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Posted: September 7, 2013 8:00 p.m.

Lysiak ponders life after 'MasterChef'

Social Circle native reached top 3

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Fox’s "MasterChef" competition may be over for Social Circle native Jessie Lysiak, but the chef/competitor now looks toward a successful culinary career thanks to her run on the hit television show.

Though Lysiak made it to the top three, she was voted off the TV competition on a recent episode. And though she didn’t win the entire competition, which would have including a cookbook deal, $250,000 and the coveted "MasterChef’’ apron, Lysiak said the experience was well worth it.

She recalled how it all started.

"There were 30,000-something people who auditioned, and it took us four months of auditioning to get on the show. So then they choose the top 100, and then the top 20, top 10, and then top five. And last week’s episode was top three, but I was sent home last week," Lysiak said.

"Competing was difficult because it was like a mind game. The living situation was weird, with long hours every day," she said. "It’s not only a cooking competition; it’s learning to live with so many different personalities and with all your things taken away from you, like your phone and computers."

Lysiak said when it came to competing, it was tough because she’d get "crazy ingredients" and would have like "30 seconds to make a meal."

"It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, because not only are you learning from probably the biggest names in the culinary world, like Gordon Ramsay (the award-winning British chef, restaurant owner and TV personality), you are trying his food, too, and you are learning his techniques and what he looks for, and judges things on," she said.

"Then you have people like Graham Elliot (a Chicago-based chef) and Joe Bastianich (a restaurateur and vineyard owner) who are such incredible masterminds in the restaurant business, and Graham is an exceptional chef as well. So just being able to cook for them and learn from them was just an amazing lifetime experience."

Lysiak said her time on "MasterChef" opened many doors for her. She said one of the judges offered her a job at his restaurant, and she has even been offered monetary backing to open her own restaurant. Also a model, she said she has received more modeling opportunities as well.

However, she said right now she is focusing on her family and exploring her options.

She added that she continues to do freelance work as a chef aboard yachts.

As for coming back to Social Circle, she explained that it’s bizarre that so many people recognize her now.

"Everyone knows you or they think they know you because they have seen you on TV. And everywhere you go people want to stop and talk to you and talk about the whole experience, " she said. "When they see me out in public, the freak out and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, you got kicked off, we’re so sad.’"

Lysiak said her parents, Tom and Melinda, are proud of her and have been living vicariously through her, being that they are "big-time cooks."

She added her time on "MasterChef" was more than a cooking competition.

"It’s learning so much about yourself and for the first time being put in leadership positions, and learning that you can be a leader," she said. "I was actually undefeated as team captain while I was on the show, and I’ve never led anything in my life. And that was a really neat experience to be able to do that."

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