Baton Rougean talks ‘MasterChef’ experience

Photo courtesy Greg Gayne / FOX

Jesse Romero exits MasterChef, but remains optimistic about his future in food

It was the surprise Baton Rougeans didn’t want to see or hear.

Last week, 29-year-old petroleum landman and Baton Rouge’s own Jesse Romero was eliminated from MasterChef. Judge Gordon Ramsay kicked Romero off the show after the young cook placed in the bottom three on last Wednesday night’s episode. The elimination was the second of the night and came in the final minute of the show.

In the episode, Romero had to cook his own take on a TV dinner. It was a challenge he wasn’t looking forward to from the beginning.

“I don’t remember the last time I had a TV dinner,” he says.

Romero’s dish was a Salisbury steak—something he admits he’s “not used to cooking,” he says. When the other competitors took all the beef from the pantry, Romero had to improvise. He cooked his steak with a mix of venison and pork.

“I left it in the oven for a little too long, and it ended up being a little dry,” he says.

When he was up at the judges table, Romero wasn’t happy with his situation. He argued with Ramsay about the quality of his dish, insisting that it wasn’t dry. Romero’s attitude didn’t help.

“I kind of talked my way into being that second person [who was eliminated],” he says. “I was upset with myself. I had this kind of bad taste in my mouth, being in the bottom three. I thought for sure that I would at least make it one more round.”

Romero had three reasons to think he would make it to the next episode. Throughout the season, his teams had won two previous challenges. The young Capital City native also impressed the judges with his crab dumpling soup in the fifth episode, winning that cookoff challenge as well.

“I got tripped up,” he says of last week’s episode. “Looking back, I would have done something a little more simple. I would have done a straightforward TV dinner. I was thinking we were expected to make that dinner a gourmet meal.”

Romero is now back working in Baton Rouge. He has kept in touch with the rest of the contestants. He says the experience was an honor.

“It was eye-opening,” he says. “You’re cooking for [judges] Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Christina Tosi. Those are three of the kings of the culinary world in their own respective ways. It was something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

While it was nice to come away from MasterChef with a few more foodie friends, Romero says the experience also showed him he can cook.

“It certainly let me know I belong on a big stage,” he says. “It gave me the confidence that I can do whatever I want in the culinary world.”

Currently, Romero is looking for the right opportunity to show off his skills. He’s interested in hosting pop-up dinners. He’ll still cook at tailgates and maybe providing food for a fundraiser with his boss.

“I’ve got some ideas,” he says. “It just depends on what opportunities come in the future.”