Cartersville resident Dorian Hunter recalled watching the Fox-TV reality competition show “MasterChef” and hearing her mother encourage her to audition for it.
Hunter’s mother, Phyllis Williams, died in late 2016. Remembering that encouragement, she tried out in Atlanta in 2018 for season 10 of the show featuring amateur chefs from throughout the U.S.
After months of competition, interviews and trips to Los Angeles and London, Hunter outlasted 35 other amateur chefs to win the title of “MasterChef” on the pre-taped, nationally-televised season finale Sept. 18.
“She (her mother) was my inspiration throughout the show,” Hunter said.
She said her mother was the one who “got me to cooking” and “encouraged me when she was alive to try out for the show when she and I used to watch it.”
“Unfortunately, in the physical, she wasn’t able to see it but she was definitely with me in spirit.”
The 45-year-old wife and mother of four is the first Georgia resident and oldest contestant to win the show’s grand prize of cash and a new Viking kitchen.
She also will have chances to train in the restaurants of the show’s famed celebrity judges, including the Atlantic City, New Jersey, restaurant of Gordon Ramsay of “Hell’s Kitchen” fame.
Hunter had received a Le Cordon Bleu certification in culinary arts decades ago but life took her elsewhere.
She said she hoped people were inspired by her story of being the oldest winner of the nationally-televised competition show.
“I’m just thankful that I can have this platform to show other people that it’s never too late, no matter what your age is, no matter how long you’ve had a dream and you’ve set it down,” she said. “You can go back and pick that dream up and definitely succeed at it.”
A Canton, Ohio, native, Hunter said in a previous interview with the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch newspaper she came from humble beginnings and credited her success to her mother, who raised 10 children.
“She was an amazing person and it was my duty to honor her in something that she played a big part in,” Hunter said.
Dishes that helped win over Ramsay and fellow judges Aaron Sanchez and Joe Bastianich in the finale included an entree of applewood smoked short ribs with potato and horseradish gratin — which was a variation on something her mother cooked.
“She loved beef roast and one of her best side dishes, to me, was her scalloped potatoes. That dish was just my interpretation of that dish that my mom would make quite often.
“To elevate that dish, I added the smoke flavor and just plated it a little differently than you would get it at home.
She said many of the dishes she prepared for the show were inspired by Phyllis “and flavors that I had when I grew up.”
“My whole menu was based around my mom and what we got at her house on a Sunday,” she said.
“(It was) just taking elements of what she loved to cook and elevating them and plating them differently just to show that you can take more expensive ingredients and still get that ‘comfort-type food’ feeling when you eat them.
“There are things that resonate to you when you eat certain things that you’ve grown up with,” she said. “So, I just used those elements in each one of those dishes.”
Hunter has lived in Cartersville since 2017. She had been a textile worker before the show but may be heading elsewhere in her career — either with publication of a cookbook or something else food-related, she said.
Hunter told the Columbus Dispatch her goal is to open her own restaurant in a few years.
However, she also told the Bartow Neighbor she is not sure “where God is going to take me.”
“Right now, I can definitely see a cookbook at some point, before anything else,” Hunter said.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” she said. “I didn’t come this far and win a title in something not for it to benefit my family and for myself.
“We just have to wait and see what path God has me going down. I just have to be obedient and walk it.”
For more information on Hunter, visit www.chefdorian.com.
More information on “MasterChef” and clips of the show can be found at https://www.fox.com/masterchef/.