This week's guests give us the scoop on the popular cooking competition.
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chefs dorian hunter and joe bastianich
Credit: Allrecipes Illustration

Now airing its eleventh season, MasterChef has kicked off the careers of the home cooks and amateur chefs who have endured the TV competition's intensive tests and challenges week after week. Among the chefs who handled the heat till the end is Dorian Hunter, winner of season 10 and one of the Homemade podcast's guests on this special MasterChef episode. Before we hear from Dorian, restaurateur and author Joe Bastianich dishes on MasterChef from a judge's perspective, including how the series has influenced cooking and "foodie-ism" in the United States.

In conversations with both guests, host Martie Duncan nods to the influence that growing up in cooking households had on their careers. Joe not only learned from his mother — Italian chef, author, and TV personality Lidia Bastianich — but also works with her in helming their restaurants and vineyard. Meanwhile, Dorian credits her MasterChef success to her mother, who enlisted her help in the kitchen at just 12 years old and whose kitchen wisdom has guided her ever since. Tune in to hear about her background, her advice for holiday cooking, and tips for home cooks who are struggling with baking. Listen to this episode of Homemade on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPlayerFM, and everywhere podcasts are available beginning August 11.

Joe Bastianich headshot
Credit: FOX

About Joe Bastianich

Restaurateur, winemaker, author, and television personality Joe Bastianich grew up well acquainted with the restaurant world as the son of Lidia Bastianich, working at her Manhattan restaurant Felidia before studying at Boston College. Joe opened his first restaurant with his mother in 1993 and a second restaurant with Mario Batali in 1998. He went on to open and co-own several more restaurants in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to judging MasterChef and MasterChef Junior, Bastianich has authored the New York Times Best Seller Restaurant Man, Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy, and Grandi Vini: An Opinionated Tour of Italy's 89 Finest Wines. He resides in New York City with his wife and three children.

About Dorian Hunter

Originally from Ohio, Dorian Hunter learned to cook under her parents in their home kitchen. She earned an Associates Degree of Science and a Le Courdon Bleu certification in Culinary Arts from McIntosh College in New Hampshire. Dorian competed in and won season 10 of MasterChef in 2019, being the oldest contestant (at 45) and first African American woman to hold the title. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children.

Episode Transcript

MARTIE: Welcome to Homemade, I'm Martie Duncan. Homemade is all about home cooking and the stories behind our favorite recipes. I got my own start in television on a competition cooking show, and I've always been a big fan of FOX's MasterChef because that one is all about home cooks — it's hosted by Chef Gordon Ramsay. When you watch it, you can learn tips you can apply to your own cooking and that's going to help you become more fearless in the kitchen. A new season of MasterChef is airing right now and it's so good. MasterChef: Legends includes Emeril Lagasse, Nancy Silverton, and Chef Morimoto, and others as judges this season. 

Later on I have the reigning MasterChef champion Dorian Hunter on with me to talk about her experiences on the show, including some behind the scenes info and secrets about Chef Ramsey — so you're going to want to stay tuned for that. 

But up first is author, winemaker, and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. Joe owns an Italian vineyard and restaurants around the world, including one of my favorites Eataly. You probably know him best as one of the toughest judges on MasterChef. 

As Joe is really on the move these days, I was lucky enough to catch up with him recently in New York Central Park. He was on his way to catch a flight to his vineyard in Italy, so it might be just a little bit noisy. But please join me in welcoming MasterChef judge Joe Bastianich to Homemade. Welcome Joe!

JOE: Hi! 

MARTIE: How are you? 

JOE: Excellent. 

MARTIE: Wonderful. Well, you're in the middle of MasterChef right now. 

JOE: Yup. 

MARTIE: How in the world did you get involved with the program? How did it start for you?

JOE: It started in the beginning, right? Gordon was a friend of mine and he called me one day, 12 years ago, and said, 'I'm doing this program. I want you to come out and see what we look like on screen together.' So I flew out to LA, we did a screen test, and that's how it all began.

MARTIE: So you, along with your mom, and we should say your mother is the one and only incredible Lidia Bastianich and everybody...

JOE: Yes. 

MARTIE: Everybody's favorite Italian cook. Y'all own a bunch of restaurants, like 30 restaurants, something like that. 

JOE: Yeah, lots of restaurants, Eataly, stores, we make wine. A bunch of different stuff.

MARTIE: Winemakers, you have a vineyard. 

JOE: Yup. 

MARTIE: So your perspective coming into MasterChef was that of restaurateur. How do you find it working with home cooks?

JOE: Well, you know, sometimes we're not only judges, we're also kind of coaches and mentors. So with home cooks, you bring your experience to bear, you give them some tough love. But you also try to, like, impart all the knowledge, you know, that you have after being in the industry so many years and give them the tricks of the trade and how to zip up your cooking game because, you know, the best contestants are the ones who really listen and take direction. So it's always a give and take between judge and contestant.

