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Gandolfo still cooking as contest heats up

NORTH CANAAN — Jake Gandolfo is still in it, competing for the title of MasterChef on the new Fox network reality cooking show hosted by Gordon Ramsay.

Gandolfo, tagged on the show as simply “Jake, a construction worker from California,” was born and raised here in North Canaan. He recently opened his own catering business out west, following a dream born from what is obviously natural talent in the kitchen.

The Aug. 18 portion of the multi-week competition began with a challenge for next-round advantage. Gandolfo’s pork dish was chosen as one of the top three out of the remaining 14 amateur chefs competing. He didn’t win, but Ramsay gave him a rare compliment.

“There’s something very nice about the way you work. You walk around the kitchen with finesse,” he said, which got a laugh, seeing as how Gandolfo is a big guy. “You look like a swan, a big swan.”

It was by chance that Gandolfo was almost tripped up by pork later on, as the competitors traveled to Camp Pendleton and divided into two teams to feed hundreds of Marines and their families on the beach.

Things heated up in the kitchen as the Blue Team leader panicked right out of the gate. Then Ramsay suggested Gandolfo was trimming too much fat off the tenderloins.

But Gandolfo’s nothing if not a nice guy, and his cool prevailed as he got the team back on track without creating hard feelings. He thanked Ramsay for his advice without breaking a sweat and later dealt with meat that was cooking too slowly.

The Red Team’s barbecued beef was much more popular, but when they ran out of sides due to poor planning, the Blue Team was proclaimed the winners. Ramsay made the announcement from atop a tank.

Gandolfo was one of 12 surviving competitors from last week set to go head-to-head with Iron Chef Cat Cora last night (Aug. 25).

The show airs Wednesdays on Fox. The finale is Sept. 15.

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