MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestants Sarah, Nick and Dorian in the "The Finale, Parts 1 and 2” special two-hour season finale episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Sept. 18 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/FOX.
There must be something famous in the water in Cartersville, Ga. This small town has been home to the likes of actress Chloe Grace Moretz, Clemson football star Trevor Lawrence, Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Bob Burns and actor Wayne Knight.
Now, they can add a MasterChef to that list.
Dorian Hunter, a Cartersville native, just took home the trophy for the tenth season of MasterChef. Hunter lives in Cartersville with her husband and two kids, and until this competition, worked as a creeler at Shaw Industries.
The competition was intense but Hunter triumphed as she impressed judges Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sanchez and Joe Bastianich. After her historic win, Hunter graciously agreed to share her experience with us.
The start of the journey for Hunter was not easy. “When I first auditioned,” she recalls, “I was in a crazy space. I was dealing with the passing of my mom, and I was trying to buy a house at the time. There was just a lot going on. Cooking has always been something that I have tried to do in the past, but I was not making any money and ended up giving away most of the things that I was cooking just trying to get people to notice me.”
Many can relate to the struggle of making their passion into a career and for Hunter, there was not much else she could do to reach her dreams. “MasterChef was my last-ditch effort. I told myself that if this doesn’t happen for me then I am not doing it. I’m just going to settle in to what I have been doing and just be done with it.”
It seems that fate still had a fork in her fight. Thank goodness she gave herself one last shot because she later found herself in the top 20 cooks in the competition.
“Getting that apron was just the beginning. It all paid off in the end. It all started to come into view that this is something that just might happen for me. My husband and I talked and we thought, Okay, you got an apron. Just make it to the top ten. After that, if you get sent home then you’re cool. You did really well. We really had no idea that if I progressed, because of the space that I was in, that I would even have the stamina to last through the competition. But I did and here I am the season 10 winner. It helped with my confidence, it validated me and it made all the bad stuff that I went through in my past almost worth it. I can’t even be mad at it now because it all worked for the good. It was a life changing experience and it has been crazy.”
As a part of her prize package as the new MasterChef, Hunter has the opportunity to visit the kitchens of each of the judges and spend time under their instruction.
During the competition, she was under the scrutiny of Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sanchez, Joe Bastianich, and the entire audience. When watching MasterChef, it is easy to see that the contestants have to make difficult decisions very quickly. So, when asked if she and the other competitors had received any professional instruction during the process, Hunter explains that many of her recipes were derived from her inner inspiration. “I would maybe call it suggestions,” she says. “It is totally up to you to prepare your dishes. They never say you need to do something. You can take their advice or go at it on your own. If I am having what I call a brain lapse and I can’t figure something out, then, of course, the advice is going to come. It is up to the contestants whether they take it or not.
“At the end of the day I am in the competition,” she says, “not the people around me. You get that kind of guidance.”
Not everyone took the advice given but Hunter says, “some of it I had to think through and try to understand. I wanted to do what I wanted to do first. But if that wasn’t working, then why wouldn’t I take the advice of someone more qualified than me? It would make no sense not to. So, that’s the type of guidance that you get and the decisions are always yours.”
One of the questions viewers at home have most often during these kinds of competitions is what happens when the cameras are off and people aren’t “on” anymore?
In this competition, one of the judges has an infamous temper. So, it is no surprise that people want to know what Gordon Ramsay is like when not on camera. Hunter is very complimentary of Ramsay and the other judges.
“The judges, off camera, were extremely nice and they were nice when the cameras were rolling, as far as I’m concerned. If you know anything about the cooking industry, most chefs are passionate about what they do, and sometimes they can come across as arrogant. Sometimes chefs can come across as mean. But, to me, that’s just passion,” Hunter says with a smile. “Also, who doesn’t want to be yelled at by Gordon Ramsay? I mean you almost want to. It is like a badge of honor. You want to get hit in the head with chicken or a piece of meat. You know it’s going to fly, so you go in almost wanting those things to happen to you because you know that you are never going to get that opportunity again. I wanted to make the most of it. So, I feel they were all very nice. They were very informative on and off camera. I listened to what they said and took it all to heart, and it worked.”
The other part of the show’s dynamics is the relationships the contestants have with each other during the ntense cook-off. American reality shows and competition shows have a reputation for drama and MasterChef is no different. Hunter has a very clear view of what her goals in this competition were. So, as far as getting along with her costars – while it was not an issue – was not a priority for her.