MARTIE: I did a competition cooking show back a few years ago, Joe, and I know what you just said is absolutely true. The judges always like the contestants who will take their advice on board and then try to execute and implement what they've been told.

JOE: Right. 

MARTIE: As opposed to the ones who think they know everything.

JOE: Well, those are the ones who will go the furthest. The know-it-alls — a truly know-it-all excellent cook is very rare. Happens, but very rare. 

MARTIE: That's true. And you just got back from Italy. 

JOE: I just did. And I'm going back tomorrow.

MARTIE: All right. So, do you need somebody to carry your luggage? Because I want to go. So tell me where you're going and what will you do on your trips to Italy? You have, you have a vineyard. Is it in Italy?

JOE: I have a vineyard. Yeah. And so the vineyard is where my family's from in northeastern Italy, near Venice. So I'm going there to do a bit of the wine business. And then I also do MasterChef in Italy. So I'm going there for a bit of MasterChef work. So a little fun, a little pleasure.

MARTIE: Oh, so you, you work out in the MasterChef series in Italy.

JOE: As well, for nine years now. Yeah.

MARTIE: Wow. How wonderful. All right. So tell me what you think about the current season. Are you always surprised when you meet the chefs? 

JOE: We're really a food first show. There's a variety of contestants of all walks of life. If everyone were the same, it would be boring. But I think that truly to succeed in MasterChef — and this is the season of legends. So every episode we have like a legendary cook, like Paula Deen, Morimoto, Curtis Stone. So the level is really high, the expectations high, and some of these young home cooks — and some of them not so young — it's also about being able to handle the pressure.

MARTIE: Right.

JOE: You know, it's all very serious. The time, the ingredients, the mystery boxes, the invention test, it creates a lot of pressure. So you have to be able to cook and you have to be able to cook under pressure. 

MARTIE: Now, you know what the box is. Do you sort of have an expectation of what these things are going to be when they come out of the kitchens or are you always pleasantly surprised?

JOE: Well, you know, we create the boxes or the mysteries with certain dishes in mind. Sometimes they're more obvious, sometimes they're less. But just between me and you, the biggest shortcoming, in my 27 seasons of MasterChef that I've done, is that people or home cooks' expectation of what they can execute generally is much more ambitious than their ability.

MARTIE: No doubt.

JOE: So it becomes a series of compromises. And that's the problem. I always tell them shoot lower, do what you know how to do, execute the plate completely rather than trying to blow us away and, and giving us half a dish. 

MARTIE: So true, the simplest of things are often the best of things.

JOE: For sure. And you have to be able to actually execute the technique that you're proposing. 

MARTIE: Right. 

JOE: With that being said, you know, some people hit it out of the park sometimes. You never know. 

MARTIE: Who's been the person that hit it out of the park that's been most memorable for you?

JOE: Oh my God. Some of our winners really, I mean, I think season three or four Luca [Manfè], who is an Italian fella, that guy was cooking restaurant level dishes. Or Christine Ha, who won, who was blind — amazing Vietnamese cook. So some of the people through the years have really been memorable. I mean, it's over a decade of food in America, you know, that show in a lot of ways kind of like shows the evolution of foodie-ism in America. And you see these passionate cooks and like we're talking about regional food and ingredients and techniques that we would have never talked about 12 years ago. So it's just, it's the evolution of, uh, food in America on the screen.

MARTIE: Yes. I couldn't agree more. I've noticed year after year, the techniques are better, the stories are better. Everything that goes with the dish and in its construction, to me, seems to have escalated. I think it's changed the way a lot of America cooks. And I'm always shocked when I do a live show how knowledgeable the viewers are after watching all these seasons of MasterChef. I think it's been a big influence on cooking in America. 

JOE: Well, the rising tide raises all boats and the level is definitely getting higher. Restaurants get better everywhere. You know, used to be the only restaurant in New York, New Orleans and, you know, San Francisco. Now there's great restaurants all over the country and we celebrate regional food and regional ingredients. So it's a wave of foodie-ism that's really overtaken the whole country. 

MARTIE: So, how did you start cooking? I know your mother is one of the most incredible cooks on the planet and has been for much of her life. Did you just immediately go into the kitchen? 

JOE: Truth be told, I'm not even a chef. Right? So like I grew up amongst cooks, my grandmother, my mother. I grew up in a house full of food. I always watched. I know how to cook. I've run restaurants all over the world for 30+ years, so I've never put on the white jacket. I probably could, but I think there's always been too many chefs in my life. So I decided to take another path.

MARTIE: OK, so your path is the business side. You do a lot of the business development? 

JOE: No, not only that. Really the creative part of creating hospitality, creating restaurants, food concepts, beverage programs. I like that part of it. 

