Mikaela Turner, a culinary arts student, is well on her way to becoming a star chef: In March, she competed in the Channel Your Inner Chef event at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, a live cook-off held in front of a panel of judges and a full audience.
“Mikaela did an excellent job at the Channel Your Inner Chef competition,” shares Chef Dina Altieri. “She was poised demonstrated solid cooking techniques such as proper pan searing and sauce production. We are honored that Mikaela was selected as a finalist and are especially proud of her eagerness to compete at this level. She is a true professional!”
How did she get there? First, she submitted a video showcasing how she creates Okinawan Yakisoba, a dish she learned while growing up in Japan, which earned her an invitation to the event. Once she arrived, however, she knew she’d be met with a mystery basket of ingredients. How did Turner fare in the competition? Here, she shares what the experience was like:
How did you handle your first live competition?
All the people there were super nice and we were treated like celebrities. I remember when I was about to leave the green room to go on stage. I said to myself, “If you want to be a famous chef, you have to get used to this.” That’s when I walked out with confidence and my nerves went away.
What was going through your mind when you were presented with the mystery basket—and what did you make?
It was a little overwhelming because there were so many options. I wanted to have a pretty and tasty plate. I made a pan seared filet mignon with a red wine pan sauce, sitting on top of a cumin, ginger, and carrot puree. On the side, I served a basil and tomato pasta.
What advice do you have for people who may compete in a live event?
Practicing for the competition. I’m proud to say I finished with three seconds to spare. Be confident and brave—you made it this far for a reason. Once you’re there, stay focused. Don’t watch what anyone else is doing. Stick with your plan. Ask tons of questions and show your personality. You may receive additional advice. And, if they like you, it may further your career; I was offered an opportunity to apply for an internship.