Food News

MasterChef Season 4 to Hold Casting Call in Dallas for Best Home Cooks, Interview with Casting Director

FOX is prepping for season 4 of MasterChef and will hold a casting call in Dallas on October 27, which means you have about one month to do whatever you think necessary to get TV game-ready.

The concept of MasterChef is to find the country's best home cook. They start by scouring cities all of shapes and sizes for 18 contestants, also of all shapes and sizes, who will compete with each other for the undying love and affection of three judges: Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot. Last year the winner received $250,000 in cash, enough to buy a new oven and lots of tall fancy chef hats.

I talked to the casting director for the show, Erika Landin, who is a reality show veteran herself -- she was on season 4 of Big Brother (2003) and Big Brother: All-Stars (2006). Landin now is the casting director for about 10 different reality shows.

Do potential contestants for MasterChef need to have a formal cooking background? No, we only want people that have never stepped into a professional kitchen. If you've worked in a kitchen, you need not apply. We're only looking for the best home cooks.

That could be a bit intimidating -- no technical background, with the none-too-docile Gordon Ramsey as a judge. All our judges, Gordon, Joe and Graham, are all mentors for our show. It's really more about guiding that journey.

So, there's no screaming on the show? No, that's a totally different show. The judges understand that these are people who have never stepped foot in a culinary school or professional kitchen.

How many people make it on the show? We're looking for the top 18 across America.

How will people actually "try out"? People bring their best dish. I like to tell people to "bring you on a plate." Whatever dish best represents you.

So, is the food judged? Yes, we actually have food judges at the casting calls.

Will people get tested on camera? No, we ask them to put their best foot forward, obviously. Come dressed to impress. Like if you're a cop, then wear your uniform. If you have some individual style, then just come as yourself.

Any tips on how a person should "act" at a casting call for a reality cooking show? The biggest casting tip I always give, and I know it sounds cliché, is to be yourself.

But it's hard to be yourself when you're being told to be yourself. It's like performing as yourself. That can be a confusing role any day of the week. Yes, I know. It's a skill to be yourself when someone is asking about your life. But, we look for people with a lot of energy that are really open about their life. And of course, we're also looking for that passion for cooking.

So, you want them to be passionate about food and cooking, but they also need to have a good story line? I always say everyone has a story. So, don't try to tell us something you think we want to hear. Everyone is interesting in their own way. Just be yourself.

For those who make it to the show, how much time will they spend actually filming? That's really a production question, I'm not sure. It varies. But, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. If it's something they're really passionate about, they'll put their lives on hold. It's a big deal.

Any last tips? Yes, one more thing. You have one shot. Just one shot to impress us. Don't leave anything unsaid. If you feel there's something you need to get across, something we should know, then go for it.

Check the MasterChef casting site for details.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.