Officially I'm breaking-in the news: that I got a spot in the Cebu leg of Pinoy Masterchef auditions. Yes, I am one of the hopefuls who tried my luck, queued and waited for my turn to be in the audition spotlight, braved all the cameras and without fear faced the audition judges! I can't just imagine myself doing this, yes I know what's running on your mind right now, you have so many questions to ask me, but to be honest with all of you, I don’t even know why I was there. I know all of you are ecstatic to know this news, but there’s nothing yet to celebrate about since this is just the Cebu leg of the audition (that was also the last of all scheduled auditions). I passed the two levels of audition and for now, I am waiting for that magical moment when ABS CBN will surprise me with the news that I will be included in the top 60 who will qualify to the reality show. I'm just crossing my fingers. Your prayers will help a lot!
So how it all begun? I really have no idea why I got into that picture. I love to cook and I have the heart for cooking but why would I go to that extent of joining reality TV shows. Until now I don’t have a clear answer. All I know is I want to cook. Long before ABS CBN bought the Masterchef franchise, I am already a big fan of cooking shows and of Masterchef to be specific. When the kiddie edition started, I just told myself I hope I can join the competition. Honestly speaking, I did a search for the audition schedule online however during the early days of the show, the Cebu leg has no date yet. But the intention was not serious, so the interest died down. I could not even think of a better dish to prepare.
I woke up one early Friday morning and turned my TV on. While doing some weight exercise in front of the TV, a one liner news flashed at the bottom of the TV screen: Masterchef Cebu audition on September 27, 2011, Tuesday 8:00 in the morning at Pacific Mall Mandaue. I couldn’t understand the excitement I felt that moment; I just told myself, why not give it a try, nothing will be lost on me. Including that day, I only have four days to prepare.
So I spend the rest of that Friday thinking of a best dish that can wow the chef judges. I searched online but there are endless options; it added only to my confusion. That Friday ended without a clear decision on what to do, leaving me only the weekend to prepare. Evaluating the limited resources I have (I don’t have a kitchen for cooking since I am renting a space whose golden rule is ‘no cooking’, availability of the ingredients and time to prepare), I am left but to prepare something that is pasta – a dish closest to my heart. The next question is, how can I make this generic dish so special that will stand out among the rest?
Come Saturday, I was not able to make up my mind. All I was thinking of is to make this pasta something unique and something that is very Pinoy. I want to make the dish simple to prepare and something the judges can relate to. What's playing on my mind was a tomato based pasta using only the freshest tomatoes and herbs, yet I couldn’t decide what will be the main actor in the dish. I sought advice from a dear friend who is based in Australia (check out her blog: Tiny Kusina) and she was so excited about the news. I already have something on my mind and she helped me evaluate possibilities.
That Saturday afternoon, I am decided to cook pasta in aligue (crab fats). I don’t have any idea what it will taste like, but I have a clear picture in mind on what to do and how it will look like. I missed this stuff, a main condiment at home. The rest of that afternoon I spent in looking for the ingredients: the live crabs, the aligue and crab meat. I also searched online where I could buy “real” parmigiano cheese here in Cebu, since I told myself I will make this real italian pasta with a pinoy twist. I need also to buy a shallow deep platter for plating. That day ended without any single item I bought.
I was able to go to Pasil through tartanilya in search of crabs on early morning of Sunday, but there’s none. I am already decided to use prawns if I could not find any crabs. I also searched aligue paste in all supermarkets, but there’s none. Aligue is a stuff made by Kapampangan, so I will not expect it is available in Cebu. If crabs were not available, much more of its aligue. Praise God there is Razons, I was able to buy two bottles of the paste. I was also lucky that Sunday afternoon since I was able to buy Parmigiano Regianno in Rustan’s Ayala (they have a wide variety of cheeses!), and huge live crabs in a Metro Ayala Supermarket. All ingredients were set, and that evening was the first and only time I tested to cook that dish.
I requested my officemate/neighbor to taste the dish and have her comment on every aspect of the dish – from the doneness of pasta, the taste, the spices, the flavor, how all the individual parts complement with each other, up to the look and presentation of the food. Hearing a good note from her that she felt like eating in a good restaurant, I was confident I will be able to pull it through the audition.
Tuesday came, I made an excuse to be absent at work. I woke up early and prepared the dish. I time-pressured myself. I only have one gasulito for my kalan, and a rice cooker to boil my pasta. By 8:00 in the morning everything was ready – I set aside two parts of pasta, one mixed with sauce and the other was plain (I wanted the flavors to seep inside the pasta since I used penne), I also separated crabs, prepared some herbs for garnishing, brought my salt shaker and pepper mill as well as the cheese grater and other small things for plating. I was lining up at the audition site 8:30 in the morning. I was the 57th in line, with my audition number 1457. I was a bit nervous since I was not able to clear up my thoughts and made up my mind on what to say during the audition.
The audition started late at 10:00 in the morning since all judges and crew flew in from Manila which was at that time battered by a storm. At 12:00 noon, the first 20 auditioners were not yet done. I am already uneasy by that time thinking that my dish used fresh tomatoes and it will not last long in a day. And how can the judges appreciate it if it was already as cold as stone? My herbs were already wilted. Bahala na. I just composed myself and enjoy the newfound experience. From time to time I need to hide from the cameras, I hate to be spotted and be seen on TV. I was able to make new friends with some who flew in from nearby cities of Iloilo, Bacolod, Negros and Dumaguete just to join the audition.
The system of the audition was by a group of ten, but the presentation is individual. We were given ample time to prepare and plate the dish. I felt sorry for some of my groupmates, they did not plated their dish. By that time I am already positive of my dish: simple yet the plating was superbly executed. Praise God I brought some extra virgin olive oil and it resurrected my dish to life. The fresh herb and freshly grated parmigiano cheese made a heavenly aroma of an Italian kitchen in the audition room.
I was so nervous when it was our turn to get inside the room. I was the 7th to present so I had the chance to listen and observe. Before you will formally introduce yourself, all judges look your image on the TV screen (I don't know why). Wow, mao na jud ni. I just laughed at myself, still wondering why I was doing all of this stuff. The judges threw a lot of questions to my group mates. When it was my turn to introduce and present my dish, I was in control of the situation. That three minutes standing infront of them was almost an eternity. They tasted my dish, made some comments and threw no questions at all. While waiting outside the room for the result, my hands were already shaking out of too much anxiety. Why the judges didn’t ask me a question and why they asked the rest? I already concluded that I didn’t make it. Some groups earlier than us had selected and passed just one or two auditioners. I already have slim chances to win. I trembled at the thought of I made it almost, but still not.
Outside, we lined up again and the result was read one by one. Only the names mentioned have passed the initial screening. I didn’t wait long and my name was mentioned second. That was the most flattering and fleeting moment in my life. Luckily five from our group passed the audition, all came from nearby Visayan provinces. As of that time, it was also the biggest number who passed in the group.
We undergo again series of long interviews with the crew, in which I will share in the next story. Mug shots were taken. After a grueling hours of interview, we left Pacific Mall around 4pm, by that time the last person in line was more than 200, and the ones being interviewed was in the 70th.