MasterChef marks its 100th episode tonight on FOX. Among the contestants this season is Seattle’s own Amanda Saab, who took time out to speak with me about her love of cooking, food photography, and her favorite local restaurants:
When did you realize that cooking was your passion?
I realized cooking was my passion when I was really young. I have fond memories of being in the kitchen with my mother when I was 4 or 5. I remember my grandmother cooking for the entire family every week (she still does this, every Saturday for 40+ people). She would take time to show me how to roll grape leaves, how to roll dough for spinach pies and how to fry meshabek (Lebanese sweet dough, fried and dipped in honey).I went to graduate school, moved to Seattle with my husband Hussein and began my career as a social worker. I would come home from work and find myself getting creative in my kitchen. It was my artistic outlet and my way to process my day!
What is your favorite dish to cook at home?
My favorite dish to make is my baklava cheesecake. I make a citrus cheesecake that is stacked atop a flaky piece of homemade baklava that I pair with a blood orange sauce, candied hazelnuts and dehydrated orange. It is delicious, beautiful dish that’s also a representation of me!
You’ve mentioned that you use cooking as an artistic outlet. Many of our readers are food bloggers who take a lot of photos – do you have any plating tips for making a dish more visually appealing?
Practice! I’ve come a long way in the year that I have been running my blog (http://amandasplate.com) by practicing. You will learn what looks good and what does not. I learned very quickly that my best food photos are shot in natural light. As far as plating tips, keep enough white space on your plate, add some color with a sprig of mint and try to add some height by stacking some elements of your dish.
What was your experience like filming MasterChef?
Filming MasterChef was incredible! It was my first time in a production set and I was surprised at how smooth everything ran and how natural it all felt. I really enjoyed being able to cook with the best ingredients and all the equipment I could ever dream of in one place. The adrenaline rush I had cooking while in the MasterChef kitchen was unlike anything else I have experienced.
Our website, MomStart, is based out of Seattle, so we’ll definitely be rooting for you this season! What are your favorite Seattle restaurants to eat at?
Thank you so much for the support! My favorite Seattle restaurants are Rione XII, Lola, Hot Cakes for dessert and Macrina Bakery for brunch!
In the next team challenge, the remaining home cooks will celebrate a MASTERCHEF milestone, the 100th episode! Each team will prepare a two-course menu for the MASTERCHEF 100th episode celebration, where VIP guests will dine on oyster and caviar appetizers and a duck breast entrée, followed by a special surprise dish by judge Christina Tosi. The losing team will face the next pressure test, where contestants must create a three layer birthday cake in the all-new “Happy Birthday MasterChef” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.