MasterChef Junior interview: Evan Estrada discusses his experience on the show

Leading up to the end of MasterChef Junior this Thursday, why not share a few thoughts from one of the most recently-eliminated contestants? During the last two-hour block of episodes Evan Estrada found himself eliminated in the midst of a macaroon-themed pressure test against sisters Olivia and Remy. Of the three Remy was the one who advanced, though she also found herself sent home in the second episode that aired on the night.

In this interview Evan talks about the overall experience, getting feedback from the judges, and also some of what he wants to do next in the world of food.

CarterMatt – How would you describe your MasterChef Junior experience overall?

Evan – It was like riding a roller coaster, because it was so much fun. I never knew when I was going to be eliminated, but a thrilling ride.  After it was all over you are proud of yourself for facing your fears and getting on the ride.  It was so valuable and a very incredible experience.  It was AMAZING to meet all of the kids, and getting to cook for my idols in the kitchen. Hearing the judges say ‘your food is delicious’ is an unbelievable experience, it is sort of hard to describe that in words.

How tough was it making the macaroons during your final challenge?

I treated it like a normal challenge and I didn’t feel too under pressure.  I had a lot of fun because macarons are one of my new favorite dishes and I tried to have a lot of fun with it by putting in my own signature flavors. Honestly, I felt really good while I was making them. I felt that I was on a good pace and I didn’t feel rushed.  I was the first one to get them in the oven so I had lots of time to work on my delicious fillings.

When I got home I worked very hard to perfect a smooth surface for good presentation!! I think I finally nailed it!

What did you learn about yourself through being a part of this show?

I learned that I do truly love to cook, and that I am proud at the skills I have, but also there is so much to learn.   There is always an opportunity to practice your skills, and there are endless opportunities of different ways to cook and combine flavors for different dishes.

Were the judges exactly what you expected them to be?

I definitely thought Christina was going to be the nicest judge.  She was definitely nice, but also very direct and had a strong voice.  During the team challenge she was very assertive and direct guiding us through what needed to be done.

I didn’t really know a lot about Joe before the show, but filming with Joe was a lot of fun, because he was playful, and respectful and supportive of all of us, but he was also real in his criticism and comments.

I LOVE Gordon.  I knew a lot about him before the show, because I watched a lot of his cooking demos and other shows.   He was everything that I expected and more.  He was very supportive and he was super nice with all of the children.  If there was a problem or anything went wrong, he truly wanted to help. He really wanted us to learn and succeed.   Honestly, if he was part of the fun challenges like the doughnuts or the milkshakes, he was so playful, almost like a big kid. It made being on set so much fun.

What was your favorite dish you made this season?

My favorite dish I made was from the canned food challenge. I made the pumpkin sweet potato ravioli in a truffle cream sauce.  I loved this dish because it was my own recipe and I was one of the top 3 for this mystery box challenge.  Even though I didn’t win this challenge, I was able to use my own creativity to create this dish with different flavors and I made my own pasta from scratch. I really felt proud of myself for making something my own, and being recognized for this dish. And I loved the way the dish looked when I presented it.  I felt it really looked decadent.

What is your food dream moving forward in life?

I definitely want to keep cooking!!  I have done some really fun catering jobs since the show.  I have enjoyed cooking for other people.   I catered a non-profit board retreat with a 5 course seated dinner, and recently I was one of two chefs that made small plates for a non-profit event of 65 people!  It was so much fun.

Looking to the future, I want to have my own restaurants. I want to learn business, and I would love to have some restaurants that are fine dining, some that are a bar and grill and maybe have a fast food chain that is healthy and fun.  I definitely plan to keep cooking and enjoying being in the kitchen!

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