After watching tonight's episode of Master Chef Season 2, I am blown away by the talent and creativity of so many of the cooks.
And as a person who puts herself out there in these kinds of challenges, I have equal admiration for those who move on - but also for those who fall just short of the mark. To be in the final 100, to my mind, is pretty huge, and a few not going on really left an impression - not the least of whom, Denise, a mom around my age who was there competing with her son Kyle.
Kyle got the nod to move on for his Chicken Paprikash.
But Denise, who explained she had spent her life being "someone's something" choked me up when she wasn't invited to go on because I could completely relate to what she was saying.
At the same time, when Ramsay told the son he would be going on he said "I don't think you're mother is going to be very happy about that."
But I knew different.
I knew she would be overjoyed for her boy, and I was right.
I still felt sad, though, that this wasn't quite her dream - hoping she continues to step out and take chances.
And then there was mid-western truck driver Tony.
This IS his dream.
Right place. Right time.
Kind hard working man who's had a life of doing what he had to do to put food on the table finally getting an opportunity to do something for himself.
I related to that too.
Tony, also known as The Barbecue Guy in his neck of the woods, served flawless pan seared Mahi Mahi and shared that he dreams of opening his own restaurant to introduce the people of his community - "the only fish they experience is fried fish at the legion on Saturday" - to good food
He received three big yesses from the judges and will be moving on.
Another stand out was the Poolboy.
Not my Poolboy, but a young man named Dustin who won all three judges over with a sausage roll that had and Italian twist - and you know your food is good when Gordon Ramsay devours your entire dish.
It made me want to experiment with a sausage roll of my own because it really is a brilliant idea.
I swear, though, tonight was the night for pulling on my heart strings - not only with Dustin, who's mother, a woman struggling with breast cancer, surprised him at the audition but also Christine Corley, the wine drinking, gutsy, single mom who wowed Gordon Ramsay with her soft shell crab.
She was so real and so raw and so unpretentious that I have decided to love her because something like this could change her entire life.
And we could all use a little of that.
But for all the hits, there were also misses.
For example, the guy who came out speaking French but isn't. Three words:
Who does that?
Ditto for the firecracker guy with the bacon and strawberries.
And my favourite Ramsay line of the night:
Ramsay: How did you cook the cod?
Contestant: I baked it.
Ramsay: For how long, three weeks?
People, if you are gutsy enough to go on a show like Master Chef, for the love of God, understand the preferred cooking time for the food you plan to serve.
Another one of my favourites is Derrick who is in a death metal band by night and works as a website designer by day. According to the judges who raved about his home made chorizo, this guy is the one to watch.
Other highlights included a would be molecular gastronomist named Alvin who whipped up the most perfect looking egg in a home made immersion circulator.
Three words for Alvin:
I'm not worthy.
And finally, Alejandra, an architect and urban planner who is proof positive that there are gifts in crisis. Struggling through hard financial times brought her to this competition where the judges were blown away by her skill and the taste of her sauteed shrimp - which was, according to the judges, one of the best dishes they have seen so far.
But best of all was what Alejandra said: It's never too late.
And it isn't.
As long as we are alive we can dare to dream.
To take chances.
I can't wait to see what's in store next week and am even more hopeful that they do a cookbook for season 2 because there are already recipes I want to try!
Missed the first two blogs? Look no further...
Gordon Ramsay Ate Sushi Off Me
Master Chef and the Mystery of the White Truffle Oil
Stay tuned later for a dynamite stir fry recipe featuring pork tenderloin and green beans.