MasterChef’s Samantha Daily on returning to the show, her vegan dish, and her guilty eat – Exclusive Interview

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Samantha in the “Back to Win: Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans!” episode airing Wednesday, July 13 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.
MASTERCHEF: Contestant Samantha in the “Back to Win: Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans!” episode airing Wednesday, July 13 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX. /

It was a first of its kind challenge for MasterChef in the seventh episode of the Back to Win season. Our cheftestants had to make an entirely vegan dish.

And while some of the chefs were able to take the fresh produce in the garden to a whole new level, for others mistakes were made. Unfortunately, at the end of the night it was Samantha Daily (who made it to the top four during Season 9 of MasterChef) who ended up going home.

We were definitely sad to see Samantha go, but it also meant that we had the chance to chat with her after the episode to talk about everything from what inspired her to go back for another chance to be named MasterChef, what she might have done differently, and of course her guilty eat! (Her guilty eat is something we can’t help but want to try to make ourselves now.)

And yes, she was a pleasure to chat with and she really is that amazingly friendly.

Guilty Eats chats with Samantha Daily about returning to MasterChef and what went down during the vegan challenge

Guilty Eats: What inspired you to return for MasterChef: Back to Win?

Samantha Daily: “The first time I did the show, my friends in college had kind of dared me to be honest. They were like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be in Nashville, you should audition for this because you’re a good cook.’ And I was like, okay, yeah, sure. I didn’t expect to make it anywhere. But then of course, there I am in the top four. It was incredible, season nine was amazing.

So when they reached out to do Sseason 12, I had only good experiences the first time around. So I was like, yeah, that would be fun. You know, it’s something that at the end of season nine, we kind of all, as a cast, talked about. We were like, if this happens again, are you guys coming back? Like it wasn’t prompted by the producers or anything. It was just something that we kind of all talked about ourselves, like if this were to happen again, would we do it if they invited us back? A lot of people at the time said no, but I was like, yeah, maybe but it wouldn’t be the same.

So I think that’s kind of what prompted me to go back though, because like obviously I wanted to win, but it wasn’t about getting really far. It was more just experiencing it again. Because how crazy in my life that this happened once let alone twice. So I might as well.”

GE: If you were asked to do this again, would you do it?

SD: “A third time? I think I would. Yeah. I mean, I’ve only had good experiences, all of the staff is amazing. You know, there’s always going to be drama with cast members. But like, that’s what this is. This is a TV show. We’re all stressed out so of course, there’s gonna be drama and stress. But yeah, if it happened a third time, which I don’t know. Who knows? But if it did happen a third time, I would be on board. Why not? Because those kinds of opportunities only come up once, let alone twice. And probably definitely not the third time but if it did, why not?”

GE: Is there any other cooking competition that you would be interested in being a part of?

SD: “So actually, my mom and I recently were watching Crime Scene Kitchen. I was watching it, and I was like, I feel like I could do this because I was figuring it out too. It was figuring out what dessert was and I think I could do this. And then my mom was like, I could go with you. And in the back of my head. I was like, yes! My mom is one of my best friends, my partner in crime, that type of thing, but it would definitely be weird because I’ve had the professional training and she hasn’t, so having to guide her through that would be interesting. But yeah, I mean, that would be kind of fun. But who knows? I mean, I grew up watching Chopped, maybe I’ll go for that. Someday.”

GE: On last night’s episode of MasterChef, it was all about going vegan. And I’m wondering, do you make vegan dishes or was this something kind of new for you?

SD: “I actually make a lot of vegetarian dishes. But I rely so heavily on butter and eggs, milk and cream to amp those dishes up. And to be honest, it wasn’t really that hard of a challenge for me. I’m familiar with how to cook with just vegetables, but I think the outdoor garden really threw me for a loop because when I was thinking of all those things, when he was doing his [Gordon Ramsay] demo, we were all kind of simultaneously thinking okay, I have to do a vegan dish. We’re thinking of the pantry that we’re used to having. So throwing the garden at us and everything being in a different spot that was just, I don’t know.

I was thinking back on it last night after watching it and you can kind of tell on my face the whole episode I’m just kind of not there. I kind of felt the whole day like a dead man walking. I don’t know, I just had this bad feeling and I was letting it take over. So when I went home honestly I wasn’t like shocked. Because yes, my dish was probably better tasting and more complete than the other two, but I had done less than the other two had. You know, the other two were trying to do so many elements. So yeah, it wasn’t a surprise to me, to be honest, which is kind of sad because it’s, I hate to admit it, but it almost seems like I gave up which is not like me, but I can’t remember exactly what was going on in that day…

It was a weird day.”

GE: What would you have done differently?

SD: “If I had to remake that dish, I would definitely have done a lot of things differently. I would have amped up a lot of the flavors of mushrooms. I think I spent a lot of time dicing the potatoes to get them to cook and then dicing mushrooms to get them to cook and then at the end of the day, I only had like 20 minutes to pull it all together after all that. I saw somebody else threw their mushrooms in a food processor. I was like why didn’t I think of that? Because the dice on the mushrooms for being stuffed doesn’t matter.

I think I would have made it more of a pierogi. I was also trying to do gluten free, I don’t think that made it into the show but I use a gluten free flour, like a rice flour. I think I would have thrown that idea out the window and done like a traditional like pierogi and then that way I wouldn’t have had to cook as many potatoes or as many mushrooms and maybe do some kind of pickled cabbage or something to simulate a sauerkraut.”

GE: Now that MasterChef is over, what’s next for you?

SD: “I have a little cookie business here locally to Des Moines, Iowa. So I’m pursuing that a little bit but I think I’m going to shift it into more like cooking classes. I would really like to do virtual ones that way anybody from anywhere can participate. But I really like to teach and I like being my own boss. So I think I am going to start doing some cooking classes.”

GE: Finally, what is your Guilty Eat?

SD: “Kraft mac and cheese from the box, made with European butter and heavy cream. It’s like once a week for me.”

(Who else is thinking we need to hit the grocery store and snag some Kraft Mac & Cheese, heavy cream, and fancy butter?)

dark. Next. MasterChef’s Alejandro Valdivia shares his thoughts on returning for Back to Win- Exclusive Interview