MasterChef interview: Jeff Philbin on competition to date, watch parties for good cause

Jeff PhilbinJeff Philbin is one of the home cooks on MasterChef season 8, and if you’re watching with regularity, you are certainly aware that he is one of the standouts. He’s a huge personality and is often hyper-competitive in some of the challenges, but he also has a big heart and cares deeply about other people.

As of right now, Jeff is still a part of the competition, and with that, he’s holding frequent watch parties at the Tampa restaurant Fodder & Shine that go beyond just seeing him compete on the latest episode of the show. He uses them as a platform in order to raise money for a wide array of charities, and this Wednesday starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, there will be one benefiting the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. You can read more about the event over on his Facebook page.

Meanwhile, you can read our full email interview below with Jeff about his time on the show, plus also what drives him to give back in the process of it airing. We’ll likely have another one with him later this season, either after he is eliminated or in the event he wins.

CarterMatt – What made you want to start having these viewing parties for the show?

Jeff Philbin – I was charged at a young age from my father, that “when you give, you receive.” Millennials sometimes get a bad rap because many are aspirational but not proactive to make those goals come to fruition. After my first year of living in Tampa, I was awarded by the Tampa Bay Business Journal [as] “Top 30 Under 30 –Up & Comer”. For me it wasn’t the “Up & Came Award”; to me, it was not like “okay, this is Best Picture for ‘X’ Year and next year we need to find another Best Picture worthy film.” You live it everyday with that acknowledgment.  I challenge myself to still live up to that recognition and to challenge others (millennials included) to actually get stuff done. To make actionable goals and accomplish them.

I am not about the self-gain through this MasterChef process, so if I can share this incredible journey & platform with supporting incredible organizations that truly make an impact for our Tampa Bay community with awareness, reach, and financial support to allow these organizations to further their mission, then mission accomplished.

How have you gone about picking the organizations you want to support at these?

It took several weeks with a lot of due diligence. I am fortunate to be the Vice-Chair Person of the Board for Habitat of Humanity of Hillsborough County, so I have dealings or conversations often about the philanthropic side of the Tampa Bay area so I devised a list that echoed a lot of values that resonated in me. Being a young dad, family, children, mothers, and quality of life are integral pillars to my system so I tried to weave that ideology into my selection process in addition to bettering the community as a whole.

I am so excited for this upcoming watch party on Wednesday, August 2nd beginning at 7:30PM because it is supporting a great organization in the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, highlighting us as one of the most dog friendly cities in America. [We boast] of dog menus and pet friendly patios at many local restaurants, especially my co-host for these watch parties, Fodder & Shine located in the Seminole Height neighborhood of Tampa.

I love my dog, Ruby, and I hope others can walk away with an adoptable pet or provide them the resources they need to find “man’s best friend” a home! We have had some incredible watch parties that have made an impact; from Feeding Tampa Bay and within 90 minutes we collectively raised 1,600 meals for them to The Children’s Dream Fund, where I was humbled to meet Camila, a 6-year-old little girl battling End Stage Renal Disease, and her family at Tampa General Hospital to tell her dream of going to Disney World would come true! By far, [this was] the single greatest moment of this incredible MasterChef Journey!

In this sort of interactive environment, what’s been the reception to seeing you on the show?

The amount of support has been incredible because it is not about me! For the first time in my life, I can honestly say this is not about me as my intent is to highlight others while being on this platform. Becoming a dad changes you; softens you, humbles you. So, for the Tampa Bay community to be a part of these watch parties and to learn about these organizations, engage with them, and support them it is truly gratifying to know we are making a positive difference! It has also been rewarding to see small and large local businesses come out that share similar values with wanting to come out and donate goods and services for these watch parties. Tampa is a great city so it is truly beautiful to see so many angles that this is helping the community!

Has it made this unique time in your life all the more special?

At each watch party, I give 110% of my focus to those organizations. I never even watch the show until the next day because I devote all of my energies to them on the night of! I only have 6 days to promote an event and to rally the community to come together on top of my normal daily obligations. It is a labor of love that I cherish and appreciate knowing that the seeds that I have planted will flower something beautiful for others to be a part of, to appreciate and most importantly support! I am so humbled to be a part of this incredible MasterChef legacy that I do not want to take it for granted nor let anyone down! I am proud to be where I am at right now and hopefully continue on this path, so for me that it is extremely special!

So far this season, what have been some of your standout moments?

At this point I have 4 and hopefully if I can continue on this MasterChef journey with more to come:

Episode 7 -Breakfast, Lunch, & Winner. This really was not one of the best episodes highlighting me as a person with some of the Twitter feedback I received, so it humbled me and allowed me the chance to shake it off and bounce back to give it my all, with a fresh start and a changed attitude!

Episode 8 -Whole-y Cow. I loved hearing of the wonderful response from Chef Aarón Sánchez and Chef Gordon Ramsay. To have those two forces in the culinary world really compliment me with two dishes in that particular episode provided viewers a glimpse into how I love to cook for friends and family and to enjoy it was a real treat!

Episode 5 – Shell Shocked & Scrambled. Being able to create a dish that for me embodies this incredible city of Tampa that I am so proud to represent was a great feat! That is my signature dish and a homage to my home!

[Finally,] being able to tell Camila, a 6-year-old little girl battling end stage renal disease, that my watch party with the support of the community in attendance would make her dreams of going to Disney World come true! By far one of the greatest accomplishments extending into anything I have ever done as a man!

Ultimately, what is your big food dream?

My ultimate goal is to have a restaurant in Tampa, called Jeffrey’s that is farm to table concept that weaves in great food and people to make for an incredible experience! I would also love to help other restauranteurs live out their potential and would contribute my knowledge and experience to become a restaurant consultant as my services are live on my website:

Do you think this show is helping to get you on that path? 

I believe it is. Every day I get asked; “Where is your restaurant? ” “How can I visit you?’” or “I will become an angel investor to you,” and for me, it is so humbling to hear the response in the community towards them appreciating my passion and valuing their support. Dreams are nothing without making them come true….all in good time!

Want another MasterChef interview?

If you visit the link here, you can see more of what Necco had to say about his recent elimination from the show and future plans. (Photo: Fox.)

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