Brief Update!

Hey guys! Sorry for not updating for so long. I’ve cooked quite a bit of stuff lately, but they were all “experimental” projects where I wasn’t happy enough with the final result to want to share if with you guys, sorry :P.

I just really want to thank you guys for your continued support. I’m still kind of dumbfounded that I’m gaining twitter followers at between 10-20 per day, which considering that I’m pretty much irrelevant in the MasterChef discussion is pretty huge! Thanks for all of your retweeting, sharing, replying, etc. Please keep it up and keep interacting with me! I love talking to you guys (as long as you aren’t asking for something…erm..illegal), and it makes my day when you guys share a story about how my brief exposure on MasterChef has impacted your life in some way.

There are a lot of potential ideas swirling in my head about what I want to do, but it depends on you guys and what you want! Things like a pop-up restaurant I would LOVE, but I don’t want to risk spending a lot of time and money planning it and have only 3 people sign up. Same with cooking lessons; I would absolutely love to meet up with some of you guys, teach you guys how to make some of my favorite foods (dumplings anybody??), and just get to chat, but so far the best offer I’ve gotten is $25 which, though I’m not trying to take all your money, is just too low in my opinion and not fair to me (it’s not even going to cover the ingredients!).

Other things I’ve been considering are making an “It Gets Better” video, Mystery Boxes where YOU as my fans come up with the ingredients that I have to use to make a dish, and collaborations with some of your other MasterChef contestants. I’m open to many other ideas as well! As long as the cost/benefit ratio is reasonable, I’ll definitely consider it.

Here’s a brief update of what’s been going on in my life right now. I’ve still been going into Barley Swine twice a week, and started going into Uchiko twice a week starting three weeks ago. While I’ve enjoyed my times there (and hopefully they have enjoyed having me!), the response that I hear over and over again is that “we just don’t have any (appropriate) positions available.” With Uchiko, I had high hopes that I would be able to make it on the team. Chef Speer had given me a two week “trial” period to start stage before considering me for employment, and I busted ass trying to do EVERYTHING in my power to show him what I had and how much this meant to me. When I met up with him and Chef Tim this week, he asked me what I wanted from them. My response: “A paying job, anything! Dishwasher, busboy, whatever.” He gave me a sympathetic smile, and said that the only positions they had available were a highly skilled line cook, which I was still “a little green behind the ears” for, and a Sous Chef position, which I was obviously even less qualified for. At Barley Swine, the kitchen is even smaller and more nuclear, and barring somebody quitting their job or getting dismissed (highly unlikely at this point), Bryce (Chef Gilmore) basically told me that his hands were tied.

So my dream of getting a job in some of the best restaurants in Austin seem to be halted, which is a little bit frustrating but it’s something I should have expected. What do I expect, being a 19-year-old with no kitchen experience fresh off of a fancy TV show where I was eliminated early and didn’t get to blossom? That has led to a widening of my search for employment, as I’ve been living off of my savings for two months, and between splitting the cost of a new (used) car, buying knives, the oppressive price of gas, and groceries, I am literally about to become bankrupt. It’s not a pleasant situation for somebody that is desperately trying to move out of my parents’ house. Don’t get me wrong, I love them a lot, but when to be frank they are ashamed of you and the path you have chosen to take, whether it be career-wise or sexuality-wise, you can only endure it for so long before becoming depressed and angry.

Tomorrow morning I start a two-day “trial” period with a new job opportunity that just opened up for me. I’ll be trying out life in a corporate cafe. Now I know what you are thinking….corporate cafe=cafeteria food=how low are you stooping for????? But this place is apparently headed by a real chef with real credentials (he worked at Per Se for a few years), cooks everything from scratch and only does very limited small batch cooking; most stuff done to order, with fresh, local ingredients and a virtually unlimited budget, which means that they have things like in-house smokers, grilled-to-order Texas Wagyu beef burgers, etc. The hours are reasonable (7:30-3:30); good, even! The pay ($9-$10/hr) is probably better than what I could have gotten at BS or Uchiko. If I get hired and start manning my own station, I’ll be able to use some creative license along to come up with my own specials! It all looks pretty good on paper, but again, I haven’t started yet so who knows. But tomorrow and tuesday, I get to go in and find out, while getting paid to do so! The HR lady was like: “You’ll come in for a two day ‘stage’, but we do it legally and actually pay you to work those days, even if it doesn’t work out.” It will feel SO NICE to be busting your ass working those hard shifts but knowing that you’re actually getting something tangible in return. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to afford decent groceries again, and will be able to start cooking more delicious dishes which I hope to be sharing with you guys! Let’s just say I’ve been eating a lot of potatoes lately….

Just to clarify: I haven’t “left” Barley Swine or Uchiko! I just might be going in less often since obviously job takes higher priority than unpaid internship. I’ve learned so much and still have so much to learn that it would be foolish for me to “quit” so to speak.

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About Michael Chen

A contestant on season 3 of FOX's MasterChef! Tune in on June 4 and 5 at 9/8c to watch me compete in the top 100 home cooks in America!
This entry was posted in Experimenting, Fans, Jobs, MasterChef, TV and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Brief Update!

  1. PBCliberal says:

    I think you’re missing the obvious. You are great on camera but because it comes easily to you and the lens likes you, it may not be something you realize.

    Here’s my penny-worth of thought on the subject: Find someone to partner with. This person should have the same passion for food photography that you have for food preparation and presentation. They also should have a DSLR that shoots video, a computer with video editing software, a lavalier microphone and several soft lights.

    It would be even nicer, of course, if you can fall in love with them over the course of your collaboration (it worked out that way for me), but you’re probably safer to just hope they have the passion, camera and softlights.

    You work out the recipes, make them gorgeous and delicious, start each show with a beauty shot of the completed dish, then show how you make it. Be yourself; that’s what is continuing to get you new followers as the echoes of your time on MC3 die away.

    Post the completed webisodes any place you can: YouTube, this site, FB, and don’t give up. It takes a long time to hit the critical mass of new media followers. But I think you can do it.

  2. Tim says:

    Michael, YOU set your worth. If you want to teach people to cook, use your position as a MasterChef contestant in your advertisement, and be present acting as an ambassador for whatever kind of cooking you want to do. Give yourself an appearance fee, and then build in the cost of covering your expenses. Figure out how many hours you will commit, then figure out if it’s worth your time. Consult with some people who are private chefs. Cook for your friends, having each one give you 20 bucks, and then make it worth their while by using it for experimentation. The smarter you shop, the more you take home. Friends are always willing test subjects. You’ve found your bliss; Now, find your brand.

  3. v2squared says:

    I just watched the last few episodes of MasterChef. Too bad you had to go so early but at least you didn’t have to suffer through the “Walmart” product placement episode. That should tell you what MasterChef is really all about. Ramsey is going to open a steak house in Vegas, he throws away enough scallops and Beef Wellington to feed a small army in each episode of Hells Kitchen, and he shamelessly pitches a Walmart product placement? Cash, lots of cash, that is the bottom line for MasterChef. If they had thought you fit into a narrative that would have helped generate more cash you would still be there. Count your blessings. You made it out with some dignity. You will recover long before the judges get the taste of the Walmart “mystery box” out of their mouths.

    • Michael Chen says:

      Any TV show that exists is usually funded solely from sponsors and advertisers. Unfortunately I guess it was Walmart that put forth the money this year to fund the helicopters that the judges flew in on during the first team challenge!

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