Weathers said she expects about 200 people to audition by bringing a prepared dish for judging. Those auditioning should bring their own coolers or thermal bags to keep dishes at the appropriate temperature, although Weathers said judges will understand if food is not piping hot because electricity will not be offered to those auditioning. Contestants will have three minutes to plate their dish and will socialize with judges in an assessment of likability and charisma, Weathers said.

If chosen for the show, participants will compete in a series of culinary challenges for a $250,000 prize and cookbook contract, she said. Judges will be Chef Gordon Ramsay, restaurateur Joe Bastianich and Chef Graham Elliot, Weathers said. The show will be in production from February until April, meaning students and faculty would have to take a semester off to participate, but Weathers said what students lose in education, they will gain in opportunity.

“The majority of our cast members, even if they don’t win the show, get a job and offers to other opportunities,” Weathers said.

Samantha Jaffe, sociology senior and former president of the now defunct UT Cultural Cooking Exchange club, said she had the opportunity to see the culinary skills of many UT students during the eight months that she was leader of the club and believes in their ability to compete with other skilled cooks.

“I believe that many UT students are excellent chefs and others are novice cooks, like myself, who are incredibly enthusiastic about cooking,” Jaffe said.

She said the college environment sometimes makes it difficult for students to exercise their culinary skills.

“The idea of cooking in a community setting outside the home is not too popular of an idea yet,” Jaffe said. “I believe it will catch on and people will be able to learn from each other. Almost like a social, free cooking class.”

Jaffe also said that the University doesn’t have many programs that are centered around cooking and improving skills ­— a situation accounting senior Carly Alter said she maneuvered around by participating in a number of short-lived, culinary-themed clubs during her University career.

“Through my years at UT I have held a few different dinner clubs where we held our own competitions,” Alter said. “Based on what I have tasted, I am sure there are a lot of people around here who would be excellent competitors [for MasterChef].”

For details about the casting, visit: http://MasterChefcasting.com/