September-October 2011 | FOXY LADY

FOXY LADYFOXY LADYFOXY LADYMasterChef contestant Alejandra Schrader



After finishing in the Top 10 on Fox’s hit show, MasterChef, Alejandra Schrader visits family and heats up the kitchen on the Eastern Shore

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Stephen Cherry

Name: Alejandra Schrader
Age: 37
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Raised: Caracas, Venezuela
Place of Residence: Los Angeles, California
Former Vocation: Architect & Urban Planner
Current Vocation: Cooking Ambassador of Latina Lovability
Defining traits: Sweet, kind, strong, sensitive, energetic, affectionate, health-conscious, dedicated… to her many fans and loved ones she is considered “a whirlwind of fresh air.”
Relationship status: Married to independent-filmmaker David Schrader
Where you can find her: A Top-9 alumna of TV’s MasterChef, she may be found at &
CSM: Congratulations on your performance on Season 2 of MasterChef, Alejandra. How was the overall experience?
AS: It was amazing, and I am honored to have finished in the top nine from what started as something like 20,000 contestants.

: It’s said by many that reality-TV shows edit the content to make the contestants’ personalities different than they actually are in real life in order to heighten the drama. Was this true in the case of MasterChef?

: On that subject, what I will tell you is this: The show accurately captured what you might say is the essence of each major contestant without manipulation or distortion. So, the contestants who seemed lovable and positive really are lovable and positive; the ones who seemed negative, competitive, arrogant, cocky or emotional really are. There is only one case I can think of in which the true character of the person is different than what was depicted on the show, and wasn’t the producers’ fault; it was the contestant’s ability to manipulate the cameras into projecting a positive image.

: Any chance I can get you to tell us to whom you’re referring?

AS: No (laughs heartily). You’re going to have to try to figure out that for yourself! I’m not into character assassination, but I will tell you that the person I’m referring to is.

CSM: Do you know who won the whole thing?

AS: (Shyly) Yes.

CSM: C'mon, give us a hint. We won't tell anyone!

AS: (Getting the joke and smiling broadly) It's more likely that I'll fillet you from head to toe in the next 30 seconds than reveal that information. Sorry, you're just gonna have to wait and watch it on TV like everyone else.

CSM: Was there any contestant whom you feel was depicted in an unfairly negative light, like Christian or Max for example?

AS: Unfair? No. Max really is that cocky, but that's just because he was raised as a poor little rich boy. What wasn’t shown were the times that Max would lay his head on my lap and like a sweet, innocent little boy want me to stroke his hair. Christian, meanwhile, is everything that you see on camera, but what’s equally true is that Christian also has some very honorable character traits. He’s very honest and straightforward, which I really respect, and if he decides he likes you, he can even be supportive and encouraging.

What I respect most about Christian, though, is that he had an extremely hard life, with lots of severe challenges, yet by the sheer force of his will, he turned his life around and made it into something positive and good. Most people don’t know this about him, but he is also a very devoted father, and he has an absolutely wonderful wife whom he loves very much.

CSM: You seem to know a lot about your fellow contestants, more than the show’s format would seem to allow. Did you all spend time together when not taping?

AS: Actually, yes, we did. Though we were all sequestered in the hotel between episode tapings, and the Fox production assistants never let us out of their sight (laughs), many of us spent time together in the hotel getting to know each other and bonding.

CSM: So, do you think you came away with some real friends from your time on MasterChef?

AS: Oh, my God, yes! Not only is every one of the initial top-100 contestants my friend on Facebook, I currently email back and forth with about 50 of them. Meanwhile, I intend to have Giuseppe be the godfather to my first child, and Tracy and I are going into business together.

