Dallasite Jennie Kelley, one of the leading warblers in the 22-member Polyphonic Spree, certainly knows a thing or two about co-habitating in a large group and quietly biding her time for her moment to shine.
Now the focus shifts from a concert hall to a TV kitchen on the show MasterChef, as Kelley, one of 100 final preliminary amateur chefs chosen to compete on the show, finally gets her chance to demonstrate her skill and moxie before a three-judge panel.
On Monday night's episode of the show famous for cementing host chef Gordon Ramsay's reputation as the Simon Cowell of the kitchen, Kelley will trot out her signature dish for the judges' hard-won approval -- and that all-important apron allowing her to join the show's final grouping of 38 contestants.
But Kelley certainly hasn't made it easy for herself as she's planning on producing her "signature" Bolognese sauce for a pasta dish. Not content at melding in one protein to her sauce, Kelley will be working in ground pork, veal, lamb and chicken livers into her ultimate sauce. And she wants to do it all in one hour. No easy task.
So far, viewers have seen, on camera, 11 of the show's first 19 contestants summarily cut from the contest. That's quite a deep-gulp moment of brutal efficiency and one that is not lost on Kelley.
"What I took away from all that is you see certain contestants who appear really confident and yet they can get very, very nervous when simply presenting their dish to the judges," Kelley says. "There is a surprising amount of fumbling with the hands as they all try to go for an apron and be part of the first main group. I found myself screaming at the television for someone not to use truffle oil, knowing that some of the judges are totally opposed to it."
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But, Monday night, as Kelley attempts to win the hearts and stomachs of the three persnickety judges for the first time, she is well aware that if she makes it into the first preliminary group of 38, all those fellow contestants she's been cheering for and bonding with will become her potential adversaries and obstacles to her getting awarded that precious apron, eventually being crowned the winner of the second season of MasterChef and, oh, not to mention taking home $250,000 in prize money, winner-take-all.
"I'm going to start looking at it like the American Idol of food," Kelley admits, "where we all will compete against each other, realizing that someone has to go home."
(A new episode of MasterChef airs at 8 p.m. Monday on Fox.)