On Fox's MasterChef, Aarón Sánchez judges contestant-made meals alongside peers like Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi, but even after contestants make an exit from the cooking competition, he's still cheering them on.
"The biggest joy for me is the mentoring part of it," Sánchez tells Yahoo Life. "Regardless of the win, lose or draw — or whatever place they are asked to leave the show — I feel really good in the fact that they're going to take away a lot of great cooking lessons and a lot of really valuable techniques they can utilize."
Sánchez has been on MasterChef since Season 8, and with years of judging adults and kids, one of the best things he's tried on the show may come as a surprise. "We've had some really delicious stuff I can remember very vividly," he recalls. "We had one of the young kids from Season 11, and he made a little puffed-up sort of squid ink tortilla that was filled with a lot of deliciousness. I just remember that being really bold and unique, and it took a lot of gumption and guts to be able to do that in the finale."
The 46-year-old chef spoke with Yahoo Life ahead of the Season 14 finale of MasterChef: Back to Win, which airs on Sept. 14. And, though home chefs look up to Sánchez for his work in the kitchen, a chef he admires most stands right next to him on the MasterChef judges platform: Gordon Ramsay.
"I tell everybody I have the best job in the world because I get to inspire others and mentor the next generation of aspiring chefs, and then I get to learn from the man," he says. "Gordon has done a great job of being a chef first and a TV personality second. He's also an incredible businessman and I think most importantly, he's a great family man."
Sánchez calls New Orleans, La., home, thanks in part to his modern Mexican restaurant Johnny Sánchez. Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, his family relocated to El Paso, Tex. when he was young. Before he was 10, Sánchez's family relocated again, this time to New York where his mother opened a restaurant. The Big Apple had a culinary influence on him as well: "I was introduced to Katz's Delicatessen and having a pastrami sandwich," he recalls, "then going and Russ and Daughters and having the perfect white fish salad on a bagel."
While working in his restaurant or taking a break from shooting MasterChef, Sánchez has an easy snack that's always his go-to. "I love jicama, cucumber and mango cut into spears then finished with lime juice, chili powder and some good sea salt right on top," he shares. "That's kind of my little snack."
Something Sánchez thinks people get wrong about celebrity chefs? That they are constantly filming for TV. "It's actually a very brief amount of time," he shares. "You know, for me, it's maybe four months out of the year."
He also says the idea that celebrity chefs do not have an active role in their own restaurants — whether cooking or creating menus — is wrong. "The teaching and mentoring part of all of that," he says, "that's very much part of what we still do and what drives us."
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