Interview with Christina Tosi and Adeline Ramage Rooney from "Masterchef" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Krista


Interview with Christina Tosi and Adeline Ramage Rooney of "Masterchef" on FOX 5/13/15

Final Transcript
May 13, 2015/10:00 a.m. PDT

Laurence Glasscock
Christina Tosi
Adeline Ramage Rooney


Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the MasterChef conference call. At this time, phone participants are in a listen-only mode. In a moment, there’ll be an opportunity for your questions. Instructions will be given at that time. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I’d now like to turn the conference over to Laurence Glasscock. Please go ahead.

Laurence: Hi, everyone. Good morning, good afternoon and welcome to the MasterChef Season 6 conference call with our new MasterChef judge Christina Tosi and Executive Producer, Adeline Ramage Rooney. Season 6 of MasterChef premieres with a two-hour event on Wednesday, May 20th from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fox.

At this time I would like to open the call up for questions and hand it over to Christina and Adeline.

Moderator: (Operator instructions.)

Christina: Hello.

Moderator: Our first question will come from Maxine Brown with Fox Digital. Please go ahead.

Maxine: Hi. Thank you, guys, for taking the call. We’re really looking forward to this season. My question is for Adeline. How would you describe the dynamic between the judges now that Christina has joined Gordon and Graham, and what’s your favorite part about their interaction? And then as a follow-up for Christina, what’s your favorite part about being on the panel with the guys?

Adeline: Hi, there. Thank you so much for your fantastic question. The dynamic is phenomenal. It’s very different. I think you see a new side of both Gordon and Graham, but the floor is really given over to Christina who comes with such an amazing wealth of experience.

I think her—the faces of all the female contestants lit up, as did the guys, I have to say, when she walked in the room it was finally like wow. There’s definitely something very fresh and exciting and new and inspiring that comes from having a woman on the panel.

But the great thing as well, we got over the fact that she’s a woman pretty quickly, and really it’s just all the other angles that Christina brings. She’s very young. She’s very dynamic. She has her own empire booming over on the east coast and that was an incredible inspiration. Not just for the contestants, but for Gordon and Graham as well. They are really excited by everything that Christina brings to the party.

She is obviously a phenomenal pastry chef, and incredibly experienced in some of the finest restaurants in New York before she started her own empire. So she brings something very, very fresh and dynamic and it’s good to have some female interaction.

There’s a very different dynamic between them than there was having three guys on the panel as you can imagine. The jokes are a little bit cleaner, I would say but not—

Christina: Just a little. No, I’m just joking. Adeline, you gave me way too many compliments. I have had such a blast joining the team and just being a part of the show overall. I think the dynamic between Gordon, Graham and I is really interesting because we all come different places and perspectives on food.

Every chef has a different take on tips and tricks and techniques and flavor pairings, and I think that they dynamic that the three of us bring individually, whether we’re disagreeing or whether we’re agreeing, always brings such great intrigue to the judging table and just to mentoring the home cooks throughout the season.

Adeline: I think what was also phenomenal—it’s Adeline again—was Christina’s ability to stand up for what she believes in immediately. Like with the first tasting, she disagreed with Gordon. We were like wow, oh great this is going to work. Because you know he is right most of the time, but there is room for other opinions at times also. And we love that and Gordon loves that too.

Maxine: That sounds really fun. Thank you so much.

Adeline: Thank you. Thank you for the great question.

Moderator: Our next question comes from Kristina Smith with Fox. Please go ahead.

Kristina: Hi. Thank you, guys, so much for taking the call. We appreciate it. This is for both of you. I know you’re celebrating a huge milestone this season with 100 episodes. I was just wondering what we can expect from that? Any other surprises this season?

Adeline: Do you want to answer, Christina?

Christina: Yes. I’ll take that one. I think for me, being a part of the 100th episode celebration was so exciting, because when you think about the scope of television shows nowadays 100 episodes is an incredible milestone. And for me getting—having just joined the team and getting to be a part of that celebration was so powerful towards the team, and the brand, and what I am now a part of in the family that I’m now a part of.