CSM: Before we get into that, people have expressed that what got you eliminated from the show, the undercooked pork dish, must have been staged because you are too skilled to have made such a mistake. What do you say about that?
AS: It’s amazing how many people are saying that very thing to me on a daily basis. Some even say I was sabotaged. I will nevertheless take full responsibility for having made a huge technical error: I trusted a device I’d never used before in my entire life — a digital thermometer. It said my pork was exactly 165 degrees, the ideal temperature. I never should have trusted it over my own eyes.
CSM: Your exit from the show was very dignified — some even say unemotional, as if you knew it were coming. Do you feel you got what you’d wanted out of MasterChef?
AS: Of course I would have liked to win the competition, but to have finished in the top nine was as much as I ever could have hoped for. The experience gave me all the validation I was looking for and the confidence to begin the next part of my life with pride and optimism.
CSM: Were celebrity judges Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich really the way they were portrayed on camera?
AS: Yes! Though we really didn’t spend any time with the judges off-camera, Gordon is just as intense and intimidating as he seems, while Graham is as nice. I get asked the most about Joe, wanting to know if he is really that mean, and I would have to say yes, sometimes. Ironically, he is also surprisingly shy, so I think some of that “meanness” was probably for the benefit of the cameras.
Having said that, my two greatest moments on MasterChef were both because of the Bastianich family. Joe had said that my ravioli was so good that he would serve it in his restaurants in Italy, which made me want to cry with pride. I actually did cry when his mother, Lidia Bastianch, who is a legend and a personal hero of mine, hugged me and told me my appetizer for the Mother’s Day challenge was her favorite part of the meal.

CSM: Now that you’re out of the running, who in your opinion is the most naturally gifted contestant on Season 2 of MasterChef?

AS: All things considered, there’s no doubt in my mind that it was Christian. I’ve seen him do things under incredibly intense pressure that only a bona fide master chef could do. All of us in the top 10 are really talented cooks, but Christian is kind of on the next level. I think he’ll do significant things in this industry.

CSM: On that note, what are you and Tracy collaborating on?

AS: We started a partnership called “Cucina Cocina,” which are the words for “kitchen” and “cooking” in Italian and Spanish, respectively, because Tracy is Italian and I’m Venezuelan. We’re going to do private cooking events for anything up to 60 people. We also intend to launch a community-based boutique-style cooking school in LA.

CSM: But doesn’t Tracy live in Florida?

AS: Yes, but she is so revved up about this partnership that she is moving to LA permanently. I’m so exited to have her out here with me. She’s such a great person and so talented.

CSM: What brings you to the Good Earth Market in Clarksville for a cooking demo?
AS: Well, first, my in-laws, who have become like my parents, live here. Second, Susan and David Ryan, who own the Good Earth Market, have created an absolutely wonderful store and organic farm, and they have the same philosophy about food and eating that I do. So, this is the perfect venue for me.
CSM: You have a reputation for being rather hardcore about your food and eating philosophy in general and about the Slow Food Movement in particular. Are you?
AS: Definitely, and I’ll gladly tell you why. At one point in my life I weighed over 400 pounds. It had gotten to the point that I had heart palpitations, sleep apnea, severe joint pain and atrophy, and my gallbladder removed — all by age 30. I was killing myself — and not slowly either. I doubt I would have made 40 at the rate I was going. When my father died, in 2004, the autopsy revealed he was diabetic. So, between my lifestyle and my heritage, it was clear that I would likely get diabetes, too. That’s when I decided to change my life and start caring about what I put into my body.
With all the chemicals, hormones and preservatives that are in the processed foods Americans eat every day, they are shortening their lifespan and deteriorating their health. I want to devote my life to showing people that you can extend your life, improve your health and thrill your palate more than ever by simply changing your thinking about, and approach to, food.
CSM: What dish did you make at Good Earth Market?
AS: It’s my signature dish. It’s called Camarones Salteados With Saffron-Infused Quinoa and Peruvian-Style Salsa Criolla. It’s basically a sautéed shrimp dish served with a mix of sliced red onions, lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro and Quinoa, which is a protein-rich seed that cooks up like couscous. It’s amazingly delicious.

CSM: Wow, okay (the things I do for my job!). It is delicious. Let me ask you one final question: What’s the best thing and worst thing about celebrity in your opinion?

AS: The worst thing is the traditional answer: the loss of privacy and those who would seek to use or manipulate you for their own gain or inappropriate intentions. The best thing is that I can use these 15 minutes of attention I’ll be getting to raise awareness about the importance of the food we eat and to help the communities in our country that need it the most.


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