This time around, things are shaking up in the world-renowned kitchen. The hopeful home cooks still have to battle it out to for a coveted white apron, but for the ninth season, who the apron comes from will dictate which judge’s team they’ll be on. Each judge will mentor one team, made up of 8 contestants each. Both the judges and the contestants will then battle it out to see who can successfully train America’s next MasterChef.
This year we have chefs Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sanchez returning on the panel, with restaurateur and former judge, Joe Bastianich, coming back for the first time since he left in season 5. With this new mechanic at play, the stakes are higher than ever and the competition has only gotten more exciting for both the viewers and the contestants.
Here are 14 home cooks that have already received white aprons and the teams that they belong to.
1. Emily – 28-year-old food anthropologist from Neenah, Wisconsin
Having traveled to every continent, Emily brought a lot of finesse and culinary skills to the table. After impressing the judges with her fillet mignon and mushroom duxelle with fondant potato, Emily became the first home cook to be on Joe’s team.
2. Bowen – 24-year-old pilot from Tianjin, China
Bowen took a risk when he presented the judges with what he called a Lion-head meatball — a soft-boiled egg wrapped in ground beef, served with pickled radish. However, the MasterChef superfan wowed both Gordon and Joe, and eventually chose to be on Team Gordon.
3. Shanika – 34-year-old event promoter from Miami, Florida
Shanika attributes her love of cooking from her mom and her love of bold and bright flavors shows in both her personality and her dishes. Shanika was gutsy enough to bake a Bitter French Kiss Puff Pastry desert within the 45 minutes allotted and paid off with apron offers from both Joe and Aarón. Shanika eventually chose to be on Joe’s team.
4. Samantha – 20-year-old college student from West Des Moines, Iowa
Samantha considers herself the mom in her college group because she often cooks for her friends and classmates. The young home cook brought this generosity to the MasterChef kitchen in the form of a chicken piccata with potato puree and oven roasted asparagus, earning her an apron from Gordon Ramsay.
5. Mark -19 -year-old dish washer from Rockport, Maine
Growing up in a restaurant, Mark learned everything he knows about food and cooking from his own personal experience. While his lack of formal culinary education showed when he presented an undercooked pan-roasted lamb chop, Joe still saw a lot of potential in the young cook and welcomed him to Team Joe.
6. Taylor - 30-year-old sales training director from Houston, Texas
Season 9 marks Taylor’s third time auditioning and it was a reflection of her character and perseverance. After spending two years perfecting her Columbian recipes, Taylor earned an apron from Gordon with her pulled tomatillo chicken over garlic rice, crema, egg and Aji salsa.
7. Ralph – 29-year-old senior accountant from Houston, Texas
Representing Filipino cuisine, Ralph served the judges a delicious plate of Filipino pancit with shrimp and chicken — a dish he cooks all the time for his family. His passion for food and cooking truly stood out during his audition and it caught the attention of Joe, who gave him a white apron.
8. Chelsea – 28-year-old sales specialist from Houston, Texas
Because of her father’s job, Chelsea grew up living in several different countries, all of which influenced the flavors and styles she uses in her dishes. This, plus her experience in the kitchen was evident in her lamb shawarma and handmade pita bread, which got her an apron from chef Aarón.
9. Olusola - 29-year-old bus driver from Columbia, South Carolina
This tenacious and vibrant cook shared that plenty of her bus passengers would often bring utensils on board just to sample the food that she cooks. It was no surprise then that all three judges offered her an apron for her jerk snapper with coconut rice and sautéed cabbage. In the end, Olusola chose to be on Joe’s team.
10. Cesar – 33-year-old high school teacher from Houston, Texas
The English teacher found himself lost for words when both Aarón and Gordon offered him their aprons. His pan-seared red snapper with orange Guajilo beurre blanc on crispy rice cake, however, was steeped in Latin American flavors, which made choosing Aarón the better choice for Cesar.
11. Matt – 28-year-old optometrist from Iowa City, Iowa
Being an optometrist, Matt placed a premium on making sure that his dishes were plated spectacularly. He shared that because people eat with their eyes first, he wants all his dishes to visually stunning. His pan-roasted cod with turnip purée and pickled carrots did not fall short of this standard and it got Matt an apron from Joe.
13. Ryan – 33-year-old drummer from Houston, Texas
With the goal of taking people around the world through his plates, Ryan wanted to use MasterChef to launch his dreams. It initially concerned the judges that he chose to bake a catfish for his auditions but his catfish with dirty rice dish proved to be successful when it earned Ryan one of Aarón’s aprons.
14. SJ – 21-year-old college student from Los Angeles
This young Korea Town resident aims to bring Korean cuisine into the spotlight. His elevated Asian flavors were displayed in his panko-crusted cod with honey butter chips and cucumber kimchi, getting aprons from both Aarón and Gordon. In the end, SJ was a welcome addition to team Gordon.