Interviews
Register
MASTERCHEF: MEET JASONMASTERCHEF
MEET JASON
By Sammi Turano


Tell me about yourself.


I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and am currently a professional musician, chef, food lover and educator in the Greater Boston area! I teach high school music at Newton South High School where I conduct the Orchestra, co-direct the Symphonic Band & Gospel Choir, and teach Ukulele. When I’m not teaching music, I perform as a classical vocalist in the Boston area— I sing tenor. I’ve performed literature from Early Music to contemporary works with professional ensembles such as Odyssey Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Emmanuel Music, the Handel & Haydn Society and five-time Grammy-nominated Boston Baroque.




My parents were born in China but grew up in Taiwan and they moved to the US for graduate school. I was born in the US and grew up in New England and had the good fortune of having both sets of grandparents living with me at various points during my childhood. We ate the most extravagant and bountiful meals you could ever imagine — it left such a lasting memory for me to this day! On the food side of things, I’ve been a cooking instructor of Asian cuisines for a few years at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in Harvard Square and have done Farm-to-Table and Pop-Up dinner events and classes at restaurants from across the Midwest to Boston! At the heart of it all, I love teaching people about food, whether it be through a class or in a meal where I give the diner a taste of something new — it makes me so excited.




What made you decide to audition for MasterChef?

I have always been fascinated with cooking and food culture and eating delicious things. Over the years I’ve traveled to many countries like Australia, Japan, Poland, Italy, and Spain among others and have tasted many regional styles of food and have seen how people utilize special local and seasonal ingredients. I have always considered myself very knowledgeable about food and cooking, so when I saw that auditions were being held in Boston, I had to go for the chance to see how my cooking skills stacked up against other untrained cooks! It never occurred to me that I would actually make it on the show and would eventually get to meet and cook for Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sánchez, and Christina Tosi. Oh my goodness!




What are some highlights from the experience?

First and foremost, getting to meet cooks from all over the United States who all share an incredible passion for food was one of the greatest gifts from this experience. For example, I can now call Lesci in Louisiana for some details on New Orleans style dishes, or Yachecia if I want some tips on to-die-for Soul Food, and My-Hanh in Seattle for Vietnamese-inspired recipes with a Pacific Northwest flair… The list goes on and on! For someone who treats food as a way to show care, I feel filled to the brim with love from all my extended MasterChef family across the US. Of course getting to work under the eye of the outstanding judges, Chefs Gordon, Christina, & Aáron was also a major highlight of the experience. They are so seasoned and knowledgable in their respective food areas that I scooped up every single word of their advice like gold nuggets — even when I was getting yelled at! Lastly I will never forget when I won the Seafood Mystery Box Challenge and Chef Ramsay said he wouldn’t change a thing about it and said to me, “I f**ken LOVE you.” I nearly died! 




What were some of your biggest challenges? 

Since I always have so many ideas in my head, my biggest challenge in the MasterChef kitchen was learning how to edit and focus that creativity. Many times when challenges were announced, I had thoughts for elaborate dishes with multiple components that I wanted to execute, but I had to think quickly how to translate those flavors and techniques into a dish that would be doable in the allotted time period. Also, less is often more — if you think of classic food pairings, sometimes the most simple ones are the most satisfying and enduring: ripe summer tomatoes with milky-fresh mozzarella, perfumed basil, and fruity olive oil, or the freshest sea bass steamed with fragrant ginger and scallions a drizzle of nutty sesame oil and silky-rich soy sauce. So there is something to be said for simplicity on a plate and that was always my challenge. I wonder if viewers notice that I am usually the one running out of the MasterChef pantry with the most ingredients and usually two full baskets! Chef Ramsay would always remind me: “young man… why so many ingredients? You just need to make ONE portion… ONE dish!" I had so many ideas!




What is your signature dish?

My signature dish would have to be either seafood or dessert. Growing up in the New England area, I have a particular love for shellfish; I could eat clams, mussels, scallops, oysters, shrimp, crab, and lobster ALL day long. I love fresh calamari and octopus too. I remember for my eleventh birthday my mom took me to a fancy hotel seafood buffet. My mom made me stop eating after downing sixteen oysters on the half shell because she thought I might get sick. I could have kept going on and on! Most often, going along with my Chinese-American upbringing, I’m used to infusing Asian flavors into my dishes to create a New England Asian fusion creation. I also try to draw on references to the foods I have had during my travels abroad.




