Senior Ahran Cho has come a long way since filming home cooking videos with her sister at the age of nine. She has always been a huge fan of watching cooking shows on TV, but now, millions across America will be watching her.
Cho is a contestant on “Masterchef,” Fox’s televised cooking show that will premiere on May 26. After watching the show’s previous seasons, Cho decided to attend the open call auditions for Season Five last November. “I wanted to audition to experience something fun and exciting, and the fact that my parents were so supportive of it made me want to work at it even more,” she said. Cho and her parents drove to Los Angeles, and Cho brought a signature dish for food judges to taste and met with the show’s producers. Cho made a dessert platter with three components: green tea french macaron, green tea swiss roll and green tea crème brulée. Her audition was successful, and she continued to advance to the next round. “It kind of consumed my life during that time,” Cho said. “I was so intent on getting there that I kept working at it. It worked out in the end, and I got lucky for sure.”
After four months of auditions, Cho made it onto the televised show as part of the Top 30. She is the youngest competitor—at 18 years old. Filming began this spring in Los Angeles, and Cho’s typical schedule consisted of waking up at 5 a.m. and filming until 8 p.m. “It’s really tiring, and in your down time, it’s sleep time,” Cho said. “You’re always working and preparing yourself mentally.”
As part of her contract, she could not tell anyone, besides her immediate family, that she was on the show. “I didn’t have my phone with me. As a teenager who’s always on social media, going into the reality TV world where you can’t interact with the real world was very hard, but it kept me focused,” she said. It was also tough not being able to see her family. “At the same time, it was good for me because independently I was able to grow,” she said.
“Masterchef” consists of team challenges, mystery box challenges and elimination rounds, and one home cook wins at the end. It is judged by three world-renowned chefs: Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich. “I think I cried the first time the judges walked out. It’s crazy seeing them on TV and then being able to meet them, and it’s crazy being able to cook for them,” Cho said. “It was definitely surreal but you get so used to it, and you kind of just see them as another adult that you really respect. You have to get the fact that they’re a celebrity out of your head.” Cho has also gotten to know the chefs on a personal level. “Joe Bastianich is my homeboy,” she added with a laugh.
Cho’s style of cooking is Korean-Asian fusion, and she is a great baker. Competing on “Masterchef” allowed Cho to draw on her past experiences in the kitchen. “Going into the show, I’ve always thought of myself as having a very creative edge,” Cho said. “I’m an extremely creative person and that really shows in my food. And the judges know that too.”
Being on the show has also improved Cho’s cooking skills, such as plating food and adapting quickly to new situations. “‘Masterchef’ is like an amazing cooking class for free, taught by your idols,” Cho said. “No matter how big your ego is, you need to know that they are the judges and they have what’s best for you in their minds.” The main thing the judges wanted Cho to improve was to not crash under pressure and to continue moving forward.
Cho has also gotten to know her fellow contestants very well behind the cameras and competition. “We’re really close, we’re planning trips to see each other, we talk every single day—all day long we have Facebook chats—so getting along with them was no problem at all,” she said. “Being on a show like this really bonds you for life. It’s a really unique and strange experience that’s hard to share with people who haven’t been through it.”
Although Cho was a contestant, she is just as excited and nervous as viewers for the premiere, since she doesn’t know how the show will portray her. “You can’t judge how the people are in real life based on how they seem on TV because you don’t know what happened. For me, I really stayed true to who I was, and I gave it all I could, so I hope that that really shows,” she said.
But no matter what her future holds, Cho hopes to stay true to what she believes got her onto the show. “[‘Masterchef’] just saw the passion I really have in cooking and the potential in a young girl who is just trying to following her dreams with the support of her family and friends,” she said. “And obviously I can cook very well,” she adds with a smile.
-Written by Catalina Zhao