It certainly encapsules my level of enthusiasm, my level of pride for the team, but also to see how accomplished 100 episodes really, really stands for in television this day and age, especially a culinary competition, is incredible.

I think this season there are so many incredible surprises. First and foremost, as Adeline mentioned, from me stepping out onto the patio and seeing the looks on both the women’s faces and the men’s faces to the challenges that we’re bringing.

The home cooks coming into this competition are so skilled. They’ve watched every season of MasterChef. The access that they have to information, technique, ingredients has become so vast that they’re coming with such a vast array of skill and knowledge, and such a deep understanding of culinary tips and tricks and techniques. And it has required us to raise the bar to almost go back to the Board even during a season to say—if we give them this—we need to raise the bar on this challenge even because they’re that good. Also—

Adeline: Yes.

Christina: —in being a pastry chef and being a judge, we have a variety of really, really tricky and surprising dessert and pastry challenges. I think that’s an incredible—for me, of course, that is my love and my passion and that, for me is one of the really, really, really exciting things to anticipate and look out for in this season.

The greatest part of those challenges as well is to see these home cooks that may not feel as comfortable and confident in the dessert base watching them grow, and watching them succeed and watching ones that feel incredibly confident in the dessert base maybe be truly challenged.

Also, watching Gordon and Graham through the challenges as well. Because I think the one thing that people forget is that in order to be a great chef, you have to be well versed in sweet and savory. And I think that’s the point that we’re really driving home this season more so than any other season.

I think the thing that people forget as well is that Gordon was once a pastry cook long, long ago, and Graham has his bistro. He doesn’t have a pastry chef. He has to be both the savory chef and the pastry chef. These guys are just as well versed in pastry and savory as they are in savory and I, the same vice versa.

That is the real shock and surprise you see in a lot of these challenges and a lot of these home cook’s faces coming in to the MasterChef kitchen.

Adeline: I think that—Sorry, Christina, to butt in there—But I think that’s what was also incredibly surprising for myself and Robin, our other exec producer and Gordon as an exec was we knew Christina was going to be incredible on the dessert front. We took a little bit more of a gamble on savory sites simply because her accomplishments in that arena are not as visible, if you like. But we were blown away by her knowledge of not only the savory world, but of numerous ethnicities and cuisines, and that was very, very exciting to us to know that we could do a challenge where Christina would take the reins in the savory challenge.

I think some of our viewers may be vaguely concerned that the show’s going to turn in to an old dessert show or baking competition and it’s not, but it’s got all the exciting elements of that. But Christina is bringing such an all-rounded, 360 degree view on culinary perspective that I think that will be exciting and a bit of a surprise to the viewers.

Kristina: Thank you both so much.

Christina: Thank you.

Adeline: Thank you.

Moderator: (Operator instructions.) We’ll go to Kylie Grant with Please go ahead.

Kylie: Hi. Thank you guys so much for taking this call with us today.

Adeline: Thank you.

Kylie: I have a quick question on this new upcoming season. I was wondering how the contestants are this year compared to year’s past and how, Christina, it is working with contestants in this new job?

Adeline: Well, I can answer, because Christina, it’s obviously her first year and she’s been a huge fan of the show, but she’s not worked with those previous season contestants face-to-face. I’ve been around since Season 1.

As Christina referenced in our previous question and answer, she—the standard has grown exponentially every season. I think what Christina says is correct in that when people are coming to try out for MasterChef now they do their homework. So they watch an entire season. They binge view even if they watched it when it was actually airing. They then binge view as it comes up to their audition.

They’re coming year-on-year with a greater skill set, with more confidence to try new things, with a real understanding of the expectations that will be on them. They’re not surprised now. They may be a little bit frightened, but they’re not surprised when they lift a box and there’s a live crab or ten live crabs or a lobster or something moving under there. They’re willing to take anything that’s thrown at them, which is a big difference from what we saw in the first couple of seasons when to most people it was a new concept, a new show, and they were shocked with everything we threw at them.

