How in the world does a girl who hates competition, is terrified of taking risks, and has let her fears determine her destiny win a white apron on the largest cooking competition in America? Focus—that’s how. My eyes were fixed on far more than just a white apron. I had a task at hand, and there was nothing that was going to stop me from completing that task. I was NOT going home. Walking away without a white apron was not an option. I didn’t even consider what it would look like if I did.
You see, I don’t consider myself a risk taker. I am a perfectionist, and that requires me to take very little risk and ensure that everything is calculated. That is the only way to have perfection. But what I have learned is that there is no way possible to follow your dreams by living a life of a perfectionist. Consider my shrimp and grits, on MasterChef. While I was making that amazing dish, I was thinking of all of the things I could be doing differently. “Was that too much salt?” “Wait, add the shrimp now. No, give it a little more time to develop.” “Oh no! Am I going to have enough time to fry to okra?” I was also thinking about my Grandmother telling me to add just a little more butter. I took a risk, and boy did it pay off!
When you are standing in front of Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi, you have no idea what they may or may not say about your food, but what they said—the words they used to describe my dish, there is no way possible I would’ve ever received those kind of compliments without risking it all to compete on MasterChef. Hearing that my shrimp & grits will go down in history as the best on MasterChef is the absolute best thing I’ve ever heard about anything I have made, and I’ve heard some amazing compliments about my cooking! In that moment, it’s like all of my hopes and dreams to feed the world became possible. I am among the Top 20 BEST Home Cooks in America! That, my friend, is no small feat. The reward far outweighed the big scary risk.
I am moved and honored by all of the MasterChef Top 40. Neco, Shawn, and Brittany are all so talented. To cook among them was absolutely amazing, and to go on this journey with the 20 that are left is priceless. They are ALL so incredibly talented and passionate. I have never found myself in a room full of people who love to talk about food as much as I do! This is going to be a wild and crazy ride, but I am so glad that I get to journey it with them! More often than not I will have to remind myself that without risk, there is not reward.
So when you are as afraid as I was to take just about any risk in your life, remember this. Don’t focus on the fear. Fix your eyes on the task. Don’t focus on those around you. Fix your eyes on the One who is always with you. Don’t focus on your failures. Fix your eyes on possibilities. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trusts in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)
Please try this recipe. I hope you love it as much as I do. Reach out to me on the interwebs and tell me all about it. Make sure to hashtag #teamtanorria and #masterchef Most importantly, keep loving deeply, laughing often, and eating really well, my friends. This is just the beginning!
Tanorria’s MasterChef Shrimp and Grits
3 c Polenta
1 c Milk
3 c Chicken Stock 1/2 c Butter
1 Tb Salt
1/2 c Heavy Cream
1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 lb Andouille, sliced
1/2 c Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1/2 c Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1/4 c Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic minced
1 lb 21/30 ct Shrimp, peeled and deveined (tail on optional) 1 Tbs Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 Lemon, tested and juiced
1 c Chicken Stock or White Wine
1/4 c Heavy Cream
3 Tbs chives
1 c Buttermilk
1 c Cornmeal
1 c AP Flour
1/4 c Corn Starch Canola Oil
Heat medium pot to high heat. Add chicken stock, milk, salt and butter. Let come to a boil. Quickly whisk in polenta and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer until thick while stirring occasionally. Finish with heavy cream.
While polenta is simmering, heat skillet to medium heat. Cut andouille and add to skillet. While Andouille is browning, cut peppers, garlic, onions, and chives. Remove Andouille from skillet with slotted spoon. Add peppers, onions, and garlic to the same skillet. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then season with old bay and smoked paprika. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then squeeze in lemon juice. Pour in chicken stock and let simmer 2-3 minutes. Add heavy cream, then add shrimp and cook until it is just starting to turn pink.
In a medium pot, add canola oil and heat to medium-high heat.
Soak Okra in buttermilk for 1 minute. Remove from buttermilk and drain slightly. Coat with cornmeal mixture. Shake off excess cornmeal and place okra into hot oil. Cook until browned and remove from heat with a slotted spoon. Season with salt
Garnish completed dish with chives.