Jason Wang hopes to make Boston proud when he throws down on this week's "MasterChef" finale.
The music teacher at Newton South High School seriously impressed the judges this season and now hopes to bring home the $250,000 grand prize on Wednesday's season finale. While Wang knows he has chops in the kitchen, he was suprised to make it so far in the reality series competition.
“I am wicked excited to have made it to the finale,” Wang says. “I’m so thrilled to represent New England, Massachusetts, Boston and Newton, so I’m over the moon.”
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Ahead of the finale, we caught up with the educator-turned-culinary star to get his thoughts on Boston's food scene, Gordon Ramsay and his future after "MasterChef."
Have your New England roots influenced the way you cook?
New England seafood is amazing and that’s influenced a lot of my cooking. I like to use shellfish; in particular, clams, scallops, calamari and all that good stuff. Being from New England, I like blueberries and cranberries and, in the fall, foraging for mushrooms. New England has awesome apples. It’s one of my favorite foods. Growing up with all the local products around here, that’s definitely inspired the way I think about flavorings and pairings and how to put them together on the plate.
Do you get a chance to check out Boston’s food scene a lot?
I’m actually very frugal. I would rather go buy $50 worth of food than go out to a restaurant. But the Boston food scene is amazing. I’m a big Chinatown person because you get lots of different foods for amazing prices and the quality is excellent. I go to Hei La Moon, which is awesome for dim sum. Also, Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard.
How intimidating was Gordon Ramsay on the show?
He’s actually a very imposing dude. He’s kind of a big dude. Then he’s barking at you and, I don’t know, I think I exited my body a few times because it was so surreal. The way he approaches all the contestants, he’s there to get the best out of you. He may do that in a very aggressive way sometimes, but it’s not to put you down. He’s trying to strip away all the crap and get to the heart of it and make you do your best.
What’s the best cooking advice you received from him?
We are used to being at home cooking for family and friends, but in a large setting with a large number of people, you have to coordinate, so you have to learn how to delegate. That’s one of the biggest tips. As a musician, I’m a perfectionist, and as a conductor, I’m a bit of a control freak. Being able to let go and trust people to execute is definitely one of the skills he taught me when I was on the show.
What are your culinary plans for after the finale?
At the heart of it, I’m an educator. Whether it’s music or food, I find so much satisfaction in teaching other people about new techniques, ingredients and ways to put things together. I’m doing some cooking classes through the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. I’ve been teaching there occasionally for a couple years. I really want to come up with some content and events where I can interact with fans and people curious about food.
The "MasterChef" season finale airs Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on FOX.