Nowadays, people are coming and they’ve practiced doing live lobster at home. They’ve practiced. They all come and they say oh my family and I do a mystery box every night, every Friday night or we pretend we’re doing a field challenge when we do barbeques and we put ourselves in teams. So that’s really exciting seeing that growth of our audience, because everyone who comes on the show is pretty much a viewer and a fan of the show now. So it’s exciting to know that’s going on in homes around America.

So I can say with my hand on heart that every year we’re blown away by just how much stronger every single contestant is coming. There aren’t people coming now who say I didn’t know I was even going to have to bake. They come knowing that they’re going to have to have a few good stat staple baking recipes under their—in their armor as well. So that’s super exciting. Christina, do you want to answer the Christina part?

Christina: Yes. I’m afraid—can you repeat the question? You were just breaking up.

Kylie: Yes. Just how it is working with the contestants and the relationship you’ve been building with them, and how you’ve enjoyed it so far.

Christina: It’s an incredible feeling. I have a team of 190 at Milk Bar. So being a teacher, being a leader, being a mentor in all walks of the kitchen is something that I really feed off of, and it’s been incredible to bring that into the MasterChef kitchen. I think that the really fun part about maybe the first episode or the first two episodes is that there’s a moment of feeling one another out, where they’re not sure what to expect from me and of me and maybe arguably so vice versa.

I’m still at the very beginning figuring out well, what does potential look like to me in a home cook and what does—how can I help understand each of these home cooks and understand where their strengths are, and understand what’s going to be challenging to them, and understand how to best mentor them. Because everyone learns a little bit differently. Everyone takes feedback a little bit differently. So those first two episodes are very much like the feeling out period and the relationship-building phase, which for me is just as exciting as the time when you actually find your groove.

I think the one thing that is surprising to the home cooks at first is that they do maybe want to think of me just as a pastry chef, and think that if I’m not baking a cake that Christina might not be as helpful or that she might not have as much feedback. And I think that’s something that I demystified pretty quickly and that I have a very strong opinion about basically anything and everything food-related, and that I am also a voice of reason.

I think that my relationship with the home cooks—because at the end of the day, I am a female—I probably have a different type of warmth and nurturing approach to how I communicate with them but I, also at the end of the day, am a professional chef. So the ability to get down to the bottom of it and real talk and cut through the nonsense when there is nonsense is also just as severe as the more gentle encouraging moments. I’m a little bit of both. That’s who I am as person. That’s who I am as a chef. And that’s who I am as a mentor in the kitchen at Milk Bar and that’s absolutely what I bring to the MasterChef kitchen.
For me, I think the parts of mentoring the home cooks that I love the most is when they’re failing, or when they’re flailing, or faltering, and when they’re not even sure of themselves in what they’re doing, and being able to get in there during a cook or being able to get in there in a tasting and be a part of where they have really been challenged and then watching them recover from that, and watching them taking the feedback, and watching them growing from the mistakes as much as they grow from their successes. And that for me is my favorite part of mentoring and what I really, really loved about my time spent with the home cooks this season.

Kylie: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Adeline: I think to jump in again, there was an interesting episode with one contestant, one of the earlier episodes, and we see them because as Christina said the judge—the contestants were very much trying to feel their way around—they really, most of them were completely surprised when Christina walked out and they did not know that—we hadn’t announced it formally at that point that Christina was joining the panel. So to see this gorgeous woman and many of them absolutely know Christina and her brand intimately. Some didn’t know her as well.

But we had a moment where one male contestant, who shall remain nameless but it will become apparent if you watch the show, tried his hand at flirting a bit with Christina and that got shutdown immediately by Christina and it made for very interesting television. But I think that just really, for me anyway, it really set the ground rules on that front.

We have female contestants who try and flirt with the judges. That has happened in the past and it doesn’t work basically, but has always made for interesting viewing. And it was quite interesting watching that dynamic just being turned on its head. [Indiscernible].

