By Sammi Turano

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I am a southern California native transplanted to Boston. I study social anthropology at Harvard University. I think about food all the time. Not only about how delicious it is, how it feeds our bodies, but also how it can be the key to fix a lot of problems we have today. Food waste in particular is a huge problem because it puts so much unnecessary strain on our environment and our economy. Food waste is responsible for more than 70 gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere and an annual $160 billion lost. This problem is a cultural one, and solving it requires an intimate perspective on it. Say, for example, a cook’s. But food can do so much more. Food is used in gastro diplomacy as a new delicious way for countries to interact with each other, and gourmet space food is how NASA thinks they can improve mission effectiveness of their astronauts. Everybody knows that food and culture are intimately tied, but I want to apply that culture to improve the world. 

I also like skateboarding, ukulele, and videogames!

What made you decide to be on MasterChef?

I had nothing to lose. I was lost without direction at a time when all my friends were making the next big move of their lives. Being on MasterChef would give me an incredible challenge I could work towards and therefore sustain myself. And it has. MasterChef has revitalized me. 

What has been your favorite part of being on the show so far?

My favorite part so far was the beach team challenge! Whenever I watched MasterChef before, I always thought the team challenge would be awesome. Coming up with a dish and organizing a good team to carry it out seemed so fun, and doing it looked so easy! And I finally got to go out and try it for myself. Turns out, it’s incredibly hard! As you battle quality control, heat exhaustion, and sometimes broken teamwork, you really gain an appreciation for the similarities between a cooking line to the front line of battle.  

What is one thing you want to learn how to cook?

Bread. It’s very hard to learn how to make great bread without having someone show you how the dough is supposed to feel. I think it’s really unique because it’s one of the only cooking things that works like that. And it also brings out so many other bread making carbohydrate laden possibilities, like making pizza! I love pizza. 

What is your signature dish?

I love Chinese food with its saucy garlicky hot stir fry’s and crispy salty meats. I am most proud of my Mapo Tofu, a famously spicy hot tofu dish that for me, is the pinnacle of Chinese flavor. It was invented when the cook accidentally put in way too much pepper, but DGAF’d hard and served it anyways. The presentation needs a lot of work, but in terms of flavor, attitude, it’s all me on that plate baby. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I think everyone should eat bugs! Sure, they might seem a little gross, but when has that ever stopped us before? Try crickets, whole, sautéed with garlic and chili’s. Yum yum yum!

What are you watching on TV these days?

I closely monitor MasterChef fer sure! I am mostly waiting for the new seasons of my favorites this year, Game of thrones and Rick and Morty. 

Anything else you want to tell America?

Embrace your weaknesses and recognize them as strengths. Never stop dreaming, never stop planning, and never stop doing. Opportunities are not given, but like risks, they are taken. Learn how to cook and don’t be afraid of a little rot! That usually costs extra anyways! Finally, call your mom.

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