The MasterChef in My Kitchen

Have you ever watched MasterChef Junior? It’s like The Hunger Games and The Food Network put together minus the killing. Anyway, I can’t get through a MasterChef Junior episode without weeping — I just get so sad when those kids cry! Which is why I was glad that we moved on to MasterChef Season 4. And why my kids talk like Gordon Ramsay at dinner every night. I think we watched the whole season within a couple of weeks.

Several of the contestants on Season 4 were from San Diego. One day, when I was driving on the highway, I could have sworn I saw Lynn — one of the top 10 contenders — in his car. When I got home I told the kids and they squealed like little girls (ok, they are little girls) and peppered me with questions about the encounter (which, I remind you, was just me thinking I saw someone who was maybe potentially him on the highway, for which “encounter” is a strong word).

My older girl’s birthday was coming up, and I didn’t have any good ideas on what to do. She’s always been really easy and low-maintenance, and I wanted to do something special for her. So I had an idea…if she was so excited about me maybe possibly seeing Lynn on the highway, what if he showed up at our door? He always seemed super nice and level-headed on the show, and also, I wanted to eat his plates.

Leveraging the internet as the superb stalking tool it is meant to be, I found his contact information and emailed him my unusual request. I didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks and figured he put me in the Scary folder of his Inbox, but one day he did respond — and he said he would do it! I emailed him pictures of the girls and we arranged for him to show up at our house for my daughter’s birthday to teach her and her sister to cook a few dishes.

A few weeks later, while we were on our spring break staycation, we went to D Bar in Hillcrest for dessert.

I had this Poco Coco Loco, which was a panna cotta topped with a layer of tapioca, with a passion fruit compote, a passion fruit cloud and a macaroon. I might have shed a joyful tear in between bites.

Now, I knew from my online (let’s call them “research”) skills that Lynn had taken some of the photos on the D Bar website, and since he was due to show up to our house in a few weeks and since it had been some time since we had finished watching Season 4, I wanted to be sure the girls remembered him when he came over. So I asked, “Do you know who took the photos for the D Bar website?…Lynn! From MasterChef!”

The girls started whispering and giggling and then my younger one said, “And he’s right over there!!!”

And he was.

Which made me look like a total stalker.

After a few false starts my older daughter finally got up the guts to go talk to him, and he recognized her from the photos and said, “Oh hiiiiii….”. He turned to me and said, “Sandi, right?” at which point I could only wave like a girl on a parade float awkwardly trying to figure out how to keep this all a surprise for a few weeks later.

“Mom, do you know him?!?” daughter #2 asked, at which point I said, “No! Of course not!”

“Oooooh, I get it,” she said, “He recognizes you from the car!”

Ri-i-i-i-i-ght, I said, from the car! Because how could you not remember me if I maybe possibly saw you on the highway, right?

As it turns out, Lynn was with Shaun, another MasterChef contestant, who also happens to be a magician (and was in town for a magic convention)! So I guess you could say it was quite a magical evening as we were regaled with wizardry and sleight of hand. Lynn was delightful and answered all our incessant questions about his MasterChef experience and gave us tips on how to make macaroons.

The next day, of course, was spent watching MasterChef Season 4 episodes all over again.

Fast forward a few weeks to the birthday weekend. 2 PM, the doorbell rings, and we ask the birthday girl to open the door.

Lynn was perfectly charming with the kids and brought some amazing ingredients from Specialty Produce, like these beautiful basil flowers:

He got them started on prepping parsnips and taught them some proper knife skills.

They made a vinaigrette:

and learned the best way to juice a lemon to prevent the seeds from falling in:

They tasted as they went along:

and plated:

Here’s what they cooked up: first, a lovely heirloom tomato salad with red onion, basil and basil flower:

A side of roasted cauliflower:

And a rack of lamb, which was seared…

…then baked and served atop a parsnip puree, garnished with chive flower, alongside the colorful cauliflower and purple carrot medley:

And let me tell you, that lamb. I would fight you for that lamb.

Dessert was a mascarpone sorbet with raspberry coulis and coconut flakes:

I’m sorry it’s not totally in focus. I was concentrating on not eating it long enough to take the picture. Can you say so creamy that you want to die (in a good way)?

And as I licked the sorbet bowl clean while nobody was looking, Lynn packed up his knives and was off to his next gig…something involving sous-vide and a beer pairing for 50 people. Like a short rib-bearing Santa Claus. Thanks Lynn!

14 Comments

  • Sandora
    April 27, 2014 - 4:54 PM | Permalink

    That is sooooo awesome! Can you be my mom too? Happy birthday to A!

    • April 27, 2014 - 6:14 PM | Permalink

      Thanks San-do-ra! I think your mom has more fortitude than I do…you’re better off staying put. I have to do something this year to keep pace with the excitement of the Jiro experience!

  • Krzysztof Adamczewski
    April 27, 2014 - 5:49 PM | Permalink

    I was there too. It was scrumptious.

    • April 27, 2014 - 6:16 PM | Permalink

      Yes, thank you for adding a Polish influence to our meal! :)

  • Abdul
    April 27, 2014 - 7:27 PM | Permalink

    Awesome!

  • Amy Hsiao
    April 27, 2014 - 9:03 PM | Permalink

    What an awesome birthday celebration for Amelia!! You are SUCH an awesome mom! Wish we could have been there to fight you for the lamb!!

    • April 28, 2014 - 11:07 AM | Permalink

      Ha, Amy, we can fight over it later! If we can replicate it again…

  • April 28, 2014 - 8:29 AM | Permalink

    Oh my gosh what an amazing experience! TV-personality or not, having a chef of that caliber COME OVER and cook and teach and then feed the family must have been just delightful :) What a kind fellow to do that for your daughter’s birthday! GAH! Way cooler than Curtis Stone, if I do say so myself… especially because you knew he was coming over 😉 That cauliflower is gorgeous! Master Chef is one of the only things that makes me regret not having television! That and Gordon, of course :)

    • April 28, 2014 - 11:07 AM | Permalink

      Sophie, it was such a lovely time and he was so super nice and sweet! I also learned a lot about some places in town to get meat and produce that I can’t wait to visit. All the produce was so beautiful…and we are terrible TV watchers. We used to joke that our TV was used only for decor because we never turned it on…and we watched MasterChef on YouTube! But at least we used the TV screen. Hope you’re enjoying the Oregon spring…a friend has posted pics of the magnolias and dogwoods and I am dying of envy :).

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  • Connie
    March 24, 2015 - 12:18 AM | Permalink

    Your story/writing was hilarious and so sweet. I was cracking up at the restaurant scene.

    • March 24, 2015 - 7:20 AM | Permalink

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Connie! That experience was definitely one of our most memorable ones! :)

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