Today I’m super stoked to share with you an interview I did with Luca Manfe. Luca is a top 12 competitor on Fox’s hit show MasterChef. I imagine since you guys are probably foodies, you’ve heard of the show, but for those who haven’t…MasterChef is an culinary competition series that searches for the best home cooks in America, and through a series of elimination rounds. The show is hosted by celebrity Chefs Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich, another famous Italian chef.
Luca was so great to talk to and had such a fabulous personality. I loved how driven and passionate he was about his culinary career! After talking with him, I just wanted to run into the kitchen and make something Italian!
So here’s the interview! Enjoy!
Luca, you were cut from Master Chef Auditions last year and yet, you’re back this year! Tell me about that journey and determination to make it back on the show.
I was very sad that I didn’t make the cut the first year…because I always thought that I had what it takes to be in the competition. I was lucky enough that they gave me the opportunity to come back…but during that time I never stopped cooking. I started to improve in all the things I was lacking, especially baking. I made so many cakes in one year it was incredible. I’d find cookbooks and search on the internet and tried different things that I’d never tried in the kitchen.
What was the hardest thing you made when you were practicing at home?
Well, I have to say I don’t like baking. So everything from cakes, pies, cupcakes and stuff like that at the beginning was very hard. It’s like chemistry, you have to follow the science and understand why something went wrong. I think feeling comfortable with making a pie without a recipe was a very big accomplishment for me.
Making a pie without a recipe would be hard for me!
It just takes practice. Practice, practice always leads to perfection eventually.
I’ve heard you’re into eating local and in season, which is awesome – is that how you were raised?
I live in New York now and it’s very easy to eat local because we have beautiful farmer’s markets everywhere in the city. However, in Italy it’s different because we don’t have these big grocery stores where you can find produce from South America or Asia. In Italy we need to go through the seasons because we don’t import. So yes, I was raised to eat local and in season just because it’s a big part of the Italian culture.
Who’s your biggest cooking inspiration?
Absolutely my Mother! Being part of the restaurant business, I’ve had the opportunity to work with very well-known chefs, but my Mom is always the one I call for advice about food. There’s this kind of magic in home cooking, to create from simple ingredients to make something very tasty.
Tell me about an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your career.
I have to say, that year after year, I do something different. I found myself working in New York city managing different restaurants in different cuisines, not just Italian…but Japanese, French, and North American restaurants. From that point, I made my way out becoming a general manger in Manhattan, one of the biggest restaurant scenes in the world. That was a big accomplishment for me. Right now, staying in the MasterChef competition would be the biggest accomplishment ever.
Well, we’re rooting for you here!
(laughs) Thank you!
So I’m curious, what’s is your favorite food to eat?
Sometimes I have this craving for Foie Gras [fattened liver]. It’s something that if I find it on the menu, I always order it, no matter what. It’s my favourite thing to eat…I love pasta, of course, but that’s very genetic.
What motivates you or keeps you excited to be in the kitchen?
I don’t really need any motivation; it’s just a passion for me more than anything else. I guess it’s something that relaxes and makes me happy. So, for me, when I’m in the kitchen I’m in my comfort zone. It starts from going to the farmer’s market and just looking around and deciding what I’ll make for dinner and then go home, put my music on, and start cooking. You know, it’s a like passion; I don’t need to find a motivation to do it. It’s the thing I like to do most in life…besides spending time with my wife.
So, I have to ask you, does your wife even have to cook? Or do you do it together?
Well, I got to say, most of the time I cook. Sometimes, she has more time than me and she comes up with something. Especially, because right now, it’s my role…I make food. She makes something else. We both work in the restaurant business so we actually eat in our home, just the days we’re off. Most of the days we eat out.
As a chef, you’re constantly in the kitchen and tasting your dishes…how do you stay fit in your off-time?
Well, first of all, I’m not a chef…
Haha, well, I think you’re a chef.
(laughs) The most important thing is to avoid carbs when you’re cooking or especially late at night. I just try to keep balance; the most important thing is not what you eat, but how much you eat. People say you can’t eat pasta every day, that’s not true…but you can eat pasta every day, you just can’t eat half a pound of pasta a day. 100 grams of pasta is a good boost of energy to keep you going and fills you up. Most importantly, I love my vegetables, drink lots of water…I also workout about 3-4 times a week, or as much as I can…but I’m not a maniac. I think fried foods and carbs is something you should stay away from as much as you can.
What’s one of the more different foods you’ve prepared?
I remember when I was a kid, I’d make braised snails with my Grandmother. I used to clean the snails from the shell and we’d braise them in tomato sauce.
Thank so much for talking to me! Best of luck Luca! I’m cheering for you and I totally think you deserve the title of MasterChef!
Thank you so much – I hope so too!
There you have it! I’m so excited for Luca’s culinary journey and wish him lots of luck on Master Chef! Stay tuned as he shares with us a special recipe next post!
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