MARTIE: When you sit down and the panel on MasterChef do you guys confer or, let's just put it this way, what's the biggest disagreement you and Gordon have ever had on a contestant?

JOE: Oh, we've had lots of disagreements — I mean, like sometimes you just see people in two different ways. You know, it gets to the point where it gets really contentious. I mean, generally we agree on what quality food is in a dish. But there becomes time that maybe you see something in a contestant that goes beyond the dish and you want to believe in that person and that's — you put your personal stake on it. So sometimes we agree to disagree.

MARTIE: That's a great way to put it, too. It's not just your business acumen and your experience. You get behind somebody emotionally, their story, what they're trying to prove, what they're trying to do, and then you kind of buy into that. So, with the legend season, who are you excited about working with? I know you've got Emeril coming in. He's one of my all time favorites.

JOE: Emeril I've known for 30 years. You know, it's just like it's such a treat to get to catch up with them, see them on the stage, taste some food, some new friends, some old friends, some people I've never met before. But it's really all walks of life, true legends, and really amazing opportunity.

MARTIE: So Joe, let's go back to Italy for just a moment. The only place I've been in Italy is Milan. I went for fashion for a wedding, actually, many years ago. But Venice is at the top of my bucket list. I think a lot of people, especially after the pandemic, are really going to act on their bucket list in the next 12, 24 months. They're going to do these things they've been talking about. If we visit Italy, can you tell us a couple of the must see, must do, must experience places in your mind?

JOE: Well, I'll take it from more of a culinary perspective, right? I mean, obviously, you need to go see Florence. You need to see Rome. You need to see Venice. But I would say don't miss the Cinque Terra of Liguria for some of the best fragrant herb olive oil cuisine, seafood cuisine. Don't miss Piedmont, the hills of the Langa for white truffles, mushrooms, great wines, winter food. Don't miss the Amalfi Coast in Naples for the best tomatoes and some of the most heartfelt Italian food. And then Sicily is just a whole other world. 

MARTIE: I can't wait to go. So your vineyard is in the Venice area. Can we find those wines everywhere, Joe? 

JOE: Yeah. You could certainly find them in Eataly, or you go online, or a lot of national retailers. They're available.

MARTIE: And it is eat-a-ly. Eataly. 

JOE: Yes. 

MARTIE: And you experience all — tell everybody what it is. I love it. It's one of my favorite places, but tell everybody.

JOE: So it's a grocery store, basically, dedicated to the best of artisanal Italian products, but also the best of local food. So, you know, local produce, local meats, fish with the best Italian ingredients. And then within the grocery store, every section has a restaurant. So the fish counter has a fish restaurant. There's a pizza pasta restaurant. Sometimes there's a vegetarian. Right? So it's thematically there's a pizza place. So it changes. So it's a place where you, if you go to shop, you're hungry and eat. Or if you go to eat, you wind up shopping. It's an immersion in Italian gastronomic delight.

MARTIE: Yes. So for those of you who don't cook, you can go have a wonderful dinner with all the ingredients that you've experienced as you've walked around. But, so I usually do that. I usually go and sit at one of the bars and have a little something to eat and then load up and go home with all these ingredients you can't find anywhere else. I mean, they're authentic Italian ingredients that you bring in from vendors and purveyors that you know all over the country, right?

JOE: Yeah. There's things you'll see in there that you wouldn't see anywhere else in America.

MARTIE: It's really amazing. If you get the opportunity, you should definitely go. So of all that you do, Joe, you do everything. What's your favorite part? Is it the winemaking? Is it the restaurants? Is it coming up with the concepts, like you said? Is that it? Or?

JOE: Yeah, I like being creative and coming up with new concepts. Wine is always something that's close to my heart. I love doing television. I'm lucky I get to do a lot of different things.

MARTIE: All right. So you jump on the plane tonight. You'll head to Italy. What will you do while you're there? Like, give us a typical day. Let us live vicariously through you. 

JOE: You know, I'll go to the winery, and I have a house there, and talk to the winemakers, and check out how the grapes are doing, and get a strategy for the bottling that happens in the summertime. I'll go to the beach. I have a little boat, I'll go out fishing. I never catch any fish so I'll buy some fish and I'll bring it back to my house and I'll cook it. You got to enjoy life, too. You can't work all the time.

MARTIE: No, for sure you can't. All right, Joe, So we're so looking forward to seeing you on MasterChef. And then, we're going to follow along with you wherever you go in the world. Post plenty of pictures. Now that we know what you're up to, we want to follow along and watch on Instagram.

JOE: You could do that. Thank you so much for having me. 

MARTIE: Thank you for being part of our show here on Homemade. We love you, and your mom, and are so excited to follow along with your Italian lives. Thank you, again.

JOE: Well, thanks for having us. And have a good day, everyone. Thank you. 

