A talented home chef from San Diego County brought home the title of “MasterChef” Wednesday night on the finale of the hit TV cooking competition starring Gordon Ramsay.
The Fox television show – which pits amateur home chefs against one another in a series of challenges in front of culinary experts-turned-judges – crowned La Mesa resident Claudia Sandoval its winner on Sept. 16.
Like seasons past, the “MasterChef” winner walked away with several prizes, including $250,000, a deal to pen her own cookbook and the coveted “MasterChef” trophy.
Following her big win, Sandoval sent posted this message, in Spanish, to her Twitter feed:
"En la vida nada es dado, se es merecido. Con empeño, corazón, y mucho desempeño todo se puede."
The post translates to: "In life, nothing is given, it is earned. With hard work, heart and fulfilling [your goals], everything is possible."
Sandoval's victory tweet was accompanied with a sweet photograph of her and her daughter, both smiling ear to ear.
Sandoval currently chronicles her cooking journey – including recipes – on her website, Chef Claudia’s Cocina. According to her biography online, the local resident has a 9-year-old daughter and previously worked as an events manager at a San Diego-based marketing agency.
When she’s not whipping up tasty dishes in the kitchen, she writes a blog called “The Adventures of a Single Latina Mama.”
In an interview posted on the "MasterChef" website, Sandoval says her biggest culinary inspiration is her mother. Sandoval says she admires her mother’s zest for experimenting with flavors as well as reinventing traditional flavors. She also says she’s inspired by professional chef Enrique Olvera.
Sandoval’s favorite comfort food, according to the website, is her mom’s menudo -- a traditional, spicy, Mexican soup typically made with tripe.
“This meal reminds me of my childhood, and more importantly, reminds me of stormy weekend mornings when the windows were foggy because of the warmth inside our house,” Sandoval says in the online interview.
The contestant says that if she had to pick her last meal on earth, she would go with another classic Mexican dish prepared by her mother: tostadas. Sandoval touts the “texture, spice and the perfect balance of salt and acidity” in that dish.
Other ingredients she can’t live without include rice, beans and corn, which she knows how to cook "in about 20 different ways."
According to the MasterChef website, Sandoval says the best culinary advice she’s ever received came from the TV show’s very own judge and chef, Graham Elliot.
“He told me to stick to what I know and trust my instinct. He reminded me that my style is nothing like anyone else’s and trying to be like someone else means, you aren’t being true to your food. I want to cook Claudia food… not Graham Elliot food,” Sandoval said.