Osso bucco to bibimbap: Chester cook vies for ‘Master Chef’ slot

By Cynthia Prairie
©2015 –  Telegraph Publishing LLC

Christine Anderson with her favorite kitchen tool, a chinois used mostly to make sauces. Photos by Cynthia Prairie except where noted.

Christine Anderson with her favorite kitchen tool, a chinois used mostly to make sauces. Photos by Cynthia Prairie except where noted.

She was hoping her osso bucco with white bean puree was good enough. As she walked toward the Doubletree Suites in Times Square carrying her dish on that early October Saturday, Christine Anderson of Chester was set on winning a spot on season seven of Master Chef.

As of today, she’s made it through two New York auditions — the tasting and an interview — and is waiting, hoping to get a callback by Nov. 1.

That will signal that she is one of the few chosen out of thousands auditioning throughout the country. If she gets that callback, she’ll fly to Los Angeles for more grueling tryouts and a better shot at being on the show, which could mean up to eight weeks of a sequestered life cooking all day almost every day, attending cooking classes as well as taping the program.

On a recent Thursday morning, in a lively chat at the Country Girl Diner (She borrowed the diner’s plates for her presentation) Anderson spoke about being a self-trained home-cook who is highly regarded among her friends and family, a fact that prompted her to tryout for Master Chef*.

“No one ever refuses a dinner at my house,” Anderson bubbles. At home, she says, “I cook every meal. And I’ve never cooked separate meals for my kids. No chicken tenders … ”

Daughter Ava's ballet slippers nestle among a few of the cookbooks on Anderson's kitchen shelves.

Daughter Ava’s ballet slippers nestle among a few of the cookbooks on Anderson’s kitchen shelves.

She has about 50 cookbooks spanning cuisines, but lots of Italian books (her maiden name is Marchini, after all) and plenty of Asian books.

She cooks curries and can incorporate coconut and lemongrass easily into her Asian recipes. And the Korean dish bibimbap is a family favorite, which made it a breeze when the Master Chef interviewers held up photos of dishes that they asked auditioners to identify. Everyone else, Anderson said, looked stumped. And when she answered, the interviewers looked surprised.

Anderson also loves to bake but can’t do so without a recipe. And she actually didn’t start cooking until she got to college. Growing up, “my mother wouldn’t let me cook in her kitchen, so I watched.” It’s the same with her children. While they might not cook with mom, they do love her food.

My kids (10-year-old William and 8-year-old Ava) and my husband (Michael) pushed me to do this. The kids said, ‘Mom, you should put this on Master Chef. You’d win with this.’ ”

Anderson shot this photo of one of her 'test osso bucco.'

Anderson shot this photo of one of her ‘test osso buccos.’

Anderson isn’t a stranger to cooking competitions. She has already been through two local Taste of Vermont culinary competitions sponsored by the Stratton Foundation, placing second in one.

Her biggest stumbling block in the Master Chef competition, Anderson says, may be that she doesn’t want a culinary career, which is the allure of the competition for so many.

Even so, if she makes it, she’ll give it her best. “I’d love the exposure to help women who feel that they can’t cook, don’t have the time to cook or don’t cook  for family on a regular basis. … (I’d love to) bring more education and share my story, let people know that you don’t have to be a fancy chef to prepare a great meal.”

Asked what type of contestant she’d be, Anderson says she definitely isn’t the “I didn’t come here to make friends” type. “I’m not a drama person. I’m a friend-maker,” she smiles.

*Each season Master Chef, a Fox reality show, searches the country for talented home cooks and semi-professionals. It begins with a group of 18 or so, and for eight weeks, pits them against cooking and baking challenges — and each other — whittling the group down to a two-person finale. The winner is awarded $250,000, a cookbook deal and the Master Chef award. Three judges — noted British foul-mouth and Michelin star rated chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsey, chef Graham Elliot and baking whiz Christina Tosi — decide a contestant’s fate on each show.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Laura Thomas says:

    That is awesome Christine. Go for it! I’m rooting for you.