MARTIE: Catch Joe, Chef Ramsey, my previous guest and friend, Aarón Sanchez, and all the legends on this season of MasterChef, airing on FOX right now. You can visit Joe's website joebastianich.com to learn more about him and all his endeavors. 

Stay tuned because when we return, I talk to season 10 MasterChef winner Dorian Hunter, who gives us her advice for homecooks who struggle with baking. She also shares some behind the scenes secrets about notorious MasterChef host Gordon Ramsay. We'll be right back after the break.

Welcome back to Homemade, I'm Martie Duncan. Dorian Hunter is the season 10 winner of MasterChef, and considered one of the most prestigious home cooks in America. As a baker, she went into the competition with a distinct advantage, she was also the oldest competitor, and she's the first African American woman to win the title — along with the $25,000 and bragging rights. 

On this season of MasterChef: Legends she is a mentor, giving advice and guidance to the contestants who are home cooks vying for that life-changing title. MasterChef airs Wednesday nights on FOX. Please join me in welcoming season 10 winner Dorian Hunter to Homemade. Welcome Dorian!

DORIAN: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIE: All right, so, I know you're right in the middle of it now. You came back for the new season that we're watching right this minute. And what did that feel like to walk back on the set after your victory year? Did it feel, like, normal or did you get kind of nervous again?

DORIAN: Yeah. You end up with those butterflies again and you're anxious to get back on set to see, you know, that place where your life changed all over again. And you have a different set of nerves because you know that somebody else is going to be able to experience that same thing that you did. And you want it for everybody. But you know when you look down at the pool of people, you know that one of them are going to be that winner. And so it brings on a different set of nerves. It was great seeing the judges. Of course, it's always great to see Chef Ramsay but I was honored to be a part of somebody else's new beginning.

MARTIE: Right. And it is a brand new beginning, isn't it? We have something in common. I was on Food Network Star and during my season I was the only homecook in the mix. Everybody else had restaurant experience or culinary school experience or both. I had neither. You're a home cook and MasterChef is all about the home cook. I want to dig in a little bit to your background and find out how did you get started cooking and what in the world possessed you to think to audition for a show like that? 

DORIAN: I started cooking at a young age. My mom — I always say she released me to the kitchen at around 12. I think 12 is a good age. You're responsible enough and you can kinda multi-task. So, she allowed me in the kitchen at around 12, but it was a chore. My parents had 10 kids. So, you know, as you got older you got certain chores and cooking was one of mine. So that's how I got started.

MARTIE: 10 kids, OK. I can't even imagine. So how receptive were your siblings to your cooking? Did you have recipes that you followed or did you just kind of wing it or how did that work?

DORIAN: My mom was not a recipe follower. She pretty much went off of instinct, which really works in my favor. Never had any issues. My mom let me cook in the kitchen, but she did not let me cook alone in the kitchen. I always had her guidance until I became an adult myself and start cooking for myself and for my own children. So I was not taught using formulas. I wasn't taught, you know, to read a cookbook and that type of thing. You just really went off of tradition and just your instincts. And it really works. You know, when you're growing up you don't understand why you're being taught a certain way. But when I look back at it now, had I not had those skills, then I don't know if being on a show like MasterChef would have been as successful as it was. So it, it really paid off in the end. 

MARTIE: When you start that young in the kitchen it really does help to create those natural instincts that are so important when you're doing a culinary competition. Tell me what made you think 'I think I'm gonna audition for MasterChef.' How does that even happen? 

DORIAN: It was pretty much my last ditch effort at becoming a chef or just being able to be successful in the culinary world. I had tried it for a really long time and I just couldn't get my feet off the ground. And it took a really long time. Out of high school, I had my son young and culinary school I had to put off, but I did get to go and become French trained. 

MARTIE: Oh, wow. 

DORIAN: But it took years for me to even be able to implement that type of training. And I saw that the auditions were here in Georgia and my mom had passed away. I was in a really crazy space and I said, 'this is it. If this don't work, if I don't get on, I'm just going to hang it up.' 

MARTIE: Tell me, what was your favorite moment? Not the win, because, of course, that's, you know, the dream. But I mean, when did you know you really had a shot at it and you felt confident that you were going to make it all the way to the end? 

DORIAN: Well, once we left London I mean, you make final three, you're like, 'OK, I'm in it. I know that I'm in it.' But I never got that much confidence to where I thought that I would still win. When Chef announced that me and the other runner up would get a kitchen and I had already got the smallwares, I was excited about that. You have to stay humble and be OK with the place that you're in, regardless of whether it's the win or not. You've made it so far, you know, and how can you not be proud of as far as you've made it. Everybody wants the money and everybody wants that trophy, but I mean, to beat out thousands and thousands of people and to make it to the final three and then to the final two. Come on. That's a win. 

