How ‘MasterChef’ Changed My Life

My love for “MasterChef” all started when my roommates forced me to join them on an episode of “MasterChef USA.” We had just recently moved into our cute little apartment (that creaks whenever you make a step) in Rosslyn, VA. The WiFi had just been installed, and my roommates decided that we had to have TV bonding night. I made sure to grab my phone as I never really enjoyed the fast-paced cooking reality shows. I ended up finishing the first episode only because I was hoping for some sort of “idiot sandwich” comment from Gordon Ramsay.


In two short weeks, we finished the entirety of “MasterChef USA” season 10. Since we’d moved in, I’d eaten rice and eggs every day for breakfast. A simple meal, for sure, but I began to imagine how I could make my meals reflect the beauty of the meals on “MasterChef.” After many attempts, my eggs looked great and my sister even complimented them, and my sister never compliments anything of mine! Then, of course, the attention seeker in me decided to post the eggs on my Instagram story. All it took was one person to swipe up for my pride to build.

Every meal after that has become a competition with myself. How can I make my meals look pretty enough to rival the ones on “MasterChef” and make my IG look pretty enough for validation from my followers? Let me show you a few of my greatest creations below.

These were the eggs that started it all. My mother and sister approved, so that’s all it took for me to gain enough confidence to share on my IG.

Thanks to my roommates’ “MasterChef” addiction, I actually found myself getting better with my skills in the kitchen. I was cutting faster, adjusting the heat properly, and seasoning just how it should be. On top of those, my food photography skills were improving as well. Take a look below!

This is my friend’s, Kiran, and my version of Chicken Tikka Masala.

In this recipe, my friend Kiran and I made our version of a Chicken Tikka Masala, something I was terribly craving since moving up to Virginia. I’d say we cheated on this recipe, because we used a store-bought sauce. It was good, but we found ourselves adding garlic, onions, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a heck ton of paprika.

This is a simple version of spaghetti and pan-fried shrimp.

Now this dish was a banger. It was my first time cooking pasta without anyone’s physical help, and a few noodles may have ended up on the wall (apparently if they stick, it’s al dente).

This is a ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich with corn salsa and chips on the side.

This meal above was one of my favorites because of all of the colors involved. It also took a little more work because I pickled the onions in the sandwich myself. The corn salsa was something my sister made all the time, but I never had the courage to try it out myself.

This is my version of deep-fried panko shrimp.

I actually gained a few pounds after eating these fried shrimp bits (jk … maybe). I’ve always had a fear of hot oil (*flashback to past traumatic experiences with popping oil burns*) but built up the courage to try out frying some shrimp because I was in the mood for something greasy. To be fair, I paired it with a salad to make it healthy.

This is a simple one: pancakes with some fresh strawberries and syrup.

These pancakes were extremely fun to make — partly because this was my first time making them from scratch. I didn’t realize how easy this dish is to make! After that morning, I vowed to never make pancakes from the box ever again.

Another simplified version of spaghetti and parmesan chicken (but no parmesan, oops).

When I say this spaghetti dish was memorable, I mean it. Despite how delicious this may look, it was probably one of the worst things I’ve made: It was very bland and undercooked. After giving myself some time to reflect (I literally sat on the couch and thought about this), I realized my mistakes: I didn’t let the chicken set to room temperature before frying it, I didn’t pound it flat enough, and, most importantly, I didn’t season it properly. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I’m glad I know how to improve myself for round two.


Overall, my experiences in the kitchen were entirely new adventures for me, inspired by my new love of “Masterchef.” Many of the recipes I shared on my IG story were actually my first attempts at them. When someone asks me what my favorite thing to make is, I always struggle to answer because I’ve only ever made everything once! Wait a couple of months and ask me that same question, and hopefully, I’ll have an answer ready to tell you.

Things To Cook for Your Loved Ones This Thanksgiving Season

Things to Cook for Your Loved Ones This Thanksgiving Season

The Traditional Friendsgiving Meal

You could show your love with the standard wholesome potluck, or choose to get a little creative this year: Pick up the tab on your group’s late-night Domino’s order, congregate in Leo’s to taste the Fresh Food Company™’s seasonal creations or Venmo all of your stressed-out friends a couple of bucks for coffee at Midnight Mug. Share the love!

Parental Appreciation Breakfast

Get up early one morning during Thanksgiving break and make your parents some pancakes, French toast or maybe even a frittata if you’re feeling inspired. This gesture will basically repay them for the accumulated costs of tuition, room and board, Uber Eats and everything else they’ve done for you since birth.

“Give Me an A” Brownies

Drop these in your professor’s mailbox with a personalized note as a last-ditch effort to save your grade. Ah, sweet, sweet bribery. If the president’s doing it, we can at least try to do it too.

Disclaimer: The Hoya does not endorse bribery.

“Be My Friend?” Picture Cookies

We all know about those cute, delicious sugar cookies with seasonally appropriate decorations. Make a batch of the ones with turkeys on them, park yourself at a table on Lau 2 and wait for your new friends to arrive. This will make up for the feelings of homesickness and isolation that are bound to arise this holiday season.

This is not a Pillsbury ad.

“Goodbye Forever” Cake

If you’re going abroad like me, soften the blow of your last rendezvous with friends and family by saying what everyone is already thinking in cake form. This way, you can all get over your separation anxiety by eating your feelings together.



Block People

All the ~*~homies~*~ out there who find themselves on a block plan, or without any meal plan at all (it’s been real, Leo’s) may feel a bit out of whack with the sudden disappearance of all-you-can-eat meals every week. Don’t be afraid! Cooking for yourself is fun. And if you make something without burning the apartment down, you get to pretend that you’re a functional adult! The problem though, in post-Leo’s life, is where to get food. You can only rely on Corp stores or your roommate’s side of the fridge for so long.

