When she was growing up in Social Circle, it was only natural that Jessie Lysiak gravitated to the kitchen. After all, that was where the action was.
Lysiak recalls standing on her tiptoes, even before she was tall enough to reach the countertops, eager to be part of all the chopping and mincing, the mixing and baking that went into those "huge family dinners" and holiday meals that were a part of life.
Fast forward to today, and it doesn’t seem surprising that Lysiak is trying her hand at wowing the judges on Bravo’s popular "MasterChef’’competition. So far, thanks to her culinary skills and some mighty fine fish-filleting, she has done just that.
Despite all that home-grown interest in food (she said both her parents are passionate cooks and her dad Tom Lysiak, requires a "two-story man cave’’ to indulge his passion), her path to the TV competition was anything but straight. Lysiak could sing her own version of that Sinatra standard, "That’s Life.’’
So far, she’s been a staffer at a bed and breakfast, a horse trainer, a model and a member of a yacht crew, "a little bit of everything,’’she said.
Lysiak traces her intense interest in creating her own recipes to her college days at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, where, she said simply, "I hated the food.’’ So, while she was earning a marketing degree, she also was inventing her own recipes.
Her service aboard a yacht provided a world of culinary experiences as well. She watched the head chef create sumptuous dishes for the yacht’s owners, and she herself prepared meals for the crew.
She had an unlimited budget and access to a variety of ingredients and flavors, she said. Also, as they traveled, the yacht’s owners often treated the staff to meals in some of the finest restaurants along their route. Lysiak then would challenge herself to recreate the dishes they enjoyed.
There’s a lot at stake for the winner of "MasterChef,’’ including a cookbook deal, $250,000 and the coveted "MasterChef’’ apron, badges of honor that signify not only cooking talent, but also the spunk and determination to take whatever prickly judge Gordon Ramsay can, pardon the pun, dish out. And though the entire season’s episodes have been filmed, Lysiak, in typical reality TV fashion, must keep mum about the results.
Her parents Tom and Melinda, threw a party in their Buckhead home to watch the suspenseful season opener. And Lysiak knows the crowd was cheering for her just as hockey fans cheered for her dad when he played for the Chicago Blackhawks and Atlanta Flames.
She can only say now that her "MasterChef’’ experienced has "opened my eyes’’ to new flavors and new cooking methods.
So what’s next for Jessie Lysiak?