My family and I tuned into the first season of Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef and were inspired by one contestant in particular: 22-year-old Whitney Miller. Her poise and skill were impressive, and we were thrilled when she won the competition and took home the title of America’s first MasterChef. We were able to catch up with Whitney and ask her a few questions about her experiences, inspiration, and future plans.
“My mom got my sisters and me in the kitchen at a young age. My mom was creative and made cooking fun. I fell in love with it. My mom and my 97-year-old great grandmother have both influenced the foods that I prepare. I have taken dishes I grew up eating prepared by both of them and put a modern, fresh twist on the dishes.
The inspiration for my dishes also comes from my travels, sampling different cuisines, ingredients, and spices. I am also inspired by dishes I grew up eating and how I can put my own twist on them.”
“After finding out about the Masterchef auditions on the New Orleans website, I decided to audition. I prepared a dish for local chefs, conducted an on-camera interview, filmed myself cooking in my kitchen, and then had a camera crew film me at my house. I was chosen to be one of the 50 contestants out of 10,000 people who auditioned from across the U.S.”
“If a camera filmed behind the scenes, you would see Gordon Ramsay and the other judges showing a sense of humor. You would see the contestants getting along for the most part. For some of us, it was really hard to think of one another being eliminated. I still stay in contact with some of the contestants.”
“I personally never felt that being young was an issue though Gordon Ramsay immediately brought it up. The one reason I didn’t think it was an issue was because even though the other contestants were older than me, I probably had been cooking for just as long as they had. I began cooking by myself in the kitchen when I was twelve years old.”
“Masterchef gave me the confidence that I can do anything. I also grew a lot in my faith. I would go back to the hotel and wanted to have my family there to share my good and bad times of the day with but instead I would talk to the Lord. I would find scriptures in my bible that would help me when I was feeling down and praise the Lord for the good times.”
“I have a lot going on right now from conducting cooking demos and cookbook signings, writing magazine articles, creating recipes for my second cookbook, and recently traveling internationally.”
“Modern Hospitality encompasses the Southern food I grew up eating that my mom and my great grandmother cooked but with my own fresh and modern twist. I love using vegetables in creative ways like my turnip green pesto and my cauliflower “mac” n’cheese.
My cookbook was released on July 5, 2011 and is now in its fifth printing. I am very pleased with the response I have received from people who have prepared my recipes. The coolest thing is that my cookbook is in the hands of people from across the world because of their interest from watching Masterchef when aired in their country.”
“I had always dreamed about the opportunity to travel and sample different cultures’ cuisine. My first international trip was to Dubai. I was asked to be one of the Food Leaders speakers at the International Gulfood show. It was an unreal experience. The Indian cuisine I tasted was very good.
For my second trip oversees, I will be traveling to Shenzhen, China where I will be working with the chefs at their Social restaurant. The chefs will be creating the Southern menu I designed for the 10 days that I am there. I will also be taking another trip this year which will be to Cape Town, South Africa for the Good Food and Wine Show.”
“I want to continue writing cookbooks and inspiring people to cook in their homes. I feel like my creativity is my greatest attribute and I love using it in cooking. I would like to continue traveling internationally. I hope the future holds many ways that I can share my passion and hopefully spark an interest in cooking to others.”
“I love seafood like shrimp and crawfish. My family can tell you that for me, the spicier, the better. I don’t think I could name one dish so I will name a few. My favorites are shrimp and grits, crawfish etouffee, and gumbo. In my cookbook, I created two versions of shrimp and grits and crawfish etouffee rice balls. I am still working on perfecting my great grandmother’s seafood gumbo.”
You can find all these recipes in Modern Hospitality–buy a copy here!
“Yes, one of my culinary secrets is the form of my favorite kitchen gadget. I love my hand held grater. I use it for grating garlic and onion instead of chopping them. I also use it to zest citrus fruits like lemons and oranges. I think garlic is an underused ingredient in some people’s homes. Garlic is almost always the base flavoring ingredient in all my dishes. Try it and you will see why!”
“My parents were great with instilling in my sisters and me a strong work ethic. I have always put 110% in everything that I do. I set goals and work hard to reach them. I didn’t obtain the title of America’s 1st “Masterchef” without the hard work leading up to it. I would say don’t be afraid to set your goals high, work hard to reach them, and don’t let anyone discourage you.”