I’m Going To Tell You The Biggest Secret About Competing On MasterChef

You’ve probably suspected it all along.

Elizabeth Cauvel


The top 3 competitors of MasterChef season 5, from left: Courtney Lapresi, Leslie Gilliams, and the author.

It’s been almost six years since my season of MasterChef aired (season five, 2014). My post-show non-compete contract expired three years ago. While I’m not supposed to talk about certain aspects of what goes on behind the scenes, I’m under no legal obligation *not to.*

And, after spending the past 6 years reflecting on what it feels like to have strangers on the internet discuss my “resting middle aged bitch face,” I’m finally *emotionally prepared* to write about the show. So here goes.

If you ever decide to go on reality TV, know that people you’ll never meet will discuss your face.

Have you ever watched an episode of MasterChef and thought to yourself, “How do all these amateur cooks just know how to make a [highly specific and frequently obscure dish unfamiliar to most non-professional chefs]?” Like doughnuts. Or shrimp tempura. Or a croquembouche (even the most ambitious home cook would likely never attempt a multi-tiered cone of cream puffs encased in cobwebs of spun sugar).

The answer is: they teach us.

That’s it. That was the big reveal.

If you were hoping for lurid tales of cast member hookups or off-camera cat fights, sorry (and the best fights were televised, anyway). As for juicy trysts…well, there are some secrets I’ll take to the grave.

Did you really think 20-some-odd home cooks chosen mostly for their personalities and willingness to throw other competitors under the bus would all just *happen* to know how to make doughnuts from scratch? MasterChef contestants are regular people, just like you. No one makes doughnuts at home! Everyone outsources! We all pick up a dozen at Dunkin!

Think about it: if you’re running a TV show, and the premise of the show is that the competitors are the “best home cooks in America,” wouldn’t it make sense to have them mostly succeed? The day we all had to make doughnuts (Episode 4), we had spent the prior weekend…learning how to make doughnuts. It’s not terribly complicated, but there’s still a lot of room for error if you measure ingredients…



Elizabeth Cauvel

I’m a west coast-based creative director at New York-based ad agency MRY, and the season 5 Masterchef runner-up. I love mayonnaise, yoga, cats, and pizza.