It’s hard to question that this season of “MasterChef” has been especially strong creatively, and one of the reasons for that has been the excellent casting. Just about every contestant stands out on their own, and there is a reason to root for just about every person — including Monti Carlo. The single mom came on to this show without a job and hoping to create a better life for herself and her son Danger, and she ended up making it all the way to fifth place against many cooks who came into this show with a lot more experience.
So what does Monti have to say about this experience looking back? We had a chance to chat with her one on one earlier this week.
Cartermatt.com – So let’s go back to the very beginning of your time in this competition. What made you want to try out, and were you a big fan of the show or of Gordon Ramsay?
Monti Carlo – I had never watched ‘MasterChef.’ I knew that Gordon Ramsay was on it, and I auditioned on a whim. My friend was trying to get me out of the house, so I went and made an apple pie. This is how broke I was at the time — I didn’t have a carrier for my apple pie, so I brought a diaper box that I had put together with one of my dog’s leashes to make handles, and that’s how I ended up doing the audition. I was so proud of how I had [done it] until I got there and saw everybody else with their fancy dishes.
You were in this competition against a number of people who were either cooking for a long time or had some sort of tie to the industry already. Were you ever intimated by this, and how did you battle that to make it so far in the competition?
I think the bottom line is that I have a little boy to take care of, and I’ve been unemployed for two years. It’s very difficult to find a job, and I had to do it for my little boy. Even though I didn’t know what I was doing some of the time, I had a fire in my belly because I knew that this was my only way out right now. I mean, I was living in a 300 square foot apartment in Los Angeles on a budget of $10 a day for food.
Was it hard dealing with some of the drama of the competition? We saw on the show that there were some people who liked you, and some who weren’t quite as fond of you.
I thought everyone was my friend! But then I saw the TV show and realized that some people really don’t like me! I think what put off a lot of people is that I’m a very humble person and I’m very honest about my capabilities. Some of the people had be cooking on an almost professional level for many years, so for them to compete against a single mom who reads cookbooks like she does romance novels … I was just proud to say that I made it a lot further than they did, which was really cool.
Do you think that some of them may have been intimidated by the fact that you had an inspirational story, and could have been made a favorite because of that?
I have no idea. To be honest with you, I really didn’t hang out with everyone. I’m much older than some of them — I’m 37 years old. When we got to the show we would film, and then they would go back to the hotel and hang out in the bar. I would go up to my hotel room and then hang out in the library. So I really didn’t get to know a lot of people.
Stories are coming out now because of David Martinez. I know sometimes on the show it didn’t show it, but he was a really good friend of mine. He has let me in on a couple of things people were saying about me, and that some people were saying that I was there for the wrong reasons. I don’t know what the right reasons are. I was there for my baby boy because we were in a really bad place. It’s that’s the wrong reason, then so be it.
Was there any one challenge looking back at this competition that was your standout?
I would have to say the crab scotch egg, just because Ryan really wanted to throw me under the bus with this canned crab, and I made something that made Gordon Ramsay giggle. I think that was the very first time that Joe Bastianich looked at me with seriousness as a contender. That was a beautiful moment for me, because I had no idea what to expect.
Seeing Gordon Ramsay giggle is one of the top things I have ever done.
Let’s talk about the painful part in your elimination. Did you think that your replication of Graham Elliot’s dish was the worst? Josh had also struggled, and he has been eliminated from the show once before.
I knew when they called time that I was going to go, which is why you see Christine comforting me. I really struggled with cutting the tuna thinly enough, and I had cut through an entire piece of tuna — which was enough for about ten servings of that dish. I couldn’t get the pieces thin enough, and I couldn’t figure out how to properly do an avocado mousse.
Even though Josh was eliminated and he came back, I don’t think he deserved to go. I think we’re judged like a football game with what we bring to the table every day and solely on that dish. I think my dish was worse than his dish.
So what’s next for you when it comes to cooking?
Now what I’m doing is putting together a series called ‘Lunch Lady’ that helps parents who are on a very tight budget not just money-wise, but also time-wise that makes a really nice lunch for their kids. It gives them ideas for really cool lunches that can also double as work lunches, as they are sophisticated enough. I’m also working on a cookbook for parents that are on a small budget … I have received so many Facebook messages and so many emails and Twitter messages saying that people would love to have that sort of cookbook.
Were you rooted for Monti this season? If you want to see where we think the final four contestants on this show stand, be sure and head on over to this link.