Season 12 of hit culinary competition MasterChef brings back a batch of All-Stars for redemption in MasterChef: Back to Win, and for the first time ever, MasterChef is re-opening the door to some of the most memorable and talented cooks in the competition’s history.
One of those contestants is season 9’s Shanika Patterson who, to fans’ delight, will get a second chance to prove she has what it takes, facing the toughest challenges to-date, all while being held to the highest standards in MasterChef history.
From facing a challenge of feeding hungry members of the Coast Guard to demonstrating her skills in a vegan dish challenge, to travelling to Horsetown, USA (Norco, CA) to feed cowboys and compete in the fan-favorite restaurant takeover challenge at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, Shanika has cooked her way to the top, presenting tasty delights and impressing award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay, acclaimed chef Aarón Sánchez and renowned restaurateur Joe Bastianich along the way.
In celebration of her return, The Koalition spoke to Shanika about her new goals in the kitchen, her evolution as a home cook to professional chef, what she learned from season 9 and more.
“I literally risked my life today. My competitors know now that I’m willing to risk anything to get that title. I didn’t come to play, I came to slay, and I slayed that crab. Poor Crab.”Shanika Patterson, MasterChef Season 9
In 2018, the world was introduced to home cook and events promoter Shanika, who showed off a lot of passion throughout her stay in the competition and was shown to be a strong cook individually. However, during team challenges, her teammates didn’t consider her to be a team player and distrusted her early on because of her perceived negative energy, along with her constant blunt criticisms that made the other home cooks view her as rude.
“They have this misconception of me being the whole ass bitch and I am not. I am one of the nicest people. I am so empathetic. I’m honest and I think people just can’t handle that. Nobody wants to be told the truth, people just like being lied to and I think I was labeled as a villain when in actuality I was just saying what was on my mind. I’m sorry I’m opinionated, but I am the total opposite of what these people assume I am. I’ve learned at the end of the day you cannot control how others are going to think of you, because no matter what I do, if I try to present myself as being super nice, no matter what I do, they’re already going to think what they want to think about me. I just don’t care and then maybe that’s the real problem: I don’t care.”
Not only did she prove everyone wrong, but she also wowed the judges, supported her teammates while all keeping viewers entertained. While she was a strong cook, in season 9 she let her emotions get to her, which led to her doing poorly in a pasta replication Pressure Test that led to her elimination. However, this time she’s back with a new outlook and an even more determined focus.
“The greatest change I have made being a chef is that I understand I don’t know everything, and I am forever evolving. I am learning something new and something different every day and it would just be to put the ego aside and let your skills show for what they are. The most important thing I have learned is that ego gets you nowhere. It’s proving you know who you are, [proving] what you’re capable of doing and just getting in there and showing the other contestants [and] the judges you didn’t come to play.”
“When I tell you, it’s like, ‘if you don’t know how to do this, you better figure it out.’ The MasterChef kitchen does not play you. [When given various challenges], you [need to] have somewhat of an idea [of what you’re going to do]. If you don’t, you just better look at your teammates to see what they’re doing. The judges don’t mind asking questions. If you’re stuck in the middle of something, you’re like, ‘Hey you know what I am supposed to do?’ They don’t mind you asking questions. But we go in just hoping for the best and hoping that it’s something that we know how to make because they don’t take any prisoners, you should know at least an idea of how to do.”
“If I could say anything I have learned or that has prepared me for this season, it would be just to remain a little bit more humbled and to stay focused on the tasks at hand. Never let your feelings get involved with what you’re doing. It was an honor to be called back for an all-star season. My main goal is to show the judges I deserve to be here. Everything I have learned over the past [three-ish] years is to prove to them I can do this. This is what I’ve learned. I’ve listened to every pointer the judges have given me and I’m chef Shanika now.”
The August 24th episode will feature two new episodes that’ll see Shanika cook up even more complicated dishes under pressure. “Gas Station Gourmet” sees the top 10 cooks create Michelin-star dishes using gas station ingredients. Candy, gummy bears, pretzels – you name it, they have to find a smart way of using it in a delicious, elevated dish.
In “Winners Mystery Box – Gerron Hurt,” season 9 winner Gerron Hurt is the third MasterChef Champ to make a return and set the cooks a special Winner’s Mystery Box challenge. Renowned for his spicy dishes, which won him the apron and then the title, Gerron tasks the cooks to impress the judges with a dish that celebrates spice and heat.
“You think you saw something last week? That has nothing on what the judges are going to hit us with this week. I’m already scared thinking about it. Chef Geron will be bringing out some ‘Mystery Box Challenge’ that might throw some people under the bus. The ‘Gourmet Gas Station Challenge’ is going to be extremely challenging and, from what I remember, is going to be a really really emotional episode for a lot of people.”
As the challenges become harder, Shanika relies on her inner patience to get her through the show’s difficult moments. “Patience and just being able to accept the challenge at hand because we are grown. When I tell you [they throw] rocks, monkey-wrenches [at us]. This season is like no other season of MasterChef. We were home cooks coming in, so it was a little bit easier, and they gave us a little bit more slack. But in season 12, they expect us to know what we’re doing. There are no excuses. [I have] patience and respect for the traveling challenges that are given to us because it was a lot to handle this season.”
“Like the first season, it is extremely hard dealing with so many different personalities and again dealing with so many egos like this season. The egos are at 100. We got a few divas this season, and they weren’t even girls. It becomes extremely challenging because they tend to question your ability to be good at what you’re doing when you’re in that kitchen. I know I’m in the competition but, ‘sir, ma’am, I am not competing with you, I’m competing with myself right now, so sit down somewhere please. It’s not about you.'”
Shanika is also empowered this season by her end goal, which is to “become one of the greatest female chefs of my generation. I don’t care what happens in that kitchen [or] how many times I fall, because I know, in order to become one of the greats like Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sánchez, like Joe Bastianich [who isn’t] even a chef, but a restaurateur, you have to be willing to accept your flaws [and] accept your mistakes and continue to go and continue to go harder every time you get the opportunity to so.”
After her appearance in season, she worked as a private chef offering private dining experiences and she has hosted a number of popup cookery events. Then in 2021, she enrolled in culinary school to expand her skills as a chef. “I’m actually currently right now in culinary school. I attend the Culinary Institute of America, one of the most prestigious cooking culinary colleges in the country. I graduate in December. leaving from MasterChef [and] deciding to go to culinary school has changed my cooking style completely. I have completely gotten out of my comfort zone and now trying to showcase to the world I am an amazing chef.”
“Don’t get it twisted. I still know my roots. I still know collard greens; I still know mac and cheese. I know all of that, but I don’t want to ever be labeled as [just] a ‘soul food chef.’ I am a chef and I believe chefs should be able to cook any type of cuisine you throw at them. I have been showcasing that throughout the last three years. I’ve evolved as a chef and if you guys go check out my Instagram Chef Shanika, you will see when it comes to cuisine, I am trying to hit the world.”
Season 12 airs Wednesdays (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. To learn more about Shanika, check out our full interview in the video below.
Check out MasterChef Table on Grubhub While watching MasterChef, get a chance to taste food from winners and fan favorites. For more information, including the menu, visit grubhub.com/mastercheftable.