Sam Reiff-Pasarew was the latest contestant eliminated from MasterChef season 8, and it’s certainly clear he had quite the journey. He had to fight for survival the majority of the time that he was in the kitchen, and ultimately found himself sent home in 17th place.
Nonetheless, he was one of the season’s most rootable contestants, an everyman who had some of the same struggles in the kitchen as many of us do — including trying to make things quickly. We were pulling for him to rise through the ranks of the competition, and while we were sad to see him go, it was great to be able to do an exit interview with him via email recently.
CarterMatt – You had some tough days in the kitchen this season, but how do you feel about the experience looking back?
Sam – I’m so glad to have been on MasterChef! It was an amazing opportunity and I learned so much from all the judges and the rest of the culinary team.
Do you feel like you ever had a chance to really get comfortable during the challenges?
I felt pretty good in my white Apron battle where I made a squid ink risotto and also pretty good in the team challenge, but otherwise it was definitely a struggle.
What was the most challenging part for you? I feel like I relate to something you said in that cooking with a specified time limit is difficult. (I’m terrible at that!)
My cooking is about slow and involved processes like smoking a Brisket for 16 hours or confiting a prosciutto end for 8 hours. Cooking something very quickly and for the first time definitely didn’t play to my strengths!
Have you had a chance to hear from your students about the show? I don’t know what level you teach at or if school would be in session.
School’s out for summer, but right before the end of the school year, I did a really fun Q&A with 30 4th graders. Kids are so creative and lots of them love to go on food adventures and do cooking projects these days!
What sort of food do you wish you had a chance to make for the judges?
Some of the food I’m cooking right now for my upcoming pop ups are dishes I’m really proud of like porchetta (smoked and rolled pork belly with crispy skin), Texas style smoked brisket, braised prosciutto and melon Bao, rice balls stuffed with fresh mozzarella and Italian sausage with tomato sauce and homemade ricotta cheese. It would have been great to wow the judges with some of those dishes, unfortunately, they are all multi-day projects.
What are you up to now following the show?
Right now I’m focusing on my upcoming pop ups that I’m putting on with Eatwith.com. One is at the Eatwith Loft in San Francisco on August 18 and the other is at Butter & Scotch in Brooklyn, New York on October 9! You can make reservations through Eatwith.com!
On the fun side I’m also going to make some BBQ with my friends at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada at the end of August!
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Oh, and for the record, we really wish that there was a MasterChef episode set at Burning Man. We want to know what that looks like. (Photo: Fox.)