Christina: Yes. I think those are fun moments where the role of being a woman and the role of being a chef has those interesting moments in the kitchen, and in the episodes and amongst the cooks, the home cooks. Because inevitably, I think we look at our roles and we know our roles as being those as mentors, and we really are so incredibly invested in giving them the utmost feedback and giving them the utmost real life/real world experience in working next to chefs, working with chefs that are mentoring them as possible. They come in so passionate. But at moments they lose that sense of being in the kitchen and they have these moments of, at least on my behalf, wanting to look at me as a female or play two [indiscernible] to that face and—

Adeline: Also I think, Christina, you probably agree, it’s something also to do with the fact that you are young. You’re younger than a lot—

Christina: For sure, for sure.

Adeline: —of the contestants. You’ve achieved so much but you’re—they’re looking at you thinking how come you’re this successful when you’re five or ten years younger than me and you’re a girl, which has been a really interesting and exciting thing to watch play out when they suddenly are like oh yes that’s why you’re successful, because you’re actually pretty amazing.

Christina: Fair enough. No, you’re right, though. You’re absolutely right. I forget that because I live in it every day.

Adeline: Because you’re an old soul.

Christina: I’m an old soul. I am.
Moderator: Our next question will come from Krista Chain with The TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.

Krista: Hi, Christina.

Christina: Hello.

Krista: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. My question is for you. I was just wondering since this is your first year what are some of the challenges that you’ve had to deal with?

Christina: Well, I think it’s a great question. I think that because it is my first season there’s absolutely been the feeling out of the dynamic on the show. As we were mentioning before, the dynamic of walking out onto that patio, in a dress dressed like a girl and just watching the faces of these home cooks try and understand what’s happening, try and understand what that’s going to mean for them, and trying to figure out how they can adjust, what they think they’re going to do to get ahead, and maybe what they might mean for challenges. Which of course, one would be pointed to many more dessert and sweet pastry challenges.

I think for me, my challenges have been figuring out, like I mentioned before, what can I bring to the mentorship of these home cooks? What do I consider potential in a home cook? What am I looking for in the next MasterChef? What does that mean to me? And how can I pull the most out of each of these home cooks? How can I give them the advice? Which one of these home cooks is more serious than another and which one of these home cooks is more open-minded about learning and growing than another?

Inevitably, the time that I might spend with a home cook during the cook time of a challenge is different than the time that Graham or Gordon might spend and figuring out what that means for me as a judge. In the confines of a dish, of an end dish at the end of a challenge, where I see the most potential. Inevitably, for me in a good dish—in a dish in general there’s always good and there’s always bad.

There’s always places where someone maybe took a risk and succeeded, and there are places in any dish good or bad where there’s room for improvement. And figuring out how I weight those things and how I gauge the priority of something that might taste amazing but presentation might be lacking, versus a plate that looks beautiful but the depth of flavor or the creativity in terms of use of an ingredient might be less so.

And just feeling out where—trying to identify within myself what that looks like as a judge, and figuring out how to use that and give the utmost productive feedback to these home cooks to really challenge them, but inevitably to make them shine, and to allow them to succeed in the competition and then anywhere else that they choose to take their passion for food outside of the kitchen.

Krista: Okay. Well, thank you.

Christina: Thank you.

Moderator: The next question comes from Shaun Clark with Chef TV. Please go ahead.

Shaun: Hi, guys. Thanks for talking to us today.

Christina: Hi, Shaun.

Adeline: Thank you.

Shaun: Fox just announced on Monday that MasterChef Junior is premiering Friday for this fall which is really exciting for the show. Where are you guys on production of the new season and, Christina, how has the experience been working with these young chefs for the first time?

Christina: Adeline, I’ll let you speak to the production.

Adeline: We are wrapped from production and about to start post. It’s again, I can say hand on heart it’s the best season yet. We have kids that are now have—it’s age 8 to 13 and we have kids who are coming to this show having grown up with MasterChef, the adult show. So they don’t actually remember a time when MasterChef wasn’t on. So they are very familiar with the format and the way that it works.

We also have kids for the first time this year who never started cooking until MasterChef Junior was on, and we have one kid in particular who that’s their story. The standard that that child has achieved in just the two years that MasterChef Junior has been on the air will blow you away.

