Murrieta resident Dino Luciano will advance to the Top 13 contestants on the FOX Network show “MasterChef.” Aired on Aug. 2nd, the episode name “Holy Cannoli” aptly summarizes Luciano’s experience.
This week’s challenge was their first team challenge in the kitchen, with Luciano on the blue team. According to the contestants, the blue team is unlucky, and once again they were placed in the jeopardy for elimination. The team challenge entailed transforming the kitchen into a dining room, hosting local vegetable farmers, dairy farmers, butchers, beekeepers and producers. Contestants were asked to produce a dish with a predetermined meat and to use the ingredients provided by the invited guests. Luciano said the kitchen was completely transformed, including the giant crate in the kitchen containing the ingredients and produce brought by the dinner guests.
These dinner guests ultimately had weight in deciding which team won, along the decisions of the three renowned judges – Chef Aaron Sanchez, Chef Gordon Ramsay and Chef Christina Tosi. The blue team, led by team captain Adam Wong, was instructed to use pork as their meat. They chose to cook a pork loin dish with Asian flavoring and bok choy, Luciano said. He explained that the judges did not like the combination of ingredients in their dish.
“They work with the ingredients, produce and distribute them every day,” he said. “We took something they have and had to create something five-star worthy.”
The difficult experience was essential to Luciano however.
Proceeding, the second half of the episode placed the blue team contestants into the elimination round. They were instructed to replicate the cannoli made by head of pastries Chef Tosi. With his Italian and Sicilian background with cooking, Luciano was instantly relieved to hear he was making something familiar from home and from his culture.
“She opened the box, and there was a cannoli in it,” Luciano said. “I dropped to my knees because they handed me the challenge.”
Luciano was even more excited however because he was able to pay homage to his grandmother and grandfather and the recipes he grew up learning. As he said in the episode, his neighborhood would come together to eat his grandparent’s cannoli.
While he showcased his grandmother’s famous recipe, he was determined to include his own twist for the challenge, experimenting with new ingredients for his own artistic mark. He created his own recipe with influences from both his past and present selves. Ultimately, Luciano’s baking and cannoli saved his spot in the Top 13 contestants.
The challenge of cooking from local ingredients reminded Luciano of his family’s garden and to support local farmers.
“The hardest challenge was paying respect to the ingredients we were given,” he said. “We had to elevate the guests’ produce.”
As Luciano put it, “It takes a big community to make something as simple as a dish on a plate. We all get our ingredients from these people, and we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them.”
Tune into “MasterChef,” airing Wednesdays at 8 to 9 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.