What does it take to face famed chef Gordon Ramsey week after week as he critiques your culinary skills on national television? Travel Noire spoke with some of the contestants who are up for the challenge on the 9th season of MasterChef to learn more about how they took their skills from their home kitchen to the small screen. Miami-native Shanika Patterson (@cookinafterdark) shares how cooking with her mom at an early age helped spark her love for food and gave her the confidence to experiment with flavor.


Travel Noire: When did you know that cooking would be more a hobby for you? 


Shanika: Seven years ago. I attempted to try out for a show called MasterChef and from that moment I realized that there was something in me that I didn’t see at the time and I pushed myself harder to learn more about the culinary arts world. Food has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl but as far as professionally, it was then.



Travel Noire: What’s one of your favorite food memories from childhood?


Shanika: It was with my mom. She used to cook in the kitchen. She used to listen to music and dance around and she used to show me different things. Her palate was probably too powerful for her time, but she used to cook this meal, it had grits, chicken noodle soup, and a fried snapper, and the flavors were so good. These days I always try to be experimental with what I cook. I always try to make it different because of my mom. So every time I cook, she’s there with me. That’s something I hold close to my heart.


Travel Noire: What’s your favorite food city?


Shanika: There’s not one in particular, but I have two. I love Jamaica because I love Jamaican jerk chicken and jerk pork. I absolutely love it to death. And I love Mexican food. It is so good. So I travel to Mexico sometimes to get really authentic Mexican food. So those two places are my favorite to travel to for eating. I’m still searching for that one city.


Travel Noire: Do you have a signature approach to cooking?


Shanika: I do have a signature approach: Make everything sexy. If it looks good, people are going to eat it. You can not have food all over the place on a plate. If it looks good, nine times out of ten, they’re going to eat it. Make it sexy no matter what you’re cooking. It could be soul food, it could high-end, five-star restaurant food, it can be McDonald’s, just make it look pretty.



Travel Noire: What advice do you have for young women that want to pursue a culinary career?


Shanika: Go out there and try something, it doesn’t matter what it is. Find cookbooks, find people that you admire that you look up to, just try something, and if you fail at that, try again. It’s all about experimenting and finding yourself. If they can give themselves at least an hour a day to practice their craft, it can become something really amazing, but it does take persistence. I would tell them not to give up and to always try different things. Get out of your comfort zone.


Travel Noire: What goals do you have for yourself after MasterChef?


Shanika: My main goal overall is to become the female version of Gordon Ramsey and that is me becoming an entrepreneur. Pursuing my dreams in the culinary world to becoming that two, three-Michelin star restaurant owner. Everything he is about is amazing, even with how he helps everyone. Throughout the end of the year, my goal is to learn as much as I can learn and to give as much information as I can give to those that need it.