MasterChef US Season 3 Becky: Our Exclusive Interview with Becky Reams!
See what early frontrunner Becky Reams is doing with her MasterChef momentum, and why she doesn't want you to make a mango salsa ever again.
If you've been watching MasterChef US Season 3 as religiously as we have (Monday and Tuesday nights were basically our church all summer), then this is probably something you already know: Becky Reams can cook some serious eats. Ms. Reams was the early front runner in the competition, serving up unbelievable eats like her Classy Corn/Trashy Corn, a corn panna cotta served alongside caramel popcorn that we waxed poetical about a few months ago.
Even when the judges criticized her dishes for being a little unbalanced (her attempt to emulate a Graham Elliot dish was flamed for having "too much passionfruit," as if that were possible), no one-- not even her competitors-- could deny that her food was beautiful, and that their presentations and conceptions were a cut above the other contestants', each and every single time.
Though an early frontrunner to win the competition, Becky was ultimately undone when she had to cook frog legs, a food she'd never eaten before, let alone prepared. Though Chef Gordon Ramsay remarked that the legs were perfectly cooked, a feat in and of itself for someone with no basis for comparison, the judges felt the salad it was served alongside was ultimately just a little lacking. It was enough to ensure that Christine Ha's fried chicken and Joshua Marks's lamb concoction would make it into the finals, and that the journey for the early front-runner would come to a shockingly early finish.
But what happens to a dream deferred? If you're Becky Reams, then the dreamer kicks ass and takes names. Here's what she's been doing since the show finished filming, and why MasterChef US Season 3's Bronze medalist could still take home a gold.
FoodNRecipe's Anthony Smith: Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview, Becky. I read on your website that you're a big fan of whiskey. Which one is your favorite.
Becky Reams: I've really been liking Mitchers Rye. I like rye whiskeys because they're stronger than bourbon and a little less sweet. I like Booker's Bourbon, too. I had it the other day, and it was pretty tasty.
AS: How would you define yourself as a chef?
BR: I think that the way I would define myself as a chef is through being creative and ever-evolving-- you're always trying to do new things, you're always evolving and trying to be better every day.
My cooking draws from Asian influences, particularly flavors from southeast Asia and Korea. These cuisines utilize such bold, dynamic flavors-- I love pairing those with new American cuisines-- so lots of beef and pork. Components like strongly flavored fermented chili paste, or pickled daikon. That's really the type of food I love to create.
AS: As a food photographer, do you find yourself thinking about how a dish will look before you think about how it will taste?
BR: I think it's two-fold. I think you want to think about what flavors go well together when you're thinking about a dish. When I conceptualize, I think about flavors that'll work well together, striking that balance between proteins and vegetable, then I think about where I'll find those ingredients and how I'll pull it all together. So plating and presentation are always a big part of it, and definitely something I think about at the same time. It's so important that your food looks good.
Presentation is a great way to play with whimsy, too, and a good way to increase that Wow! factor you're always looking for when you give people your food.
AS: Are you going to take Chef Gordon Ramsay up on his offer, or will you blaze your own trail?
BR: I'm definitely taking Chef Ramsay up on his offer. I think it would be silly not to, because any time you get the opportunity to work with someone like Ramsay, you have to take it. It's a serious opportunity for me.
I'll be working at the restaurant he's opening in LA, the Fat Cow. I've been in communication with the Executive Chef (Matthew Wolfe of West, which is the restaurant in the Hotel Angeleno), who's someone I already know because I did some food photography for his previous restaurant.
I don't know exactly what I'll be doing, but I know I'll be in the kitchen. That's important to me.
And on LA, I think it has the absolute best cheap food of any city. New York is New York, and Chicago has Alinea, but LA has all this incredible cheap food. Korea Town is amazing. And from our Mexican population, you have all those great taco trucks. LA has this great street food that I think sets it apart from any other city.
AS: While you're waiting for Fat Cow to open, how are you spending your day?
BR: I am cooking!
I'm doing a cooking demo at Williams Sonoma. And I'm the Guest Chef at for a pop-up meal at Julian in Brookside, which is owned and operated by Celina Tio. I was cooking there last Sunday night, and I'll be cooking there again tomorrow and Sunday.
All of the stuff I'm cooking are my original recipes, and it's a four-course Prix-Fixe New American/Asian meal.
AS: Can we get a look at the menu?
Course 1: Smoked Trout Rillettes with hot sauces, an asian cucumber salad, and a brioche cracker
Course 2: Pork Belly with a miso caramel, yuzu slaw with daikon scallions and sticky rice
Course 3: Braised Short Rib- My short rib is braised with ginger beer and a ton of chili paste and I serve that with molasses grits with horseradish and chili salad with shiso.
Course 4: Carrot Cake - Since it's dessert, I err on the side of whimsy. You always want your dessert to err on the side of whimsy, and this one comes with a caramel mousse and a coconut pecan crumble. Oh, and cream cheese frosting.
AS: Is there any way people who aren't in LA or Kansas City can watch you cook?
BR: I'm food writing for this foodie website called Whisked Foodie, which is owned by PK4 Media. The parent company just hired me to do a show, and we're calling it Foodie Next Door. We just shot the pilot.
I think a lot of cooking web series are low production, and they all feature uninspired recipes like mango salsas, so I really want to incorporate actual recipes and encourage people to cook at home and show them how to make the kind of quality meals you wouldn't see anywhere expect in restaurants.
AS: I think that's right on the money. I've noticed how often people who demonstrate for homecooks always underestimate their skill. I'm glad your cooking show is going to address that.
BR: It's been a labor of love, demystifying the process. I want to show people that even if you don't want to be a professional chef like me, you can still do this stuff at home.
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