This conversation has been edited for clarity.
Nadia Boujarwah: I’m joined by none other than Claudia Sandoval the winner of season six of Master Chef, and also a bestselling author.
Claudia Sandoval: Yes.
NB: What it was like to be selected to get on the show? What that process was, what it was like to go through the whole competition, and of course winning? Which is just unbelievable.
CS: Oh my gosh. Well, first of all, I was totally not going to apply. Which is the craziest thing to me because, I think with a lot of us, and this is so true, especially right now; you find yourself in this situation, I was a single mom. I was living in a one-bedroom apartment. I was scared, and I was afraid to put myself out there, but look what taking that risk got me? It has completely changed my life, but I’ll do it again absolutely. Was it a pain in the butt? One hundred percent, but, you have to sacrifice in order to reap a reward.
NB: Yes. And you really have to keep pushing yourself because you never know when something extraordinary is going to happen. But it definitely doesn’t happen when you’re not taking risks.
CS: Or when you’re most comfortable, absolutely not.
NB: So how different was the reality of being on set from what we got to see on television?
CS: I feel you see [about] 10 seconds of the reality of being on. It’s longer obviously, because you only get to see 42 edited minutes of two days of shooting.
NB: At what point in the series did you look around and say, “I think I could win this?”
CS: So I walk in and they’re telling us all about the challenge or whatever. They [said] we want you to look into your drawers. And then we opened the drawers and inside is a tablet. And looking at the tablet is almost like a Zoom meeting of my mom, my daughter and my grandmother. It was three generations, staring back at me.
NB: I have goosebumps.
CS: And so I was super crying, oh my god, ugly crying. It was that moment where I [thought] oh, I got this. Oh, I’m going to crush this. Best soufflé I ever met in my life. Best soup I’ve ever made in my life. Best panna cotta. Just nailed, nailed, nailed across the board.
NB: That’s so awesome. So, obviously you’ve had an extraordinary public journey now, but, I know that your love for cooking comes from a very personal place at home. Tell us a little bit about where that whole journey started for you?
CS: I don’t think I knew that I loved to cook. I think it’s just part of the makeup of our family. Our family’s from Mazatlán, Sinaloa. It’s just a very rich agricultural space. And it rains a ton so you don’t have to pay for water. So my family comes from those people that were more agriculturalists, and then, my uncles would go fishing. And then they would bring that back in and my aunts would then cook that.
NB: Oh wow.
CS: There’s nothing more satisfying than eating something and it reminding you of your family, and your mom, and grandma, and your dad, or whoever.
NB: It’s incredible how food can do that.