We get sad about seeing contestants on “MasterChef” leave for a variety of reasons, but in the case of Scott Little”s elimination on Monday night it made us particularly bummed for two simple reasons — he did a great job when it came to the non-dessert challenges, and he also seemed like a pretty cool guy.
For our exit interview Monday, we had a chance to get a pretty comprehensive look at how Scott feels about his time on the show — whether it be his highlights, his struggles with strawberry shortcake, and who he wants to see take home the grand prize.
Cartermatt.com – So let’s start with the basic question — what made you want to go on ‘MasterChef’?
Scott Little – I’m a fan. I love watching it. I’m the same person who would sit here [watching] with a glass of wine and go ‘how could they mess that up? Don’t do that.’ Then I realized that there was an audition in [Washington] DC, Gordon Ramsay was going to be there in person. At the very least, it would be neat to see the guy in person, cook a dish.
At that point I was like ‘there’s no way I am ever going to get on the show’ … a couple of months later, I’m there! I sort of did it the same way as everyone else. I love cooking, and at the same time I love television. I sort of combined the two and had a blast.
Like you, I’m a big fan of the show — and after watching Gordon Ramsay I don’t know if I could make a dish in front of him after being intimidated. What was that feeling like?
It’s absolutely overwhelming at first. Here he is, a culinary juggernaut — all three of them [are]. You just know going in that he’s setting the bar so high.
After you get into that kitchen and start cooking, though, you quickly have to get past it. You have to look down at your dish and hope for the best. Is it daunting? At first, but you know he’s there because he wants all of us to succeed. He really does have a passion for cooking, and wants everyone to enjoy cooking and eating.
As prepared as you may have been for the cooking part of the competition, what was the TV portion of the competition like? You’re working long hours, and you’re constantly spending time with people and any one little thing you do could get blown out of proportion on the show.
You have to realize very quickly that you’re always on, 24 hours a day. We were lucky enough — and I know it sounds hokey, but it’s the truth — the competitors from the top 18, we all come from different backgrounds, different styles. We had a luxury of really all getting along. We have our moments, but everyone is in a competition and are really trying to do their best.
It was a little surreal. I had to go ‘I’m always on,’ and there’s a lot of time spent with [the other contestants]. You get to know each other rather well.
Overall, the show seemed to be pretty kind to you [and made you someone to root for].
One of the goals was to compete, but also to listen and learn … I think they made it a great send-off, so I was pretty happy with it.
Since you bring it up, let’s talk about the challenge from last week. Had you made strawberry shortcake before, and what went wrong for you?
The apple pie [from earlier in the competition was] a dessert challenge that didn’t go well for me either, and I quickly learned that baking is very scientific and not forgiving for error. Cooking is something you can adjust on the fly. My day-to-day cooking style is slow comfort food. A lot of my dishes I am barbecuing or slow-cooking for five or six hours. So the [trouble on the show] was A) getting everything done in an hour and B) [finding] out later that you have to be more well-rounded in the desserts. Apple pie I’ve made all the time; strawberry shortcake, living where I live in Virginia I eat them, but I’ve never made them. Unfortunately, I kneaded my dough like I do when I make pasta, and that was not as light and fluffy as was needed by the judges.
Did you think the competition was a little dessert-heavy this year? I don’t remember everything from the first season, but I don’t remember there being so many desserts at this point last year.
The [show] does seem to be well-rounded it other aspects, and I don’t know the count from last season, but there did seem to be a lot of dessert challenges early on. That’s not lucky for me (laughs), but there were also some protein-heavy challenges as well.
You’ve talked about struggling with desserts, but let’s go on the opposite side of the discussion — what were your best moments in the competition?
They didn’t show too much of it, but my audition where I first got my apron. I did a dish that usually is a 4-6 hour dish that I converted into a 1-hour dish. It was a green chili and pork stew, and in that hour I also made homemade queso fresco cheese. To be able to pull it off in front of the judges, and to get three resounding “yes” votes for me … [it was great] to get that recognition that they loved one of the dishes I made. Everything else was gravy after that.
Not everyone always wants to answer this question, but are you rooting for someone to win the whole thing now?
I’m rooting for Frankie. He’s well-rounded, he’s shown that he can bust out of the pasta stereotype. Christina and Frankie are two that I am rooting for right now.
So what’s next for you, and how are you using the show experience moving forward in your cooking career?
I actually have a blog at TheComfortableDish.com, and I am looking at pushing that into private events and catering. I was lucky enough last Thursday to do a private dinner for ten people, and I already have a few more lined up. I’m already working! I like that because I can connect with the people I’m actually cooking for, and I still have a good balance between my life and being able to work hard in food.
Were you rooting for Scott this season? Be sure to check out our recent “MasterChef” preview for Monday night, and check back tonight for a full review of what happens on the show.