PART 4, From Zeina’s Kitchen to Television

PART 4, From Zeina’s Kitchen to Television

The idea of not making it to the final round never crossed my mind. I could not be sent home and I wasn’t.
The judges praised my dish. One of them even said it was the best of the first 3 she had tasted. I knew at that moment that I was safe, plus I noticed that while the judges deliberated, the staff was setting up my cooking station for the third and final round, something they normally would do only after hearing the verdict. They also knew that my dish had passed the test.
Round three. It felt like I had been cooking for 12 hours, but I still had so much adrenaline. I was ready for the last dish and starting to feel like I could actually win this! Even though curry was the main ingredient required in the last dish and I had never cooked curry before, I am not a fan of curry at all. I had practiced making Thai. My curry shrimp had to be better than everyone else’s final dish. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter how much the judges liked the earlier plates we served. They would decide the winner based on the final curry plates. And they were going to taste these final dishes without knowing who made what.
I was ready to compete against the three remaining contestants- all of them professional chefs! I felt excitement and relief knowing that in 35 minutes all of the cooking would be done. I danced on the spot, behind my front row cooking station, unable to stand still. I couldn’t wait to get started.
It didn’t take long before the smell of curry floated over all over us. Not my favorite scent but I was able to block it out and keep a smile on my face, being so happy and proud that I was still there cooking. I had made it through the entire show!
The half hour passed in the blink of an eye. “Five minutes!” I shouted.
This was it! Waiting for my noodles to crisp was so stressful. I worried that they wouldn’t in time. I started talking them…Yes, the noodles. “Come on, you can do this! You’re almost there. I need you, crisp a little more for me, please.”
Time was running out I had to plate. With under two minutes to go, I used my hands to take the hot shrimp right out of the pan and arrange them on my plate. It’s interesting how in this extreme state of adrenaline I didn’t even feel the heat.
With less than 10 seconds to spare I was the last one to present my plate, rushing to get it on the counter before the clock ran out. I place my dish under my designated number. The number 4, of course.
We were all done. With a sigh of relief, I knew I put everything I had into the competition. I left it on the table. It was all about the judges now.
I was confident after they tasted the first two competitors’ dishes. Their comments were not all positive, so I knew I still had a chance. Then, they tasted dish number 3. They were very pleased with it and had mostly positive comments. I was so nervous I new the that it would be between the third competitor and me. Judge Kimberly gave me a mixed review, saying that there was not enough sauce, but the shrimp was cooked perfectly, and the flavors were well balanced. Judge Mathieu loved my take on curry shrimp. He disagreed with Kimberly and thought mine was a perfect dish.
It took about ten minutes for the judges to return from their final deliberation. The time had come to reveal the winner. All four remaining participants were now standing behind their plates. In the blink of an eye, my heart sank, #3 was called and declared the winner.
It took me a few days and a couple sleepless night to stop analyzing my dish. My mind worked overtime thinking how I could have made it differently, better. Then finally, I accepted the results. I did the best I could. Her dish was better then mine and that’s why she won.
I will always remember this experience as a positive one. Having to work so fast and under pressure in an unfamiliar kitchen setting did not scare me. It reminded me of my strengths. I loved the rush and the competition aspect. Not to mention how validating it felt having renowned celebrity Chefs praise my cooking. I look forward to other opportunities to compete on television and I would like to have my own TV cooking show.
To be able to teach how to make delicious home meals in almost no time and the different techniques to cook many things at once, would be a dream come true.


  • Julie Gedeon
    Posted at 19:41h, 11 April Reply

    Thank you, Zeina, for sharing your experience! As a fan (addict?) of televised cooking competitions, it’s really fun to learn what happens behind the scenes and how adrenaline-charged the whole thing is. Yikes! I know from attending some of your wonderful cooking classes how attentive, efficient and quick you are in the kitchen, but I have a new greater appreciation for how you rose to this challenge, especially competing against established chefs. Bravo!

    • zeinaskitchen
      Posted at 23:14h, 12 April Reply

      Those are very kind words Julie! I am so happy you enjoyed it! I had so much fun writing it. Thank you for your support.

  • Marie France Desmarais
    Posted at 21:06h, 11 April Reply

    Zeina in my book, you are a winner and would let you create any dishes for me. I agree with you regarding the curry.

    • zeinaskitchen
      Posted at 23:08h, 12 April Reply

      Marie France, thank yo very much for your kind words! I really appreciate that yo took the time to read my story. Thanks again.

  • Sherry nash
    Posted at 23:34h, 14 April Reply

    Wow, what an experience, and so beautifully expressed! I was right there with you but I was a wreck…. my heart was pounding, palms were sweating and I had total brain fog. So to you I say bravo! Thanks for taking us on this journey with you. I feel like I peeked behind the curtain to see the real wizard of oz.

    • zeinaskitchen
      Posted at 03:39h, 15 April Reply

      That is very nice of you to say Sherry! I am so happy that you enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

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