‘MasterChef’ interview: Adriana Guillen on heritage, stress, cheesecake, and more

AdrianaNow that we are really in the thick of “MasterChef” this season, we’re thrilled to be at the part of the competition that is especially enjoyable for us: Getting the chance to chat with the home cooks. We’ll have at least one new interview (sometimes two) every week with the eliminated contestants for the rest of the season, so keep checking back every Wednesday!

We’re kicking off our MasterChef interviews with Adriana Guillen, who was sent home last week after a pressure test involving cheesecake did not end up going her way. Even though she left before this portion of the competition really started to become intense, she still came across as extremely grateful for the experience, and passionate about food during our chat Tuesday morning.

CarterMatt – So is it hard sitting back and watching what happened on the show, after you’ve already been through it once in-person?

It is. It is so heartbreaking going through it again.

What made you want to go on ‘MasterChef’? Has cooking always been something that you’ve been passionate about, or has this cropped up more in the past few years?

I’ve always been into food. I remember being four years old and cooking refried beans in Mexico. My mom has been my inspiration for my entire life. She’s always cooked amazing food from scratch.

But it was only about two years ago that I realized that this was my true passion. I feel that I’ve always wanted to stray away from food because I’ve always associated it with being a Mexican housewife and cooking for your husband, and I realize that you could make a career out of this. As you get older it becomes harder to make a transition, so when the ‘MasterChef’ auditions came, my fiance kept pushing me to go towards it.

So would you say that Mexican food is the primary sort of food that you enjoy cooking?

My favorite thing to eat are the potato enchiladas that I grew up with … They’re just amazing. Overall Mexican food is my favorite. I’m vegetarian, so specifically Mexican vegetarian food.

Were you a big fan of this show going in?

Definitely. From the very first season I never missed an episode, so I’ve known all about the challenges, and I’ve been a huge fan of the winners and all of the other contestants from the past.

Since you have watched it before, did you have a certain level of expectation going in, and do you think that was met?

I knew the challenges were going to be difficult, but I went in there to win. I went in there with a lot of determination and a lot of passion. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out [like I wanted it to].

Was the audition one of the hardest parts of this whole experience emotionally?

Going through the audition was definitely the most insane experience I’ve ever gone through. Just the buildup of emotion and wondering what the judges are going to say. There were moments where it felt like it was a dream. It was so wonderful to have the judges taste your food and have good things to say about it. It was the moment I realized that I was definitely on the right path with my career.

I don’t remember what everyone cooked during the lamb challenge after that, but as a vegetarian, is that something that you really felt like you had a disadvantage in?

I was freaking out cooking the lamb, especially since I had just seen the little baby lambs and I wanted to go hug them and pet them. Then I had to go and look at this huge array of meat, and I’m like ‘oh my god.’ I was just so thankful that I didn’t have to kill them myself.

…All I kept trying to say to myself was ‘I can do this.’ My mom used to cook lamb tons of times before, and my grandpa used to kill lambs and we would cook beef with it. So I was like, ‘I’m just going to go back to my roots and go from there.’

How did you find the team challenge? There are so many big characters, and these characters aren’t all going to get along, and I imagine that it’s hard when you’re so tired and stressed-out.

I just tried to focus on myself, and not get caught up in all of the big personalities. I just tried so hard to not get involved … It was definitely difficult. You’re around people who are really loud, and I’m quiet. And then there were people who were super-confident, but I just tried my best to get along with everyone.

So now we get to the painful part: What went wrong in the pressure test with the cheesecake?

I think it was the guava paste. It’s something that I grew up with and is quite used in Latin American countries, but I guess I didn’t execute it like I should have.

Had you baked a lot of cheesecakes?

No. I’m definitely not a baker, so going into the challenge I was praying that it wouldn’t be a baking challenge … no luck for me. (Laughs.)

Is there anyone specifically that you’re rooting for now?

It’s so difficult. You spend so much time with everyone that it’s so hard to say ‘I love this person only.’ My top two favorites are for the men, Lynn, since [he is] just so knowledgeable about food, and for the girls Beth, since I’m such a fan of her home cooking.

The last thing I have for you is: What are you wanting to do now? I know a lot of people come off this show jazzed about their career and their future in food.

Most definitely I’m going to continue cooking. It was an amazing experience and I’m so thankful for it and so blessed. Now, I know for sure that I want to focus on my own style. My goal is to ultimately have a restaurant.

Check back a few hours before Wednesday night’s episode, as we’re also going to have an interview posted with Malcolm Green. If you want to read our most-recent “MasterChef” review, you can do so here.

Photo: Fox

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