MasterChef interview: Jenny Cavellier on elimination, crawfish challenge, & more

Jenny CavellierJenny Cavellier had the rare distinction of making it to the top 11 of MasterChef this season, and was just one challenge away from that top ten. That has to be tough, but in our exclusive email interview below, you’ll get nothing but gratitude from her.

Even though Jenny didn’t get an abundance of screen time this season, we do very much think this is one of the best interviews to date. She details some of the mistakes that she made, what she would’ve done differently with her broth in retrospect, and also how she interacted with the judges. This should give you a pretty good sense of what it’s like to be in the MasterChef kitchen in terms of dealing with both the massive production and the emotion of the competition.

CarterMatt – I would’ve had a horrible time trying to do the crawfish challenge, just because that’s so out of my comfort zone. How difficult was it going through that?

Jenny – The crawfish episode was definitely a high-intensity battle. I was out of my comfort zone a bit as I had no previous experience working with crawfish before. Having to peel (and peel well) something that piping hot was no easy task. Despite the difficulty, the competition itself was rather exhilarating. I was feeling competitive and ready, but at the point where everyone is competing for the top ten in a competition like MasterChef, even your best can have you missing the mark.

Do you feel like had you done one thing different with the broth, you would’ve had a chance to still be in the kitchen?

The broth was definitely my undoing this round. I over reduced it at too high a temperature and as a result did not have the fresh, clean consistency and flavor they were looking for. With a bit more time, a few more runs through the cheesecloth would have been beneficial or an egg white raft to clear out some of that murkiness could have helped. So, in that case, yes I feel if I had paid a bit more attention to this component I would have a chance to still be in the MasterChef kitchen. However, at this point in the competition, you can’t misstep even one element in your dish. I did, and the right chef moved on to the top ten. However, I am so grateful to have made it as far as I did.

You finished just outside the top ten. Is that frustrating, or are you grateful just to have made it that far?

Playing off of the previous question, I am so grateful to have made it as far as I did in this competition. I was up against some fierce home cooks and was very proud of what I accomplished. There is always going to be frustration at being so close to accomplishing a goal — top 10 would have been incredible. However, I don’t look back at anything with regret or try to over analyze what I could have done differently to move forward farther in the competition. It’s no fun at all getting eliminated, but once it’s over I really tried to concentrate on how blessed I was to have gotten to where I was in the first place.

We didn’t always see too much of you on the show, but what would you say were some of your biggest achievements in the kitchen this season?

I was a bit more of a background character, wasn’t I? They did have a lot of really wonderful TV moments to choose from throughout this season!

Well despite this perception on TV, I am very proud of a of my moments in the MasterChef kitchen. I would say my favorite competition and the moment I really started to feel like I had the chops to compete in this kitchen was at the restaurant takeover. Working in a professional kitchen was exhilarating and it kind of hid the fact that there were people following you around with cameras, so I was able to really concentrate on the food itself. In this position, I felt great and had a blast making Eggs Benedict for a hoard of hungry patrons.

Some of my favorite dishes that I cooked were; gnocchi out of the brown paper bag in the first round, a few triple layer cakes in the coconut challenge and the team challenge dish that utilized the purveyors amazing ingredients– I was so proud of how well our team honored their food and the result was delicious! I was also proud that I was able to turn what was a catastrophic butchering attempt (rack of lamb) into something elegant and tasty. Given where I put myself starting out, that was no easy task- haha.

What did you take away from being around the judges?

The amount that I was able to learn from the judges in such a short period of time was mind- blowing. The judges were so inspirational and supportive of everyone on the show. They really did encourage us to push ourselves to be our absolute best in the kitchen and honor the ingredients in front of us. The demonstrations taught me cooking techniques that were definitely not in my repertoire before and their notes throughout the competition helped me become a much better cook.

They were also very supportive of everyone’s culinary dreams. We were all asked what our dream was in the culinary world at the beginning of the show. Mine being to eventually open a restaurant that employs people of all abilities — my background working with individuals with special needs has really inspired me to start something that gives these amazing individuals the chance to make their mark in the culinary world. The judges were intensely supportive of this and everyone’s dreams and this support from some powerful people in this world, continues to inspire me everyday to keep driving towards that goal.

Is there anything else you want to say about your MasterChef experience?

My experience on MasterChef changed my life for the better in so many ways. Besides the amazing mentors and the unforgettable culinary experiences – the people I met on this journey had a profound impact on me. I was amazed at despite the competition aspect of this show, the individuals here were so supportive and encouraging of each other’s dreams. There was no underhandedness or nastiness going on while I was there. It was all very clean competition, with a group of amazing home cooks looking to make their mark in the culinary world.

Want to check out another MasterChef interview?

We published our full interview with Newton yesterday, and we think it’s another really great one since he voices his frustration with his elimination not being featured on the show. Also, he talks about why he struggled to open that jar of caviar. You can check that out now over at the link here. (Photo: Fox.)

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