Could woman with Orange ties be the next MasterChef?

  • COURTESY FOX COURTESY FOX

Staff Writer
Published: 7/16/2018 11:03:46 PM

ORANGE — Lindsay Haigh, who grew up in Orange, said most of her experience cooking before her mid-30s involved a box of macaroni and cheese. But tune into FOX on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., and you can see her participate in the competitive cooking reality television show “MasterChef” as she brings her skills to a much bigger stage than her own kitchen in Atlanta, Ga.

“You just keep going one challenge after another; you have to tune in to see what happens. It was a wild ride,” she said.

Haigh, 41, is a contestant on the series’ ninth season, which premiered May 30. Open to amateur and home chefs, the competition is judged by three food icons: award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay, acclaimed chef Aarón Sánchez and renowned restaurateur Joe Bastianich. The winner of the show claims the title of MasterChef and a $250,000 grand prize. Throughout the season, chefs partake in various challenges, from working in teams to being given mystery boxes with different ingredients each contestant must use to create a dish within a fixed amount of time.

But it wasn’t until the past four or five years that Haigh started cooking, and since then she’s experimented with getting creative in the kitchen.

“Cooking was kind of my escape. I started with, ‘I kind of liked that dinner last night, let’s see if I can recreate it in my kitchen or do it a little different.’ It just started to become a passion,” she said.

Though Haigh said she enjoys watching plenty of culinary programming (and has been a “MasterChef” viewer for years), she never thought she’d see herself on the television screen cooking up meals for Ramsay.

“It was all very surreal. It wasn’t something I ever anticipated. I watch all of the cooking shows. But, the way you see it is that it is for somebody else, I never thought about it for myself,” she said.

That is, until her wife’s friend tagged her in a Facebook post detailing the location and time of “MasterChef” auditions in Atlanta. Without the push and encouragement from her wife, Haigh said she would have never sought out the opportunity. Each step in the audition process, she said, felt more and more surreal.

“It is unreal to think you’re going to be on national television on FOX, standing in front of these three amazing icons in the food industry,” she said.

It wasn’t until around six or seven months after the auditions that Haigh discovered she’d be one of top 24 contestants on the show. In order to receive her white apron, which secures a continued spot on the show, Haigh said she cooked her initial dish with lots of heart.

“It was really kind of special — it was me on a plate. I grew up going to Cape Cod, and those are the flavors that I love, so I did a lobster dish. It meant a lot, because it was close to home, and you don’t always get a lot of leeway to make your own thing,” she said.

Haigh said she enjoyed every minute of her time on “MasterChef,” though the series entailed some difficult challenges — including catering a wedding with eight other home chefs with no professional experience and being told to make dishes with ingredients she hadn’t heard of before.

“You’re learning on the fly, and you’re in there getting it done,” she said.

One of the most challenging experiences she had while on the show was during a mystery box challenge. While opening the box to see what was inside, Haigh saw walnuts, or as she says, one of her “least favorite things in the world.” During the challenge, she said she kept going back and forth with her idea for the dish, tweaking it and changing it to best fit the judges.

“There is nothing about (walnuts) that I like, so I felt like everything was going wrong,” she said.

In the end, she made it through to the next round and said the experience gave her more confidence in her cooking abilities to try new things she might have not considered before.

Haigh’s mother, a resident of Orange, Nancy Haigh, said once she heard her daughter was going to be on the show, she wasn’t all that surprised.

“When she says she wants to do something, she does it,” said Nancy Haigh.

Since the first episode aired in May, she said she’s been eagerly watching her daughter compete each week, with some stressful moments here and there.

As for Lindsay Haigh, she said her experiences playing sports as a kid in Orange, along with her career as a trial attorney, has taught her to stay calm under pressure and since then, she’s brought those skills to the kitchen.

“I love that (cooking) allows me to be creative … I like cooking for other people, it is something that I can do that is a place of calm for me,” she said. “And at the end of the day, if it doesn’t work out, you can always order a pizza.”


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