Sheetal Bhagat—local amateur chef and singer—is in the finals of the popular TV show “MasterChef” that stars Gordon Ramsey as the advisor and critic of the aspiring foodies.
The show’s concept is familiar, aspiring home cooks compete against each other in a series of cooking challenges and each week, one unlucky culinary want-to-be is sent home as punishment for overcooked fish or odd combinations from the “mystery box.”
“I can’t believe I made it this far,” says Bhagat. We spoke last week after she made it into the final four. “Some of the challenges were just so hard. They definitely forced me out of my comfort zone.”
In last week’s show, Bhagat had to fish—literally—for her entree, then clean, filet and cook it. Sounds hard, but she excelled. Her most nerve-wracking moment was being in the bottom two of a dessert competition when her sponge cake was an undercooked, runny mess. It’s those nail-biting moments that keep viewers hooked, hoping their favorite’s vanilla-infused cream is good enough to keep her in the running for the first-place prize of $250,000 and cookbook publishing deal.
Bhagat has already filmed the finale and is sworn to secrecy over the outcome, but she was happy to dish on how the series has gone so far.
“I flew to Los Angeles to cook my signature dish for Gordon Ramsey, and if he liked it, I was in. If not, I’d be sent home,” she says about the tryout. She was willing to put her singing career on hold—she’s a concert singer and also teaches voice at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. She packed hoping to be gone for 6 weeks. Her chicken tikka masala was a hit and she did indeed need everything in her 2 suitcases.
The series revolves around the volatile personality of Gordon Ramsey, known for his expletive-laced lashings on Hell’s Kitchen. “His role on this show is to be more nurturing, it’s all about taking a talented amateur chef and teaching her to take it to the next level,” says Bhagat. Another judge is Chicago favorite Graham Elliot, who also tastes and opines on each contestant’s dish.
Next week, like every week since the series started, Bhagat will be having a party to watch the show. Tune in to see if this local favorite can beat out the three other contestants to become the first MasterChef. The show is Wednesday, 7 p.m. on FOX.