Recent Harvard Grad Cooks His Way Into the MasterChef Finale

September 17, 2019 | By Sarika Mujumdar

MasterChef: it’s all in the name. A culinary genius, a cooking prodigy, one of the best chefs there ever was — the descriptions are interchangeable. MasterChef is known as one of the hardest culinary competition shows that has ever been aired on TV, so it’s only appropriate that some of the most accomplished culinary legends are hosting the show: Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sánchez, and Restaurateur Joe Bastianich. 

Chef Ramsay owns over 35 restaurants and has at least 10 cooking shows, making him the perfect face for such a well-renowned television show. Aarón Sánchez, an expert in Mexican cuisine, also owns a restaurant in New Orleans and has guest starred on Food Network shows, such as Chopped and Iron Chef America. Joe Bastianich is an elite restaurateur and TV personality who owns 30 restaurants in four countries. Together, these three judges team up to lead an intense competition to crown one contestant as America’s next MasterChef.

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Photo Courtesy of FOX

A competition that features only homecooks as its contestants, MasterChef prompts these amateurs to compete in several elimination and non-elimination challenges. On top of that, this season is MasterChef’s 10th season, or what the judges often enjoy saying, the hardest season yet. However, despite the many curveballs the judges have thrown this season, there have definitely been standouts, one being recent Harvard alum, Nick DiGiovanni. 

At only 22, Nick has been impressing the judges with his culinary prowess from the very start. Because MasterChef only selects the best from the best, contestants must go through an audition before even being selected to compete on the show. During his audition, Nick wowed all three of the judges with his signature lamb ravioli, which even impressed Joe Bastianich, an expert in Italian cuisine. Since his exceedingly successful audition, Nick had shown himself to be a force to be reckoned with and has continued to live up to that label. 

Prior to appearing on MasterChef, Nick dreamed of joining the culinary industry, but to actually turn that dream into a reality required help from his support system and a willingness to take risks to put himself out there.

“I have been fortunate to have many friends who have pushed me over time to pursue all things food,” DiGiovanni recalls. “There was an audition in Boston near school so I figured I’d hop over and give it a shot!” 

Nick decided to take a leap of faith to follow his dream, and so far it has definitely paid off. Throughout the competition, Nick has won over five non-elimination challenges, most notably a challenge that featured one of the most creative culinary geniuses, Grant Achatz. 

During this challenge, the contestants had to construct and present a dish in a very creative manner, so being the innovative millennial he is, Nick surprised the judges with a deconstructed lemon meringue pie presented in the mixing bowl he used while making it. His out-of-the-box thinking didn’t just allow him to win the challenge, but it also led him into accepting an invitation from Chef Grant himself for a dinner for two at one of his restaurants. Nick has also known to showcase exceptional seafood dishes that have often featured lobster and salmon (he is a New England native after all!) and has enjoyed playing around with the concept of molecular gastronomy to add a unique twist to his food.

While the Season 10 MasterChef must be a stellar cook, there are other characteristics that also go into this title. A MasterChef must have a voice; communication is one of the most important skills someone in the culinary industry in general must possess. 

 Nick had the opportunity to express his voice in the kitchen multiple times, such as when he was selected to be a team captain. During this challenge, the captains had to go to one of Joe Bastianich’s restaurants and take note of how an executive chef prepared several fine dining dishes. Because only the captain knew how the dishes needed to be made, it was crucial for the captain to effectively explain to the remaining team members how to execute those dishes. During this team challenge, Nick found and implemented his voice. Even though he is one of the younger homecooks, he was still able to effectively monitor what each member was doing, provide feedback when necessary, and step up and cook on behalf of another contestant when things started falling apart. By utilizing strong leadership skills, Nick successfully lead his team to victory and showed the judges that he is worthy of advancing further in the competition.

Despite his many successes throughout the competition, cooking in front of Chefs Ramsay, Sánchez, and Joe Bastianich is no easy feat. So, how does the recent college grad do it? The answer is actually quite simple.

“I would say that one of my unique strengths is that I just don’t get nervous around anybody… I have always felt the same pressure to perform at my best in front of anybody, regardless of who they may be,” Nick explains. “My experience with Gordon and the other judges was no different, and I treated them as I would any other chef… with respect, and open ears such that I could learn as much as possible.”

In the past, homecooks will sometimes come onto the show with the thought that they are already culinary experts because their families enjoy their food. Unfortunately, several of these contestants do not accept the judges feedback very well, causing them to self-sabotage their chances of making it further in the competition. Throughout past seasons, Chef Ramsay mentions how vital it is for a MasterChef to be able to take direction and learn from their mistakes, which is exactly what Nick has been striving to do. It’s no wonder that his mindset has helped him immensely grow in this competition, as he continues to excite the judges with his palate and versatility. With the finale looming right above us, many fans are betting that Nick will be taking home the trophy. 

As one of the youngest contestants this season, Nick has naturally drawn the attention of young adults, especially that of college students. Cliché, but true nevertheless, he has proven that age is just a number and that it shouldn’t hold one back from trying new experiences. 

“The overall experience was incredible. The entire MasterChef team is such an impressive group of people, and I can’t even begin to list the things I learned,” Nick says as he sums up his MasterChef journey. “I have made lifelong friends among both the cast and the production team.” 

The competition still isn’t over, but one thing’s for sure — Nick has already made New England proud. Be sure to tune in this Wednesday (9/18) at 8 P.M. ET on FOX to watch Nick vie to be America’s next MasterChef!