'MasterChef' winner Jennifer Behm on disarming Joe Bastianich and the importance of dessert
She worked her way through some tough criticism -- particularly from judge Joe Bastianich -- to become a front-runner in the last few weeks of competition and ultimately steamroll over fellow finalist Adrien Nieto with an inventive and perfectly-cooked meal three-course meal.
Just before the broadcast of the finale, Zap2it chatted with Behm about her experience on the series, and in addition to telling us about the unseen moment where she ultimately wooed Joe, she filled us in on her next steps and why anyone who ever thinks about appearing on a culinary competition should first spend a lot of time thinking about desserts...
Thank you! It's been a fun secret to keep.
How long have you been keeping this secret?
We finished filming the last week in March. It has been rather difficult because we have parties every Monday and everyone tries to read my expressions as to what's going to happen and read in between the lines on my Facebook posts.
How does you feel to get it all out in the open?
Beyond excited. It's so funny to listen to what people say, and you just have to bite your lip. I'm really stoked. I couldn't wait.
You were a front-runner the last few weeks, when did you think you could win this?
When we were in the top 38, I remember looking around, thinking, I'm going to get my butt handed to me. The first moment I knew there was the possibility that I could win this was when we made it to 18. Then when I won the first Mystery Box Challenge, I knew it was heading in the right direction.
You were the first contestant we met this season, and the judges were clearly divided. How did you finally win Joe over?
I don't know that I ever won Joe over. I think the turning moment for him, and I wish they would have shown it, was when I was cooking the risotto. I presented it to him, and he actually said, "This is something I'd be proud to serve in my restaurant." I nearly fell over. I thought, pod person, who are you?
What was the most trying challenge for you throughout the season?
I would have to say the pork challenge. My mind literally went completely blank when I walked in the pantry, and when you only have four minutes, every single second counts. It was pretty intense trying to think. Pork and sauerkraut is something I grew up on, but that was not the cut of meat I had.
You say you've been watching week-to-week, what has your reaction been to seeing all of the trash-talking and ego from a lot of your fellow competitors?
It's funny. Suzy, Christian and I have had a love/hate relationship since day one. Maybe not so much Suzy, but definitely Christian. It doesn't surprise me seeing Christian act like that. And Suzy definitely had her ego going from day one, it just wasn't directed at me. After some of the comments she made I kiddingly Facebook her, "Really Suzy? OK, I see how you are." But those are probably the only two from the top 18 I don't talk to on a regular basis.
Who was really your biggest competition?
Adrien. From when we made it down to the top 4, Adrien just has this passion that comes through, and I knew eventually Christian's ego would get the best of him. And Suzy can only take the recipes she's memorized so far. You can only do so much with that. I think Adrian had so much more of that passion to cook.
What dish brought it home for you?
It's hard to say. I looked at Adrien's dishes and thought, wow, he put out some beautiful concepts, but I think ultimately what it came down to was the dessert. I think that's ultimately what ended up giving me just enough to get past Adrien.
It seems to always come down to desserts on these kind of shows.
If there's one piece of advice that I could ever give to someone who does a culinary competition, ever... Memorize desserts. Practice desserts. Know a lot of desserts. It sounds so silly, but it seems to come down to it every time. Savory, everyone is even par, but that dessert can make or break you in the end.
Do you think you want to do more TV?
Absolutely. Thar's definitely my goal. Coming up with different show concepts, being able to pitch some ideas to different networks, I think there's a market for me out there. I love to grill, I love big meaty flavor. I grew up with the campfire and using the grill all summer long and into the fall, so I would definitely want to make a leap into that realm.
And how about your immediate plans?
Since the show, I actually started my own catering company, Pink Martini Catering. I've been doing a couple small events here and there, private chef-ing, but I obviously still have what i call my "real job" as a Realtor. As for the immediate future, I definitely want to put that out there, network and get some events on the books.