TV: Team Natasha or Team Luca? Who Survives the Heat in ‘MasterChef’ Kitchen Finale

'MASTERCHEF' JUDGES GRAHAM ELLIOT (L), GORDON RAMSAY (C) AND JOE BASTIANICH

‘MASTERCHEF’ JUDGES GRAHAM ELLIOT (L), GORDON RAMSAY (C) AND JOE BASTIANICH

Suspense is brewing as MasterChef fans count down to see who wins the Season 4 title on FOX’s hit reality competition hosted by celebrated restaurateurs Gordon Ramsay,  Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot. Top 2 finalists Natasha Crnjac and Luca Manfé dodged elimination last week, and face the ultimate culinary challenge when the finale airs tonight (9/8c). At stake: A cookbook deal, trophy and $250,000 grand prize.

Who knows how things will play out in the MasterChef kitchen, but this season has been filled with heated battles, juicy rivalries and quite a few surprises. Both contenders proved they have the chops, so it all boils down to a three-course meal by Crnjac, a stay-at-home mom from La Jolla, Calif., and Manfé, a restaurant manager from Astoria, Queens (NY).

Tune in for the showdown, and learn more about their unique experience in the following Q&A with Tania Fuentez Media. Good luck and many thanks again for sharing your story on short notice, Natasha and Luca!

NOTE: MasterChef Season 4 finale airs at 9/8c p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11 on FOX.

TFM: What did you learn about yourself during the MasterChef competition? Watching everything unfold on TV now, were you surprised by your reactions or what was happening behind the scenes?

Natasha: I learned a great deal about myself while doing MasterChef. If anything, it really put the fuel to my fire to push me to really continue my culinary dream. Going from a home cook to a chef is a really emotional experience for me, and to have America go through it with me makes it even more special.

Luca: Well, I actually learned that sometimes I can be really funny or at least that’s what I read in the comments on my social media pages. I think that my accent plays a big part, though. I realized I can’t really hide my emotions very well. My expressions don’t lie. I wasn’t surprised how things turned out on TV. I am a pretty genuine guy, I am what you see.

TFM: Tips on staying cool under such intense pressure. Would you do anything differently or compete on another reality show, if an opportunity surfaced?

Natasha: You know, I don’t tend to be a very stressed out person. I like to take everything with a grain of salt, but I will say I’m a very competitive person. So, that being said, I think if I were to do it all over again I would tone down on the competition and have more fun with it, and maybe let a contestant borrow some butter. ;)

Luca: There are no tips. It is easy to get advice, but until you find yourself in that situation it is very hard to guess how you will behave. The most important thing is to believe in yourself and be confident. I got cooler after a few weeks when I got used to all the cameras, lights and judges talking to you while you are trying to focus on your cooking. No, I am not interested in any other reality shows, but I would like to have a travel show about food and Italian culture.

TFM: By the way, without giving away too much ahead of the season finale, what’s next for you? Ever imagine reaching this stage as a home cook?

Natasha: Quite honestly, watching the last three seasons I never would have thought that I would have made it as far as I did. At the end of the day I have my family to thank for all of it, pushing me to strive for the best and be an example that no matter how hard you are pushed or no matter what pressure you can and will succeed.

Luca: I would have never guessed I was going to reach the finale, especially after last year’s elimination. My plan did not change. I would like to open my restaurant one day, and to be a successful restaurateur you need to understand every single aspect of the business. I have been a manager for many years and now, thanks to MasterChef, just established that I do know a lot about food.

TFM: Speaking of home, favorite signature dish to prepare for the family. How does that compare to your best dish presented at MasterChef? Which left the greatest impression on you?

Natasha: I’ve probably answered this question 100 times and it’s always the same answer! Homemade pizza, I love how you can go from gourmet to comfort … And, everyone loves pizza! It’s a favorite memory of mine growing up making pizzas with my dad in the kitchen.

Luca: My wife loves risottos. Any style. Her favorite is lemon and asparagus. I got to create a dish just for her in one of the Mystery Box challenges. I took what she liked the most and elevated it with all the knowledge I have gained in the show. It really showed how much I have learned.

TFM: Toughest challenge in the MasterChef kitchen and how did you stay focused amid some prickly personalities and unpredictable conditions?

Natasha: The toughest was the eggs Benedict challenge for me, I knew I was in trouble 1/3 of the way in and couldn’t really fix the issue due to the limited ingredients we had. I was so afraid I was going home that early on in the competition, it had me really kick up my game and fight harder than I ever have.

Luca: For sure, those two days in Vegas were pretty intense. It was still early in the competition and we had to run the kitchen of one of Chef Ramsay’s restaurants. People may think it was just burgers, but making 40 burgers in less than one hour, it’s not easy, all perfect medium rare, in a kitchen where you never worked before! That grill with burning wood and high flames was hardcore.

TFM: Who inspired you most growing up and now as an adult? How important were those cultural influences in your culinary development?

Natasha: Quite honestly, a lot of the knowledge I have about culinary cuisine comes from my father _ it’s a special bond he and I have together to this day. It’s a fight in the kitchen on who’s going to cook! Because we both want to and there isn’t enough room for two Crnjacs! The fact that I love just learning about anything and everything food also helped with me and my passion. My dad is so knowledgeable about cuisine from his upbringing in different parts of the world it made me so intrigued always.

Luca: My mother will always be my biggest inspiration, the person I will call first to get advice. Now, it’s all about the job I do, the different restaurants and chefs I work for. I have a lot of cookbooks of my favorite chefs: Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter are some of my favorites. Nowadays, it is also very easy to improve your knowledge just surfing the web and looking at all the YouTube videos to get some great advice.

TFM: Besides cooking, what other creative outlets piqué your interest?

Natasha: Well, next would come my family. I stay at home with my son and I swear to you he has changed my life for the best indefinitely. I do love photography … through my travels I really have fallen in love with capturing the moment with a camera and whether it food or my family or landscape, I do enjoy it.

Luca: I love to ride my Vespa, watch baseball, spend time at home relaxing with my wife and the dogs.

TFM: Best advice Gordon Ramsay or the other judges shared during the show? Think you’ll apply it to everyday life?

Natasha: That everyone makes mistakes, and it’s how you pick yourself back up and finish. Nobody likes a quitter!

Luca: I would say, it is a mix between all of them, but my favorite advice, the ones that helped me a lot on the show are: Less is more, don’t you ever second-guess your decisions and most important, believe in yourself.

Recommended:

MasterChef on FOX: http://www.fox.com/masterchef/

Casting Season 5: http://www.masterchefcasting.com/

Natasha Crnjac: http://natashacrnjac.com/

Luca Manfé: http://lucamanfe.com/home

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