'MasterChef' hopeful: Spring rolls did me in

Staff writer

Greasy spring rolls spelled doom for Orlando server Francis Biondi on "MasterChef," the Fox cooking contest.

"Spring rolls did me in," Biondi said Tuesday after being ejected in Monday's episode. "I've been practicing ever since. I've made so many spring rolls I could open up a food truck and kill it now."

Biondi, 26, was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in Palm Harbor. The Florida State University grad moved to Orlando two years ago to pursue professional golf while working as a restaurant server.

But a forearm injury took him out of golf, and he picked up more shifts serving at downtown's Rusty Spoon, which led to a chance to appear on "MasterChef." On the show, he was "totally fine" but the eight months before the show he was in limbo, he said.

"It's cliché to say things happen for a reason, but maybe they do," Biondi said. "It's pretty interesting that my path guided me to Orlando. I never thought I’d be on this show."

On Tuesday, he was keeping up with all the Twitter and Facebook comments about his show exit. "It's pretty funny seeing what the fans are thinking," he said. "It was tough to watch, for sure, but it was fun nonetheless."

"MasterChef" continues at 8 p.m. Monday with 14 contenders; the season finale is likely to be in mid-September. But fans can see Biondi serving this weekend at Txokos Basque Kitchen in East End Market in Orlando.  It will be his first time back since his ejection.

"A lot of foodies go there and appreciate the food being served there," he said. "I have a lot of regulars come in and say, 'We're rooting for Francis.' "

He described "MasterChef" as an amazing experience because thousands try out, millions watch, and people wonder what it will be like to cook for Gordon Ramsay.

"It was surreal when they called me and told me to come out to L.A.," he said. "It was a great set, a great testing of people and cooking skills. It was like a retreat for foodies. You're surrounded by so many people who love the same thing you do. We became really good friends even though we were competitors."

Biondi described his style on the show as "free style, winging it, not having any culinary classes." The main lesson he took from the show was Ramsay's advice that people have to cook with confidence.

"I learned to push myself, try to rise above and be confident," Biondi said.

He is talking to some chefs about his next move. "I'm learning a lot from being in the front of the house at restaurants. I'm figuring it out how to take the next step," he said.

He is also back into golfing, and he would entertain doing another reality show. "Cooking and golf are my two main things. Being in front of the camera is always fun," he said. "I would do another cooking show."

Are you listening, Golf Channel?

The people he serves this weekend should have a treat. "It will be fun to hear what people say about spring rolls," Biondi said. "I'm definitely going to roll out 50 spring rolls and show I can do this."

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