‘MasterChef’ exclusive: Winner Shaun O’Neale on sweet victory, challenges, and what’s ahead

Last night “MasterChef” came to a close with a heck of a two-hour finale, one that amped up the competition while also still giving you some more of the home cooks’ emotional background and ambitions. There were three worthy contenders, but in the end DJ Shaun O’Neale of Las Vegas took it home over Brandi Mudd and David Williams.

So how is Shaun feeling now that the world finally knows that he is the champion? We weren’t able to take part in the exit press day earlier, but our friends behind the scenes were kind enough to relay over some questions to him. Take a look at his responses below.

CarterMatt – Obviously Shaun, congratulations are in order! How hard was it keeping the secret of your victory all this time?

Shaun O’Neale – The hardest thing about the whole competition was keeping it a secret, especially once I found out I won since it’s one of those things you want to scream at the top of a mountain!

What has the outpouring been like since the finale ended? Has it all started to set in just yet?

It has definitely set in. Honestly I haven’t been able to get on social media since the finale aired, but it’s been all love from what I’ve seen. I can’t wait to get back to everyone who has been so supportive throughout the season.

You were a strong cook throughout this season, but we also saw that you handled pressure well and were a leader at times during group challenges. What do you think is the one skill that suited you the best in the competition?

The determination not to stop. The judges told us several times that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. My best attribute is that I don’t give up and I was going to fight through until the very end.

Was there ever a moment before the finale you were seriously worried about being eliminated?

There were two moments that had me worried: The first was definitely the sausage battle. I had made sausages before so expectations were higher. The second was the cake battle because I didn’t think I was going to have a completely finished cake. Those were definitely two intense moments for me but at the end of the day, I thought I had done enough in both situations to stay in the competition.

The show made a lot of the “Vegas rivalry” between you and David. What’s the relationship between the two of you now?

We are friends! We are just both fierce competitors and want to win at everything we do – and that just comes from our background. We get along really well and I have a lot of respect for him, but when we are competing with each other we are going to battle it out!

You’re in a place that is known for having some AMAZING food. Does that help to draw inspiration?

Absolutely. Everywhere you turn in Vegas there is either a picture of amazing food or an amazing restaurant with amazing food inside. You even see ads for delicious food inside the cabs! It would be impossible not to be inspired by what I see in Vegas. It has become one of the biggest culinary capitals of the word and I couldn’t be more excited to live in Vegas and be able to experience that type of cuisine on a daily basis.

Have you started to conceptualize some ideas for the cookbook yet?

Yes: I want to elevate home cooking. I want to teach home cooks that just because you’re cooking at home, that doesn’t mean it can’t be something great.

Finally, and this is clearly the most important thing, how did it feel to have Gordon Ramsay spray you in the face with champagne?

It was the highlight of the season! I wanted that from day one: I wanted to be the man getting sprayed with the champagne. When I saw Chef Ramsay coming I jumped into it and made sure I got hit as much as possible. I couldn’t be happier to be the next MasterChef!

For those who have not heard, Shaun is going to be one of many former contestants taking part in the upcoming MasterChef Cruise to the Caribbean from November 6-13.

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