MARTIE: Did you use any of the recipes or tips or secrets that you learned at the side of your mom on the show? Because I know I sure did. 

DORIAN: Most definitely there was only one time when I cooked that I didn't use one of my mom's either her technique or her way of cooking or something. And that time was the one time I went off on my own and I didn't do very well. So I definitely the next time we was on set, I really — I was like, OK.

MARTIE: Come on, mama. Come on, mama.

DORIAN: Exactly, exactly. And I can hear — you know, it's crazy because when I came home, I told my husband, I said, I can hear mom actually talking to me. Like I can hear her saying, 'I did not do that. Like, what are you doing? That's not what I did.' And, and for that one day I said, I'm going to do this on my own. Like, I'm going to see if what I'm hearing is true. And the next day I was like, 'OK, OK, I hear you. I've got you.' I'm not going do that again. Like, I'm gonna listen. I'm not going to be hard at it, definitely.

MARTIE: So what was your favorite thing and the judges favorite thing that you made that you knew your mama would be so proud of?

DORIAN: She would probably be proud and embarrassed at the same time because she was — when it came to spotlight, she was very shy. So I think the thing for me was when I made that pink champagne cake in remembrance of her and her battle with breast cancer, I had to change my shoes and I ended up in pink shoes. I had to change my blouse and I ended up in a pink blouse. And I was just like, after the episode aired and I watched it, I went back in my mind for that day and I was like, it's crazy because it was all — it was, I mean, all of those cakes and I could make quite a few of them that was on that table. And out of nowhere, I picked that pink one. And then when I look back at the show, I'm like I had on pink from head to toe. And then I baked this pink cake and it was just like it, it was meant to be. Like it was meant for her to show up in that way. So it really meant a lot for me to be able to honor her in that fashion. And not just her, but just people who battled with breast cancer. And for people to be able to relate to the relationship between me and my mom and her battle.

MARTIE: What tips would you give our listeners for baking? That is one of the biggest questions I get that people have terrible baking fails and they're not sure what they've done wrong. You have any of your tried and true tips for baking in general? 

DORIAN: Yes, know how to read a recipe. When you're able to read a recipe from top to bottom, you'll be able to point out mistakes, learn the sequence of formulas, because we know baking is a science. You can't just throw everything in a bowl all at one time and think it's going to come out right and be patient. That's the one thing about baking that really I still struggle with because I want to peek, I want it to be done right now. And you have to be patient when it comes to baking. It's a science. It takes time. You know, I always say, a success is anything you can eat.

MARTIE: That's right. Even if it comes out...

DORIAN: It may not look like you want it to look, but if you can eat it, that's a success. 

MARTIE: Unless you present it to Chef Ramsay, it probably is. You know? Cause most people at their house, they don't care. The kids, especially, don't care. You know?

DORIAN: Right. And he may even say, 'You know what? It looks like crap, but it tastes really good.' So, I mean, it's still a success.

MARTIE: That's right. A lot of times I have tried new things and done something a little bit off — you know, different. And then it doesn't look very good. It tastes good. So I just make it look pretty by — oh, I don't know, making like a little trifle out of it or parfait or something, where it doesn't truly matter as much what it looks like, more or what it tastes like. Right? 

DORIAN: Exactly. I always tell people when they take my baking classes, I always say, 'look, at the end of this, I know that everybody here is not a professional. Some of you have never baked a cake. But the object is for you to be able to eat whatever it is you make. And if you can eat it, it's OK if it doesn't look like mine or it doesn't quite, you know, fit that picture perfect idea. But it's yours. You did it and you can be proud of it, you know, at the end of the day.' And that's, that's all people should really look for. And then as you bake, you get better and you learn. So don't stop just because you have what you consider a fail. 

MARTIE: Well, I had Guy Fieri on my very first episode of Homemade. And you know what he said that I thought was just so important for bakers, particularly? He said 'could you play hockey the first time you tried? Could you ride a bike the first time you tried?' A lot of people get discouraged because they make a recipe one time and it doesn't work out right. So they just abandon it. They never try again. I think the important thing is if you find a recipe you think you really like, then make it several times and you'll see an improvement each time, won't you?

DORIAN: Exactly. You will. And I always tell people never wait until the holidays to try a new recipe.

MARTIE: That's right. 

DORIAN: Do not wait until Thanksgiving, Christmas, those special holidays to try something new, do it several times. So then by the time you get to that holiday, you have it perfected.

MARTIE: That's right. 

DORIAN: But don't let your first time be on a major holiday.

MARTIE: So tell me what your go-to, like, weeknight meal might be for your family. 

