After the MasterChef success of Houstonians Christine Ha (Season 3 winner), James Nelson (fifth place on Season 4) and Alvin Schultz (Season 2), people are starting to notice the prowess of Houston amateur chefs. Of course, Houston is already getting notice for our burgeoning restaurant scene (though some would argue it's been beyond "burgeoning" for years now), and this slew of local chefs getting attention on reality TV is proving to the rest of the country that the fourth-largest city in the U.S. knows a thing or two about food.
We want to continue to show people that we've got culinary chops. And that's where you come in.
MasterChef Season 5 is holding an open casting call in Houston on October 12 at the Doubletree Suites Hotel Houston Galleria (pre-register here). Though celeb judges Joe Bastianich, Graham Elliot and Gordon Ramsay won't be on hand to fling insults and bestow accolades, judges from the MasterChef casting team will be there to determine whose food hits all the right notes.
We spoke with casting producer Erika Landin (who was also a Big Brother contestant) about what exactly the judges and casting folks will be looking for, both in terms of food and personality.
"I always say that we look for all types of personalities," Landin says. "We look for a broad spectrum across the country. We really just want a nice, diverse, passionate cast. The most important thing is we look for people who are really passionate about food. If you are passionate about food, then we want you."
That's great and all, but it takes way more than just passion to make it onto MasterChef. As part of the casting call, people are asked to bring a prepared dish that represents them as a chef. Sounds simple enough, but it's not like the TV show, where you have time to prep and plate. The dish must be ready when you walk in the doors. No microwaves or ovens allowed.
Landin says she advises people to be smart about what they plan to bring. There will be a wait, she explains, so dishes that need to be really hot might not be the best idea. Of course, there are ways to get around the casting directives.
"Some people have tried to bring equipment, and we always say, for fairness, we need everyone on the same playing field," Landin says. "But the game starts before the open call. I've literally walked out of open calls into the parking lot and what I've seen with people heating up food is very creative."
It seems that so long as cooking devices aren't actually in the audition building, you're good to go. Landin notes that she's seen many a food truck parked in the lot outside of the audition space, so if you're buddies with a food truck operator, now would be the time to call in a favor.
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Before you audition, you're asked to fill out a form online asking a variety of questions, from the obvious, like, "What are your first memories of cooking/being in the kitchen?" to the slightly more unusual, such as, "Have you ever hit someone in anger or self-defense?" But then again, it's reality TV, so a fist fight would make for good television.
"We don't cast for people to fight," Landin explains. "But it's a competition. The people are always going to get heated when there's a competition and the stakes are really high."
As a final word of advice, Landin says, "Just be yourself. That's the only way you can really sustain for more than ten minutes. It's really about being yourself and being really open and sharing your stories."
We also got some advice from Season 3 winner Christine Ha, who recently hosted a successful pop-up in Houston. "Lots of people ask for advice regarding auditions," she writes to us. "Cook something meaningful to you, something you'd like to eat yourself. Also, be yourself. The competition is exhausting enough -- you don't need to worry about putting up a front, too. The same goes for the challenges. Learn as much about a variety of ingredients and techniques, but know your strengths. Most importantly, believe in yourself and cook with your heart."