The thrilling possibility of getting criticized and yelled at by Chef Gordon Ramsay on national television woke me at 5 a.m. last Sunday filled with nervous excitement. I started measuring, mixing and grilling in the wee hours of the morning, working to create what could be the most important recipe of my life thus far.

The drive to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center in Page for the MasterChef food truck open casting call was nothing shy of nerve racking as I tried to keep the tomatillo marinated grilled pork loin hot, but still moist and tender, and the tomatillo pineapple salsa cold and crisp. The juggling act and early morning cooking frenzy was futile, however, as the truck was delayed because of mechanical problems. 

“Come back tomorrow.” I was told. As the color drained from my face, the adrenaline from my body and hope of cooking stardom from my heart, I walked head down and tail between my legs out of the visitor center. 

“Well, I guess we’ll have a good lunch and get our Walmart shopping done,” I told my family, who were there to cheer me on.    

The smell of grilled pork loin filled the car, it smelled delicious. Though the disappointment of the morning left me with little appetite, I had to try my creation.  Tough, the meat was tough! This is not how I pulled it off the grill. The perfectly succulent tender pork had been destroyed by the drive.

“It’s a good thing they postponed,” I resolved, “guess I’ll take off work and try something else tomorrow.”

The long drive home was fairly silent as my brain raced, searching my mental recipe database for anything that would blow the socks off of the judges, but could be prepared ahead of time and heated up on a camp stove in the visitor center parking lot. Gluten free portabella Italian sausage ravioli with a red wine mushroom peppercorn cream sauce, perfect!

Without a pasta roller, it would be hard to get the dough thin enough, especially being gluten free, the more you roll, the more it falls apart. But a little brute strength and ignorance ought to do the trick.

I was jumping out of the car almost before we came to a complete stop in our driveway, anxious to get cooking again. I’d prepare the ravioli tonight and test the sauce, then I’d actually do the cooking onsite. How hard could it be to get the water boiling, throw in the ravioli while I pull together a thick, delicious red wine cream sauce?

Monday morning I wake at 4 a.m., too excited to sleep again. “Today is the day!” I declare. I bounce into work and exclaim that I will have to leave at 10 to make it to the casting call. My heart races as I watch the clock, completely unable to concentrate. My common sense takes over and I decide I should call first this time to make sure they will be there. 

“You have to be kidding me!” Postponed again. I deflate into my chair. I don’t think my ravioli will make it until tomorrow. A sad sigh informs my colleagues I will not be leaving at 10.

Their encouraging words, however, renew my enthusiasm for the competition and I am once again determined to meet my culinary destiny.

Tuesday morning, 4:30 a.m., if this competition doesn’t happen soon, I will lose my mind from sleep depravation. All the makeup in the world won’t cover the dark circles that have made their home under my half closed eyes. But my heart races and the thrill of competition keeps me from much-needed rest. Guess I’ll make some coffee and check on my pasta.

I drag myself into the office and let them know there is a possibility I may be leaving for the casting call. I make the call – Yes, they will be there today! I jump out of my office chair and skip down the hall exclaiming that yes, I will be leaving at 10.

When I arrive at the visitor center and unpack the table, camp stove and pots, all eyes are on me.

 “What the heck is she doing,” I feel them say.   

As I start the ravioli and sauce, the casting crew rounds us up to start getting shots in front of the MasterChef truck. We all line up as the cameraman starts filming. Five minutes go by, my ravioli is still boiling, 10 minutes go by, my ravioli must be destroyed by now.

“Mind if I run to turn off my ravioli?” I ask before sprinting to my car. I can salvage two out of the three. This will work. I sprint back.

They get a few more shots of the group and now the real stress begins. Individual interviews in front of the camera as we present our dishes. They take footage of the plated meal; I’m so grateful I stopped for that wedge of Parmesan cheese to garnish the top with. “It’s beautiful,” I think to myself, hoping they feel the same. 

“Just be yourself and show us your personality.” They tell me.

Running on pure adrenaline and caffeine, I’m not quite sure what personality came out, but I hope they enjoyed it. I made it through the interview without too many stumbles, though I wish I would have remembered to look at the camera, not the interviewer. They seemed to like the ravioli, which was a huge relief.

All in all, regardless of whether they choose me to be on MasterChef Season 3, I am grateful for the experience. It was well worth three days of little or no sleep for the thrill of the audition and the hope of the possibility of reaching my dream.