DORIAN: My family is — you know, you would think that they would love like the foo-foo food and all of that? But I'll say it. They really like bar food. They like burgers, wings, you know, that kind of thing. Every so often they'll allow me to cook something out of the box and they'll oblige me sometime. But my family is pretty basic. They like it simple. You know, I have my son who loves vegetables, my daughter who loves meat, and my husband — you can give him chicken and rice every day and he'll be fine. So we're pretty typical. To my family and to my children I'm just mom. You know what I mean? They know that mom — mom's job has changed. And her work has changed a lot. But at the end of the day, my children have definitely taken this transition for our family in stride and I'm grateful for that. They are the best kids ever. 

MARTIE: Well, tell me about how life has changed since you won MasterChef. Tell me about what you're doing now and how it impacted you.

DORIAN: Well, for me, I have to say, even though I'm a mom and I'm a wife and a sibling to my sisters and brothers, being on this show and this change has honestly given me a lot of purpose, if that makes sense. A lot of self worth. I get to teach. I get to share my passion with people, and the money is OK. We do good, but it's one of those jobs where even if you didn't get paid a lot, you would still enjoy it.

MARTIE: Right.

DORIAN: You still love it because you get to do something that, you know, you've been wanting to do all your life and now you've been blessed with the platform and the people that follow you — I still can't get over that. Like y'all, honestly, want to see me cook when this is something that I absolutely love to do. We were just out the other day and was in a gas station and a guy jumps out of his car and I go to wash my hands and I come out of the restroom and he's like, 'I knew it was you!' And I'm like, 'OK, well, I wasn't expecting you.'

MARTIE: That's happened to me a few times, too, and right out of the bathroom, too. I'm like...

DORIAN: Exactly, and I'm like, you know, it just really warms your heart. It's a little creepy, but...

MARTIE: It's awesome, though. It's awesome. 

DORIAN: To make somebody's day like that?

MARTIE: Yes.

DORIAN: Is just an absolutely blessing. When you go from just being you, to now being this person that can be a blessing by just being in someone's presence is more than anything. 

MARTIE: Tell me a little bit about what you do as a mentor. What is your role? 

DORIAN: It's just to be an encouragement. You know, it was really crazy, going back on the show and these same contestants watched season 10 and to see their excitement, and to be able to encourage them and to push them in those moments when they wanted to cry or, you know, that frustration that, you know, can set in really quick — and you're nervous. Half of them have never been on a TV set before, just like me and you, you scared. You got Gordon Ramsay standing in front. It's a lot of emotion. So to be there to help them calm those nerves and to stay focused and just give them that encouragement to push through any little trial that they may come up against was a pleasure. And that's what we were there for, is just to encourage them throughout that process. And, hopefully, they were able to pull out their best dish. You know, you can plan everything, but when you're in the moment, anything can go wrong. I always say it's not the mistake that you make, it's how you recover. So we were there to make sure that their recovery was good if they did make any mistakes or got overwhelmed. Just encouragement. Yup. 

MARTIE: Well, I would have loved to have had somebody standing beside me like you during the final weeks of Food Network Star. That would have been wonderful. OK, so I want to do a little quickfire thing, and I want to ask you about some of the chefs that you've worked with. I want your top of the head commentary. OK, so let's start with Chef Ramsay. Tell us a little something about him we may not know.

DORIAN: He is very, very nice. He's very sweet, very welcoming. And, every day going onto the set he says hello to absolutely everybody.

MARTIE: I'm pretty sure that's not something that our listeners expected to hear that he's very, very nice. But if you watch his videos that he does with his kids and his family, I think you see that side of him.

DORIAN: Yes. 

MARTIE: I love when he does those videos with the kids and he's like, 'pan down, pan down.' And you have to understand his British accent, to understand he's saying...

DORIAN: Exactly. 

MARTIE: Pan down, which means like... 

DORIAN: Exactly. 

MARTIE: Push the — shoot the camera down.

DORIAN: Camera down, yeah. 

MARTIE: To shoot the food. But I absolutely love the way he teases and encourages his kids. And he seems like he's super nice.

DORIAN: He is. And his favorite candy is Swedish fish.

MARTIE: Oh, really?

DORIAN: Yeah. 

MARTIE: That's interesting. I would have never guessed that either. OK, tell us a little bit about Joe.

DORIAN: Joe is an outstanding guitar player and he loves music and he sings beautifully.

MARTIE: Really?

DORIAN: Like he sings like a bird. Yes, he's absolutely — he loves music. He is also part of a band. I think that's his true passion, is music.

MARTIE: I did not know that.

DORIAN: And skateboarding. He loves, he loves to skateboard. Definitely. Yes. 

MARTIE: How about that? I love these behind the scenes little secrets that we didn't know. OK, what about Aarón? Now I know Aarón pretty well. Aarón Sanchez was a guest on Homemade. But I would love to know what you know behind the scenes secrets about Aarón Sanchez.

