Gordon Ramsay gives Baldwin's Helene Leeds a white apron

The Baltimore Sun

Five Maryland residents are among the amateur chefs competing for the coveted title of Master Chef and the $250,000 grand prize. Master Chef's two-part season premiere continues tonight at 9 p.m. on FOX.

Among the 100 amateur chefs competing in the audition round, only 36 will earn a coveted white apron and make it through to the next round, which will air on June 11. Not every auditioner is shown for any length, if at all, on the audition episode. But if you were watching closely during Monday's apron montage, you'd have seen Helene Leeds, a health coach in Baldwin, getting her apron, among about a dozen awarded on Monday's episode.

For the premiere episodes of the audition round, the 100 hopefuls prepare their signature dish and present them to the distinguished to the Master Chef judging panel of Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot.

I had a nice talk with Helene Leeds, a health coach in Baldwin, who told me about her audition experiences. She has a good story, which never hurts. So keep your eye on her.

A former plus-size model, Leeds admits that competing on Master Chef wasn't a burning ambition. "But I am incredibly passionate about the ability of food to transform lives," she said. "My mother died of obesity and I was an obese child," said Leeds, who hopes to expose a larger audience to the lessons she's learned about healthy eating.

When Leeds left modeling, she stayed in the fashion world, on the business side. "Fashion wasn't making a difference in the world," said Leeds, who shifted gears in 2009. Now Leeds operated, in addition to her coaching business, a health living website named Helene's Kitchen.

For her pre-show audition, she prepared truffles using one off her favorite superfoods -- raw chocolate. "Raw chocolate is amazing, and they were divine and decadent," Leeds said, "but they looked like turds."

The show kept calling her back, Leeds said, and eventually she was chosen from the 30,000 applicants to compete for a white apron in the on-air audition round.

For the judging panel, Leeds made her Medicinal Mushroom Aphrodisiac Soup, an "outrageous" silky stew using all raw dish crammed full of medicinal mushrooms other superfoods, which she served with a kale salad with mulberries, cacao and maca powder. 

Viewers will find out Tuesday whether the judges thought enough of Leeds and her soup to pass her through to the next round. Among the other Marylanders competing are Kaimana Chee of Silver Spring, Sherine Taylor of Windsor Mill, Amy Holmwood of Bethesda, Elizabeth Etzel of Baltimore.


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