Q&A: Stacey Amagrande

A wife, a chef and a soon to be cookbook author, Season 3 MasterChef contestant Stacey Amagrande likes her plate full… literally. After receiving her apron, Amagrande has been competing under extreme pressure but performing with incredible poise. She takes some time away from the kitchen to chat with Inked Magazine about her experience on the show and even tells us what to expect on upcoming episodes. Hey, if you can’t take the heat – get out of the kitchen.

Inked Magazine: How did your passion for cooking begin?

Stacey Amagrande: My passion for cooking began when I was very young. Both of my parents cooked; Mom made lasagnas and pizzas and Dad grilled ribs, steaks and chicken on the BBQ. I grew up with great home food all of the time. My Grandparents played a big part in my food inspiration. My Greek Great Grandmother “Yaya” was a chef, restauranteur, fisher woman and all around go-getter. Needless to say I was surrounded by amazing authentic cuisine. The old school way of doing it. Rustic and family style.

Inked: What pushed you to try out for MasterChef?

Amagrande: I was working as a manager for the HIgh Desert Farmer’s Market and I received word that MasterChef was casting for Season 3. They wanted us to help get the word out by putting their flyer on out information table. I instantly thought “I AM DOING IT!”. I was casted and the rest is history!

Inked: What was it like to stand up there in front of these three incredible chefs and be critiqued?

Amagrande: Being critiqued was really strange, uncomfortable, scary, awesome, humbling and exciting all at once.

Inked: What was your first dish and what was the reaction from the judges?

Amagrande: Gordon said my Espresso Coriander crusted New York Strip steak was perfectly cooked, my chimichurri sauce was right on and the grilled veggies were beautiful. But it was only a steak and some vegetables, It did not impress Gordon. Graham loved all of it, he said it worked brilliantly and voted me in for an apron. Joe was on the fence and actually sent me out of the room without an apron, but promptly changed his mind and changed my life by handing me the MasterChef apron.

Inked: What did it feel like to finally receive your apron?

Amagrande: Initially I felt defeated but the judges changed their minds and resurrected me in a sense. With my MasterChef apron on, I felt like a warrior. I won the first fight but the battle was far from over. I was excited, exhausted and proud!

Inked: According to the judges, what was your best dish and what was your worst so far?

Amagrande: So far my best dish, by far, is my Italian Trifle. A Layer of ladyfingers, lemon curd blended with mascarpone cheese, a layer of Basil Balsamic strawberry jam and amaretto cream to top it off. My worst dish, oh lets not talk about that! I guess so far it would have to be My Rabbit. Thankfully they did not show this but it was definitely not my best work.

Inked: What is the atmosphere like in the kitchen?

Amagrande: The atmosphere in the kitchen is a mixed bag of high, intense competition mellowed with a common ground of understanding, empathy and courage. It’s a Battle field.

Inked: What can we expect to see from you in the remaining episodes?

Amagrande: The remaining episodes include me working side-by-side with some amazing cooks, including celebrity chef Paula Deen, to complete insane challenges (some stinkier than others!). I will prove once again why I remain in the competition and deserve to fight for the title of MasterChef.

Inked: I imagine the show has made a huge impact on your life, especially since you tattooed the MasterChef logo on you… tell me about why you got it and where it is located.

Amagrande: I got the MasterChef Logo tattooed on top of an existing tattoo. It is located on the back of my neck at the top part of my spine. MasterChef has forever gifted me with courage, confidence and will power. it has ignited a new passion for food and feeding people. What better way to honor and remember my experience and how it has shaped me into a better chef than to dedicate a little piece of me to the experience. It is a good conversation starter as well!

Inked: And you have other tattoos?

Amagrande: I have a lotus flower on my lower back that rises from the muck and blooms into this amazing, seemingly endless, petal laden flower that represents rebirth. I got this tattoo symbolizing my change from a directionless teen to a devote Yoga teacher and practitioner. The autumn leaves growing up my spine represent my favorite time of year: Fall. I was married in October, MasterChef started in October, most of my travels are done in the Fall; it is simply perfect. I also have my parents wedding picture framed in a heart, an owl half sleeve as my Guardian and also my spirit animal as well as the symbol of wisdom. My right arm is flavored with my astrological sign, Leo, jasmine vines which take me back to my summers as a kid vacationing with family in Santa Barbara and an orchard.

Inked: Any plans for some food-related ink?

Amagrande: I will eventually be sleeving my right arm with the staple Italian cooking ingredients such as tomatoes, basil, olive oil and parmesan (the undisputed king of cheeses!).

Inked: What are you plans post MasterChef?

Amagrande: I’m in the process of writing my own cook book, tending to my very large and demanding garden and cooking up a storm for anyone and everyone who comes by! Catering, gourmet food store and food products will all be available shortly. As for my status as a Master Chef… I guess you’ll just have to watch and find out!

You can find Stacey on Twitter and on Facebook. Website soon to follow at Stacey.amagrande.com

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