DORIAN: Aarón is, again, very, very nice. Aarón is a constant teacher. Like, even after the finale we were done taping, he was still giving me advice on my short ribs. Joe actually told him, like, you're still talking about them? You're still teaching. He's a constant teacher. And, and the tips that he gave me that night, I still use them to this day and they work — what he told me was perfect. Yeah.

MARTIE: Well tell us what he said because we want to know. 

DORIAN: Right. So he told me once I take my short ribs out of the oven to reduce the broth down that was left in a pot, and then brush your short ribs with that, and then put them back in the oven to get that caramelization from the broth. And then it adds a lot more richness to your short ribs and it's spot on. 

MARTIE: OK, let me see if I understand because I'm going to try this. So after you take your short ribs, you brown them and everything, you put them in the oven to cook.

DORIAN: Right. 

MARTIE: Then you take the short ribs out. 

DORIAN: Yup. 

MARTIE: You reduce on the oven, I mean on the stovetop, you reduce the liquid down. 

DORIAN: Yup.

MARTIE: What, about a third? 

DORIAN: Yup. 

MARTIE: And then you brush the thickened liquid on to the short ribs, put them back into the oven. Now, do you put them in the liquid or?

DORIAN: No. Just back into the oven after they're — after you brush them back in. Let that, like, gravy now, that thick sauce caramelize on top of the short ribs and serve them as such. It's so good.

MARTIE: Let's have that.

DORIAN: It's so good. Magnifies them by a thousand. I promise you. 

MARTIE: What goes — what goes in the sauce? Just, you know, tell me a little bit about what we would see here.

DORIAN: So when I do my short ribs, I usually use a form of red wine and your regular mirepoix and herbs and just let them cook. 

MARTIE: That sounds so good.

DORIAN: You know, take off as much fat as you can, let that reduce down. And the rest is history.

MARTIE: That sounds so good. So were you really the oldest person to ever even be on the show? And I hate to even ask you, but you've got a kid in their 20s. So how old are you? 40.

DORIAN: Oh, I'm, I'm fine with my age because I don't feel as though I look my age. Right now. I'm 47. And when I was on there, I was 45. I believe Subha [Ramiah] and myself were probably the oldest ones on the show this year. I checked a lot of boxes. Right? Like I was the oldest one to win, the first African American female to win. I could almost say I was almost the shortest one on there. I mean, it was just a lot like, it was...

MARTIE: Yeah.

DORIAN: It was a lot of boxes that I checked off. But you were talking about stamina and, you know, I can't deny my age. And, you know, you do have — you've got these kids who could be your babies. It did take a lot of energy. It took a ton of energy. And after we would leave off the set, I would literally go back in the green room and pass out.

MARTIE: Yeah. 

DORIAN: Like, just totally — cause you exert a lot of energy. Your adrenaline is high. And it's a lot. It's a shock to your body because you're not used to that. The one thing that I say about the age thing is that it just shows that no matter how old you are, you don't lay down those dreams. Right? Like...

MARTIE: Never.

DORIAN: You don't have to be in your 20s or in your, you know, your early teens to let one of those dreams come to fruition. So, you know, for people who are close to 50 or in their 40s or whatever...

MARTIE: Who cares? 60!

DORIAN: Who cares. Yes. 

MARTIE: Go and do it! 

DORIAN: It doesn't matter.

MARTIE: I'm with you. And I will tell you what, I had so many women reach out to me after my season of Food Network Star and say, 'you were an influence to me. I have done a job I hated my whole life and I've always wanted to be in food or in some sort of culinary work, and now I'm going to culinary school.' So thank you for saying that it doesn't matter what age you are, you can still follow your dreams. So I think that's probably one of the most important lessons that I learned, too. You know? And was able to share with America is like just go for it. Oh my gosh, it was so fun, wasn't it?

DORIAN: Yes, it was. It was something that I don't think that I'll ever forget. I don't think that my family will ever forget it. I don't think that my siblings will ever forget it. 

MARTIE: Your fans won't either. I can promise you that.

DORIAN: Yeah and they won't. They won't. And I always say that I don't just have fans, but they've become extended family.

MARTIE: Yeah.

DORIAN: Like honestly, some of them. We've fallen in love with and we, you know, had the pleasure of meeting and, I don't just call them fans, I call them fan fam. 

MARTIE: Yes. A hundred percent. 