“I believe that in this season, versus past seasons, everyone pretty much got along. The thing that I remember is that I didn’t go into this to make friends; I went in to compete. And that’s not saying that I did not make friends, it just means that I had something else on my mind. I have a big village behind me. I am number five of ten siblings. I had a really good support system here in Cartersville to help me with my kids while I was away. So, my thing was that if God put people in my path that I’m supposed to have in my future after this show, then so be it; I am not going to fight it. But if He doesn’t, that is ok. And He did. At the end of the day it was me and Sarah [Faherty], we were the oldest, so our priorities are a little different. Outside of the experience of the competition, I don’t really have a lot in common with the other contestants because I’m a mom, and I was a working mom at the time. So, my responsibilities are different. Everyone got along; everyone was pretty much cordial. There were some hiccups here and there, but nothing that I could say would make me feel differently about my fellow contestants.”
It seems that Hunter’s head was in the game and in the end, it paid off.
When she took the trophy, it was a huge moment for MasterChef. Not only is the oldest person to ever win MasterChef at 45, but she is also the very first African American woman to take the title. Social media platforms have been raving about this moment and Hunter has noticed the impact that she has had.
“The further into the competition you get, the more you start to think of those kind of things. It is funny to me that people always point that out. It is good to see people inspired by what I was able to accomplish. And the confidence in knowing that no matter the color of your skin and no matter how old you are that success is always possible is a great gift to give to others. Don’t allow anything to hinder you from trying. If you fail, that is okay; just don’t stop trying.
Going into this competition,” she continues, “I wasn’t thinking that I was going to be the first African American woman to win, I was going in to compete. So, I think that it is great seeing all of the people feel inspired by that. Nothing should ever hold you back. Ignore what the situation looks like and how long it takes. Make sure it happens, that is all that matters. There are a lot of firsts with me, but I am focusing on urging people to just try. When you don’t see faces that look like yours, just try.”
Because she tried, life after MasterChef will never be the same for her and her family and she’s already beginning to see the change.
Hunter was filming MasterChef for a little under three months and then had to come home with a huge secret. “Since we taped the show, we came right back home to life as usual. You have this big thing happening, and the next thing that happens is that you can’t really say anything about it. You just have to go on and take the kids to school and cook dinner. I’ve been making French fries and hot dogs because my kids don’t eat ‘froo-froo’ (fancy) food. But knowing that something is about to happen, like your life is actually about to change in a couple of months and you just have to wait for that time is very hard to hold in.”
Well, the time has come for her to share her news with the world and Hunter has a plethora of possibilities in front of her.
After receiving the title, Hunter won $250,000, the aforementioned time with the judges and a brand new kitchen. She is taking it all in and experiencing what life as a MasterChef is like. “At first I was just floored by the new kitchen. But I am just so excited about going into award-winning restaurants with these talented chefs and just soaking up all the knowledge that I can. The money is great, but it’s not enough for me to consider retiring. I will still have to work but the title, I hope, will last me a lifetime. I am always going to carry it. I am excited for the opportunity and what this title is going to mean for my family. It’s just a huge blessing. I am also excited about meeting new people. I have this lady that’s constantly on my social media. She is always on my live streams and she’s from the Philippines. I would have never thought in a million years that I would be talking to someone on regular basis who is from the Philippines.”
With the whole world before her, some of her fans are wondering if she’s going to use that hard-won title to open up a restaurant in her community. She says, “I’m not sure about where the restaurant would be just yet. It would take a lot of research and thought to see if that would be feasible. It would be nice to have one in Cartersville, because right now we don’t have a high end restaurant here. So, it’s definitely a possibility but nothing is etched in stone.”
And she’s right; while Cartersville has a broad variety of amazing cuisine, it has very few truly “fancy” restaurants. She continues, “if the people of Cartersville are willing to welcome it then I am willing to open one or two.”
Her future is still very much undecided and she tells us candidly that she is just trying to get control her new-found stardom. “We are trying to wrap our brains around everything that has happened.”
And indeed, a lot has happened and it has had a huge impact on Cartersville, as well. “To be honest I really haven’t been out too much. When I do go out the response from my community has all been very positive, no real problems. I never say no to a picture, a handshake or a hug. I think that you are never too famous for that and I know that for Cartersville that this is a big deal. Everyone has been very nice and very supportive.”
In response to the outpouring from her Cartersville community, Hunter says, “Thank you for all of your support. People were asking questions like, ‘Who is this lady?’ I wasn’t born or raised here and it’s such a small town where everyone knows your name. I just want to say thank you to Cartersville for supporting me without really knowing who I am. They really rallied behind me and I am just grateful and thankful.”
Maybe there is something about Cartersville that draws in amazingly talented people or maybe they are just super lucky to have a community that supports each other with everything they have. Whatever it may be, the one thing that is certain is that the Cartersville community is proud and very excited about having a MasterChef in their midst.
Keep an eye on this community and, while you’re at it, keep an eye out for Dorian Hunter. This MasterChef is going to change the ways of the world, one plate at a time.