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Gunn senior to compete on MasterChef

Gunn High School senior Ahran Cho will compete on the season premiere of MasterChef May 26.  Photo courtesy of Ahran Cho.
Gunn High School senior Ahran Cho will compete on the season premiere of MasterChef May 26. Photo courtesy of Ahran Cho.

A Gunn High School senior will compete on the reality television show MasterChef for its fifth season later this month.

MasterChef judges selected Ahran Cho into the Top 30 chefs after first round of auditions, according to Cho. Cho said she was completely surprised when she found out she was chosen.

“It was weird to think that out of all the tens of thousands of people who had auditioned, I had been chosen,” Cho said in an email. “Initially, I was in disbelief. But then I realized that my hard work had paid off and I had made it.”

Cho, who has been watching cooking shows since she was a young child, first thought about auditioning for MasterChef after seeing the message at the end of an old episode.

“I was watching re-runs of Season Four, and during the finale, Chef [Gordon] Ramsay tells the viewers to apply and audition for Season Five,” she said. “Upon watching this, I kind of felt super-intrigued and wanted to look at the guidelines.”

After Cho did some initial research, she realized that an audition might be the perfect opportunity to grow her culinary talents. Serendipitously, she was just qualified for audition eligibility, turning 18 years old two weeks before the January 1, 2014 requirement.

“You also had to be an American citizen,” she said. “I had just received my American citizenship like five months before, too. I felt like it was kind of fate.”

Although Cho will get the chance to compete under the world’s spotlight on MasterChef, she has been showcasing her talents for others since a young age after being inspired by the chefs she saw on television, she said.

“Ever since I was young, I’ve been a fan of watching cooking shows on TV,” she said. “I learned a lot of fancy terms and cooking techniques by watching my favorite chefs on television, and I started filming my own shows at age 9.”

Since then, Cho has steadily expanded her culinary skills. In addition to working at various restaurants, she spent a summer at a cooking school in South Korea as a 14-year-old. According to Cho, her youth, especially in comparison to her fellow adult-aged students, made the schooling experience more difficult.

“Since I was by far the youngest … the assistant kind of ignored me, especially since I was from America, and she assumed my Korean wasn’t very good,” Cho said. “On one of the days … she threw the soup I had spent two hours on down the drain, and I spent the whole night crying over it.”

While her 14-year-old self struggled to stay positive, Cho said that the experience has made her more resilient.

“I think the fact that she looked down on me really motivated me to push back and work harder in my cooking,” she said.

This time, Cho has received nothing but encouragement.

“My parents were … super supportive [of my audition],” she said. “I didn’t expect them to encourage me, but their support really made me want to audition and succeed even more.“

Cho, who will attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the fall, does not plan to study culinary arts in college. However, both her plan to major in Hotel Administration and, especially, her school’s location will give her opportunities to continue her growth as a chef.

“Since there are so many great restaurants and hotels on the [Las Vegas] Strip, I feel like it would be great exposure for me [to go to UNLV],” she said. “I want to get out in the field and really work hands-on. I think after I get a regular college degree, I will consider going to culinary school, but for now, I want a normal college experience.”

Viewers can see Cho compete in the season premiere of MasterChef at 8 p.m. May 26 on FOX. Check out this trailer for a sneak peak.

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