DORIAN: And they love it. They absolutely love it because they keep me encouraged. It's been a great experience all the way around. I already come from a big family and we always said, we're all we got, we're all we need. And that still holds true, but my circle has definitely become a lot bigger with the fans and the people who support me. So they will say something, you know, 

'Dorian, I'm waiting on you to get this and I'm waiting on you to get that so I can buy it or I can support you.' And just like that, out of nowhere, somebody will reach out and say, 'hey, you know, Dorian, we want to work with you this way.' So I always say people are putting your life to speak blessings into it. And I see my fans and my fan fam, those people that have definitely spoken to my life and they continue to do so. And I'm so appreciative of the blessing that they give to me and my family. And I enjoy them, you know, more than what I thought that I would. Because we're very private people and, I was thinking like, 'wow, our lives are going to change so much. What are we going to do with this not being able to always go out and have a quiet dinner without somebody wanting an autograph or, you know, whatever?' But we've been blessed with respectful, loving followers who understand that we have children and you can't always just come up running fast. And, you know, you might have to call my name and make sure it is OK to approach. 

MARTIE: Right.

DORIAN: You know what I'm saying?

MARTIE: So of all your recipes, I know you've got some on your website. Which one should I go and make today?

DORIAN: Oh, man. I would have to say. I have probably two. The Turtle Bread Pudding. That was the one that got me the spoon drop on the show by Joe. And I have a recipe for fried, Cornish hens and waffles on my webpage also. 

MARTIE: Oh, that sounds good.

DORIAN: So those two are my absolute favorite go-to. I love fried cornish hen.

MARTIE: You know, I've never tried to fry it. So I think I'll try that. 

DORIAN: Oh, it's so good.

MARTIE: OK, so Joe loved this turtle bread pudding. Quickly, just give us the quick background on that recipe. Where did that come from?

DORIAN: That was on the fly. I made that up right there on set like we had bread. We had to make something with it. And I made turtle bread — I made turtle bread pudding.

MARTIE: So is it chocolate and caramel and nuts?

DORIAN: It's chocolate, caramel, pecans, and ganache. You dress it hot. You dress it while it's warm. So it's nice, ooey and gooey — it's very rich. It's a chocolate custard and you soak your bread in that. And then when it comes out of the oven, after baking, you dress it with the ganache, the peanuts, and the homemade caramel — it's absolutely phenomenal.

MARTIE: So you make the custard, eggs, sugar, milk — a basic custard?

DORIAN: Yeah, eggs, sugar, milk — basic custard. Add cocoa. 

MARTIE: OK. 

DORIAN: And mix. Soak your bread in that. And then you bake it off — your traditional bread pudding, just add cocoa, and you bake it off. When it comes out of the oven, you're going, dress it with your caramel. Now you can either make your own caramel like we did on the show or you can just buy salted caramel or however, you know, however...

MARTIE: Buy the kind you like, yeah.

DORIAN: Yes and drizzle caramel and the chocolate ganache over top and top with pecans. 

MARTIE: Yum. Yeah, I'm making that. That's what I'm making. I have all the ingredients to make that.

DORIAN: There you go. 

MARTIE: So I'm gonna try that. What kind of bread do you like to use? 

DORIAN: Oh, I love Italian. Day-old Italian. 

MARTIE: Do you take the crust off or you leave the crust on?

DORIAN: No ma'am, crust on. 

MARTIE: Awesome. Listen, Dorian, I have loved having you on the show and I know our listeners are going to love every bit of this. We are so proud of you. You're a champion for home cooks everywhere. And we are so excited about this season of MasterChef and watching you in your new role as a mentor. 

DORIAN: Thank you so much for having me. It's been a pleasure.

MARTIE: You can watch Dorian Hunter mentor this season's contestants on MasterChef: Legends Wednesday nights on FOX. Learn more about what she's up to or sign up for her cooking classes at ChefDorian.com

If you're like me, you love to make Italian recipes. Next time on Homemade, one of my all-time favorite television chefs will take us on a tour of Italy with an introduction to regionally specific recipes and ingredients from Tuscany to Rome to the Amalfi Coast. She's the host of Ciao Italia, America's longest running cooking show, Mary Ann Esposito.

MARY ANN ESPOSITO: There is no such thing as Italian cooking, there is no such thing. There's only regional cooking because Italy is composed of 20 regions and every one of those regions cooks what is familiar to them and what is local in that region. So if we were going to go to the Venato, for instance, in Northern Italy you want to know all about risotto, you want to know about seafood, you want to know about polenta. But if you were down in Sicily, you know, those wouldn't be the products that you would be focusing on. You'd be focusing on lamb, artichokes, the tomato plays a big role in Sicilian cooking. So once people come to that understanding, I think — you know 'oh, that's why there's no Italian cooking.'

MARTIE: You don't wanna miss it so be sure to follow Homemade on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. And please, I'd love your feedback. If you could rate this podcast and leave a review, I'd really appreciate it. 

Don't forget, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-to's from the world's largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com. 

This podcast was recorded in Birmingham, edited in Atlanta, and produced by AllRecipes with Digital Content Director Jason Burnett. Thanks to our Pod People production team: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Danielle Roth, Jim Hanke, Maya Kroth, and Erica Wong.

I'm Martie Duncan … and this is Homemade.