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Claudia Sandoval, the first Latina to be crowned winner of home-cooking competition series MASTERCHEF, has a message that resonates universally- “follow your dreams”. But as a single mother living paycheck to paycheck, Claudia means this both, literally and figuratively.
First, she had to push herself to audition along with other tens of thousands of cooking enthusiasts. She said, “I put my dream off for a while. I was worried about not making any money, and about who would take care of my child. I wondered what would happen if I went away for potentially three months.” Finally, Sandoval, an events manager, decided to take a leap of faith one Wednesday. By Friday, she was cooking the signature dish that would secure her a spot on the show’s sixth season.
As this aspiring gourmand advanced through the rounds, she found that sticking to her instincts always gave her good results. For the “Mystery Box Challenge”, in which participants receive only one ingredient to prepare an elevated dish, she had to work with a single tomato. Claudia won with a savory tomato Napoleon.
“I had a dream about it the night before,” she said.
Raised by a single mother herself, Claudia was taught how to cook by the Mexican matriarchs in her family. Fittingly, for the final challenge, she created a three-course meal featuring flavors and ingredients representative of her roots: an appetizer of huitlacoche tamal with pork chicharrón, cactus salsa and avocado crème; a main course of grilled swordfish with chayote, chickpeas and Mexican squash; and a poached pear with key lime custard, candied lime and pepita cinnamon brittle.
“Claudia was a strong competitor from the beginning,” said the show’s host, executive producer and judge Gordon Ramsay. “Her passion and unique dishes were what impressed us the most, and we look forward to seeing where her new culinary career will lead her.”
Meanwhile, we can’t wait to hear what Claudia will dream of next.
Click here to see a clip of the series finale (Video Courtesy of FOX Broadcasting)
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