But you’re in luck! A Safeway exists about a mile off campus (address: 1855 Wisconsin Ave). It’s not the shortest walk, but on the bright side, if you do end up walking there you can claim your grocery trip as your exercise for the day (week?). However, if you don’t feel like walking (totally understandable), you can take the free GUTS bus! The Wisconsin Avenue shuttle is located, for now, across the street from Darnall. It’ll drop you off less than a quarter-mile from Safeway, a 3-minute walk according to Google Maps. The GUTS schedule for this particular shuttle can be found here.

If you’re not into Safeway, there’s a Trader Joe’s over in Foggy Bottom (1101 25th Street NW) which is accessible either by walking (more exercise!) or the $1 Circulator towards Union Station (get off at Pennsylvania and 26th).

Now what to buy?? Clearly, the details of what you want to buy when you’re grocery shopping are left to you. Some suggestions include: versatile vegetables like garlic, broccoli, onions and spinach; fruit of any kind (it makes an awesome snack); any type of protein/grain so you don’t feel hungry an hour after eating; and SPICES/HERBS. The last one cannot be over-emphasized – a simple piece of chicken becomes a work of genius if you season it right.

When you’re buying and preparing food, make sure you cook enough. This might sound obvious, but it’s pretty easy to prepare what looks to be a standard amount of food, only to find out that you’re still hungry when it’s done. This might be because all the steps of cooking (chopping vegetables, sauteing, etc.) make it feel like you’re making more than you actually are – or at least that’s how it feels to me. Anyway, it’s probably better to find yourself with too much food, because you can Tupperware leftovers for the next day’s meal! (Or for when you stumble home late at night. This is a judgment-free zone.)

If you’re stuck on what to make, check out sites like or With these recipes, you can impress your friends and live out your Food Network Star fantasies. Happy cooking, Hoyas!


Surviving the 2am Hunger Struggle

Surviving the Late Night CravingsThat time of “day” has finally come: 2am. You’re tired, over-stimulated and probably dehydrated. There is literally only one thing on your mind: food. For those of us still mourning the death of Tuscany’s (R.I.P.) or looking to save (read as: redistribute) a few precious dollars, here are a few home remedies to cure the 2am itch.

‘Early’ breakfast One thing everyone should have in their fridge at all times is eggs. They’re versatile, easy and delicious. Take a bowl and crack one or two in there, scramble ’em up, and then put them in the microwave. Yes, you can make eggs in the microwave. After about a minute, sprinkle some cheese on top and put it back in for another 30 seconds or so to melt it down and finish cooking the egg. Eat with salsa.

SpongeBob Mac ‘N’ Cheese You know what I’m talking about. It’s like Spongebob, Patrick and Squidward are literally partying in my mouth. Obviously that’s not true because Squidward doesn’t party, but you get the idea. This may seem like the easiest choice on the list but don’t be fooled. Please, please, please pour the water in BEFORE putting Spongebob and friends in the microwave. For everyone’s sake. Unless you secretly want to see this in person.

Tortellini Belly-button shaped pasta. Perfect for belly dancers after work or you when you are contemplating what life would be like as a belly dancer. Water to pot, pasta to water. You can use the waiting time to compare belly buttons. Maybe practice storing quarters in there so one day you can beat this guy. But tone it down a touch when it’s time to eat.

Leftover Thai Food I’ve never had anything better than re-re-heated chicken pad thai. Yes, this is a multi-step process that requires a little forethought and the most complex creation on this list. But trust me, it’s worth it. Start by ordering chicken pad thai or an equally delicious Thai dish. Eat half. If you are super hungry, you may want to order two dishes and keep one for later. Put in microwave and heat. If you’re creative, pull out some Skippy and make it a peanut based dish. Scratch that. Always make it a peanut based dish.

The Desperado Finally, a unique dish I coined at an incredibly low point in my 2am culinary career. Necessary ingredients? Peanut Butter, Nutella, banana. Mush. Enjoy. It’s the kind of thing you won’t brag about to your friends. Maybe you’re too embarrassed to tell them at all. But you will be nothing but smiles the entire time. Just like this kid. Don’t even try to deny it.

Photo: Shades of Hope

Common Room Cooking: Tomato and Mozzarella

So you think you want to be a chef? Miss the feel of a home cooked meal? Maybe you just want to pull out your iPhone and show off your latest creation. Coming to college, I knew that I would be missing one thing dearly, my mother, and let’s face it, her cooking. Leo’s isn’t exactly a replacement. So what is one to do? Lets get to it: cooking in the common room!

Now if you’re feeling particularly lazy, there’s always a great microwave option. You can make everything from oatmeal to mac and cheese in there and never have to bat an eyelash.

Personally, I love to go to the Farmer’s Market on Wednesday and stock up on some great bread and tomatoes. Make a trip to Vittles, Safeway or Whole foods (wonderland that it is) to pick up some mozzarella cheese, arugula, and balsamic vinegar. With just a few simple ingredients, you could be making yourself the most beautiful sandwiches with little to no effort. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and mozzarella cheese while its hot, and the mozzarella will melt right in.

While you’re at the grocery store pick up some pasta; arguably the easiest food to cook in the world. With the same ingredients as above, you could have a delicious dinner. Just don’t forget the wine (assuming you’re over 21).

There you have it, you’re on your way to becoming the next top chef. Hey, I even heard that someone managed to make sushi in the common room. That could be you! Take your stomach into your own hands, okay, that sounds a little iffy, maybe don’t do that. Oh, what’s that noise off in the next room? The mystery, the drama….Well, it’s not you’re stomach grumbling after a nice common-room cooked meal!

PS Maybe add a Nutella creation for dessert? DO IT.

Photo: Anna Goldberg/The Hoya