I think viewers were surprised to find out that I have a very strong dessert and pastry background. It definitely got showcased during the Nutella Mystery Box Challenge when I made the winning Nutella Hazelnut Torte with Blood Orange Caramel Sauce and Blood Orange Chip. If I had to pick a signature dessert, though, it would be frozen meringues with homemade gelato or sorbet. On the show we couldn’t make frozen desserts since they wouldn’t hold up for filming, but absolutely one of my specialties is ice cream. Some of my signature flavors are home-grown golden raspberry, coriander blueberry, osmanthus peach, and ricotta buckwheat honey. I have an amazing Italian gelato machine that I’ve had for years; it’s my favorite kitchen appliance. I’m hoping that fans will get to try my gelato and sorbet creations one day! I might even call a business ‘Jangy’s Frozen Delights’!




What is one dish you want to learn how to make?

I have always wanted to explore the techniques of molecular gastronomy— like how to spherify liquids and turn them into ‘caviar’ and things like that. I have this awesome idea of making a dessert dish that is a sweet play on blini and caviar! But especially given the time limitations in the MasterChef kitchen, you really have to stick to cooking techniques that can be completed in a relatively short time span. So, no long braises, or slow-cooked roasts, or breads that take time to rise, etc.




What would people be surprised to know about you?

I studied plant sciences/plant pathology and eventually music as an undergraduate at Cornell University. I have a big green thumb. I love to grow many of the herbs and vegetables that I use for flavoring and garnishes in my cooking. Furthermore, I love to go forage for wild edible plants and fruits and mushrooms that I can incorporate into my dishes; who can pass up free food! Also, I can accurately identify at least twenty varieties of heirloom and hybrid apples; apples are a favorite fall fruit for me, especially going to school in upstate New York! Lastly, being a classical/opera singer, I wanted to know what the heck I was singing about, so I speak five languages: Mandarin, French, Italian, German, and English.




What are you watching on TV these days?

Sadly, between teaching high school, performance engagements, and all the food-related events, classes, and other opportunities coming up, I hardly have time to do my dishes let alone watch television! But, I might sneak in an episode of ‘Chef’s Table’ here and there… AND, I realize that the new season of American Horror Story has been airing! I love horror shows and movies, but usually no one will watch with me! I think the anxiety and nervous feeling of watching that genre makes me feel right at home since it’s the same feeling as the regular pressure of singing for large audiences and… that feeling also puts me right back in some of the challenges in the MasterChef kitchen! 




Anything else you want to tell America?

I am so thankful for all the love from the viewers of the show and on behalf of all the contestants, express my gratitude for everyone’s support. I think the story and journey of each contestant speaks to the different experiences of people watching and that’s the power of food to bring together a community! I am also aware that since MasterChef is a television show, that the moment we are broadcast to through to millions of homes, all of us chefs become characters. It’s natural to have characters you love and others you hate, but I hope that viewers also realize that we are real-life people too. We are someone’s brother, or someone’s child, someone's spouse, or someone’s parent, etc. and I think it gets very easy to bash and put people down without realizing that there is impact to the words we put out there.




As a teacher, it saddens me to see folks writing unnecessarily nasty comments on social media about some of the contestants. These are people who gave up jobs and left families behind to try this crazy thing called MasterChef; some of them may have stumbled in the competition, but they don’t deserve to be degraded like that. In my classes, I try to instill in students a sense of compassion and kindness for others. That doesn’t mean I’m against any verbal jabs and criticisms, but let’s try to remember that how we interact with others sets the tone and example for the younger generation. I hope we can treat each other with respect even despite having differences of preferences and opinions.




Again, as an educator and foodie, I get so excited when I am able to teach people about new ingredients and how to prepare them. Some of that excitement is why I’m always saying “THIS IS CRAZY” and “OH MY GOD” on the episodes of MasterChef. I am just truly that passionate about my food and getting to share it with others! There is something so personal about cooking for people, so it’s my goal to spread love through food.




I’m looking forward to traveling around the the US, hosting classes, and meeting people who are curious about unfamiliar foods and techniques. In the spirit of education, I’ll will also be posting material to my Instagram (www.instagram.com/jasonjangywang) and other media accounts (FB/Twitter @jasonjangywang) so I hope folks will stay tuned and get ready to learn from me! Since it's fall season, I could go on forever about wild mushrooms or apples alone and the various ways to prepare them! At the heart of it, I want people to be able to acquire more knowledge about food so they can cook for themselves and others and share the joy that I have received from food all my life!

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

0
Your comments are subject to administrator's moderation.
terms and condition.

People in this conversation

  • Audrey Sager

    Hi Jason: I have been watching you on Master Chef since the beginning and am really impressed!!!! You are so talented. A group of us are going to a WATCH PARTY this Wednesday to cheer you on. You really do deserve it. Audrey

    Short URL:

Login

Big Brother 19

Feed Display

Welcome to TV Grapevine

TV, Grapevine, Reality TV Spoilers, Updates, and News Network: all the best spoilers for Big Brother, Survivor, The Voice, Amazing Race, Sing off, Dancing with the Stars, for abc, cbs, fox, nbc