Film and TV

Calling All Houstonians to Root for James Nelson on MasterChef Season 4

Here's another reason why you should love Houston so much. Another Houstonian has made it onto the fourth season of MasterChef and it looks as if he could go all the way. James Nelson, from Victoria, has advanced to the top 15 after wowing the judges with his audition recipe of pork belly with a lentil, asparagus and Portobello hash, and creating incredible dishes from each challenge to keep him safe.

Now, Houston, we need to support James Nelson, just like we did with Christine Ha. How cool would that be, to have back-to-back MasterChef winners from Houston?

This calm, cool, collected guy definitely has what it takes to win the title of MasterChef.

Nelson is the co-owner of Bravado Spice, a hot sauce company in Houston, along with longtime friend Jeremiah Tallerine. Nelson has informally taught himself everything about cooking. After watching every season of MasterChef, Nelson knew that he wanted to audition.

"I am a big fan of the show," Nelson says. "I always watch it. Particularly the third season was inspiring for me."

Ha was a huge inspiration and contributing factor to Nelson choosing to audition. When Nelson got the phone call that he would be given a shot at auditioning to compete in the MasterChef kitchen, he was ecstatic. Walking into the audition in front of "three bigger-than-life personalities," Nelson was quite reserved, despite the situation.

"I wanted to cook a protein that was more challenging," Nelson says. I [thought], 'I am going to go with something not so glamorous.'

Compared to what the other contestants decided to make, Nelson's pork belly was a gutsy move, but ended up paying off for him because all three of the judges loved it.

Nelson's cooking style boasts bold flavors. While baking is not his forte, he loves to cook Korean, Indian and Mexican food, in fact, David Cordúa and Momofuku cxhef David Chang are two of his biggest culinary mentors.

"I follow him [Chang] religiously and I am a big fan of all of his restaurants," Nelson says. "I am a big fan of David Cordúa. He is known for his Latin flavors."

Besides following celebrity chefs, Nelson sharpens his craft by always trying to stay on top of the latest trends in food and cooking.

"I am constantly cooking. For my fiancée, I am always making dinner," Nelson says. "I am always reading, watching the latest cooking shows. I try to stay on top of it; any venue I have, I am on."

Nelson has also learned a lot from the three judges, Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich, while being on the show. As soon as the show started, Nelson didn't find Ramsay or Elliot to be as intimidating as they might seem when you watch the show on TV, however, Bastianich remained intimidating.

"Joe has that he might kill you at any moment thing going on. Gordon is very motivating and wants to see any of these people become the next MasterChef," Nelson says. "Joe has the same thing, but he has a very hard line of what he expects from you."

If Nelson wins MasterChef, he hopes to expand his current company, Bravado Spice, and open a new restaurant in Houston. Some of his favorite places to eat in Houston specialize in the foods he loves to cook.

"I love Churrascos. I am a big fan of the food truck, Chi'Lantro -- love it," Nelson says. "I love El Gran Malo, umm Burger King, and I am a big fan of Torchy's Tacos."

For anyone thinking about trying out for MasterChef, Nelson offers a few words of advice. "Good luck because it is so much more work, so much more physically challenging than it seems," Nelson says. "It is daunting, but if it is something you are truly passionate about, go for it."

Follow Nelson on Twitter and Facebook throughout the competition and cheer him on each Wednesday night on Fox at 7 p.m. There are just 15 contestants left, so lets support Nelson and cheer him on to the finale in hopes that he becomes the next MasterChef.

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Molly Dunn
Contact: Molly Dunn