MasterChef interview: Mark Togni on experience, Gordon Ramsay, and elimination

Mark TogniMark Togni was the first contestant eliminated from the MasterChef top 20 this season, but he accomplished two things during his time there: Being incredibly memorable in a short period of time, and also making us super-hungry for chocolate chip pancakes. His most famous moment on the show is probably a joke that he made to Heather that caught the ire of Gordon Ramsay; this led to a brief confrontation between the two before Mark continued to go on making a modified version of his breakfast dish.

Below, Mark details to us in an email interview his thoughts on his experience, what he was trying to do when he was joking around with Heather, and also what he wish that he had a chance to make:

CarterMatt – What made you want to be a part of the show in the first place?

Mark – The opportunity to be immersed in a high octane cooking competition with three of the greats representing all things culinary.

To you, what was the most challenging part of cooking in this kitchen to cooking in real life?

There’s a clock and 39 other chefs preparing their personalities on a plate to be judged by a Juggernaut Judge in Chef Ramsay. You don’t experience pressure at that level cooking in ‘real life.’

Did you ever consider pivoting from your breakfast idea when you got a chance to do it over again?

I had a bad day in the kitchen, the remaining contestants will experience a similar fate as they are eliminated. The secret is consistency, just as in the restaurant scene chefs have to turnout consistent dishes day in and day out for guests, a bad day in the kitchen, if it seeps into your food can eliminate your culinary success as it did mine on MasterChef.

To answer the question, I put a premium on getting things right before I move on to another facet. My cooking acumen obviously did not have the base that many of the home cooks on MasterChef arrived with. I will add that the elimination did not discourage me; rather, the team of judges, most notably Gordon, motivated me to become a better chef than when I arrived.

The show made a meal out of the confrontation between you and Chef Ramsay. Were you just joking around with Heather before he confronted you on it?

Heather mentioned in her package that as a nurse she handles pressure well, and on the day of our challenge I saw someone who appeared to be frazzled. So, as is my nature, I used some humor to lighten the mood; it worked too well, since she turned out a better dish and I went home.

Were you surprised in the end that you went home?

One thing people pick up from me is I don’t get surprised nor do I panic that’s a fact. I’m intuitive by nature and often see the writing on the wall before the chalk hits the board. I had a bad day in the kitchen, plain and simple, so no surprise there.

Is there any sort of food that you wish you had a chance to make?

Fish, I wanted a shot at demoing my 44 yrs. as an Oregon native and the preparation of all things Pez (spanish for fish).

Overall, how would you describe your experience?

An experience of a lifetime. I remember sitting at lunch one day and looking around the table noting the balance of ethnicity around me. That felt incredible coming from a region that lacks that balance. Gotta hand it to the folks at MasterChef for casting truly incredible talent all the way through this season. I can say with certainty I made friends for life the in the MC kitchen and I know I left my indelible Mark on the MasterChef family. (Note: Gotta love Mark making a pun out of his own name, right? The sense of humor is still there!)

Further MasterChef news

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