We have kids that are coming to that show now who are literally like chefs, like really experienced line cooks in restaurants. It’s really pretty staggering because you’ve got kids now who are not just taking ballet or not taking an extracurricular sports program necessary. They are taking cooking classes with professional chefs after school. So we’re super excited.

I know this a call about MasterChef Season 6, but we are beyond excited about Junior and Christina was phenomenal on it. She may not be a parent herself, but as she said in this call before, she’s an incredible mentor. I said parent. Not a parent yet anyway, but she is an incredible mentor and a leader and a mother-figure to her 200 strong team in her business.

I think that level of leadership and motherly quality really came out in the show and I think it’s really going to be exciting for viewers to watch. Young girls in particular again, just seeing a young woman standing up there who has achieved everything that Christina has achieved is just super exciting.

Gordon has always brought a lot of young female chefs through his restaurants and business empire. Some of his strongest chefs like his [indiscernible] who run his three-star [indiscernible] three-star restaurant in London is a woman, and he has numerous women coming through the ranks. Then we think that it’s been a massive inspiration to young women to look at food as a really valid career option and something that can bring them a lot of pleasure, and joy and fulfillment.

Christina: Yes. I think to Adeline’s point, one of the most exciting things about the announcement that I’d be joining MasterChef Junior as well was the amazing reception that I received personally amongst parents of young girls. I suppose sometimes we forget that young girls that are so passionate about cooking how excited they are to see a female role model as a judge on the show. I think that reception for me has been the most incredible.

I very much operate with a young-at-heart mentality, though I am every bit a grown up and professional. I think I always balance that with a very young-at-heart child—celebrating the child in you. I certainly run a bakery that serves desserts and I think that comes with the job, the passion for the job.

I have many, many nieces and nephews, and I think the time that I spend with them in the kitchen is probably my favorite time. I was a home cook before I was anything else and being able to mentor the young home cooks on MasterChef Junior, for me, I see so much of myself in them and I think the same rings true with Gordon and Graham.

Seeing these kids discovering their passion for food at that really amazing age: eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. It’s that age where you are—your brain is a sponge and you’re laser focused, but you’re also fearless in this sense of how you work with ingredients and how you question things in the world that’s specifically in the kitchen. And your ability to be given a challenge, to approach it with a fearlessness, and to lose yourself in the challenge; to let your imagination run wild and then to create this amazing dish with this sense of fearlessness in the kitchen was probably my favorite thing that I could expect day in and day out going to work while we were filming MasterChef Junior.

I love being around the spirit of the kids. My favorite thing about them is that they haven’t quite developed that filter of—you know the adults, they’re grown up. And I think there’s that sentiment of when you’re grown up and you enter into MasterChef, you’re expected to know everything, and you’re expected to know every ingredient and every technique, and that’s what will prove that you are the next MasterChef. But what they forget is that our role is as judges but we also see our role as mentors.

The kids are not afraid to come into a challenge and say I don’t know what this is, I haven’t worked with this, I don’t know that but I’m ready to learn. On that level, because they’re able to lower their guard so quickly, we’re able to connect with them and teach them so much more.

And to Adeline’s point, they come in with this amazing vast knowledge of food because they’ve watched MasterChef Junior for as long as they can remember. The one home cook that Adeline was mentioning before, he—this home cook is going to blow your mind when you see how much skill and technique and culinary perspective has been—

Adeline: In two years.

Christina: —[indiscernible] into a short amount of time purely inspired by watching MasterChef Junior. Which, of course again, I’m going to go ahead, take a leap of faith and speak for you as well, Adeline, in saying that’s what makes our job day in and day out so exciting is knowing how powerful that passion, that translation of passion and the call [indiscernible] to action in the home kitchen is, especially amongst these kids.

Adeline: 100%.

Laurence: Thank you, everyone, so much. That concludes our conference call today. Just as a reminder, the first two hours of MasterChef premiere on Wednesday, May 20th and the first episode is available on the Fox Screening Room. So thank you so much and have a great rest of your day.

Adeline: Thank you, everybody.

Christina: Thank you. Have a good one, guys. Bye.

Adeline: Thank you. Bye.

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