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Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Luca Manfe and Natasha Crnjac entered the "MasterChef" kitchen in season four with the same goal: to prove they have what it takes to cook professionally. Luca and Natasha, both home chefs, each hopes to open a restaurant following their time on the hit FOX reality program. They will, undoubtedly, have that opportunity thanks, in part, to their newfound fame (not to mention their cooking proficiency).
But first, a "MasterChef" winner must be crowned. Luca and Natasha competed head-to-head in the season finale. That competition, which taped several weeks ago, airs tonight at 9 p.m.
"I definitely say it was a lot of pressure," Natasha said. "It's very hard. We all equally fought really hard to make it as far as we did, and just being in that finale and being against (as) strong (a) competitor as Luca, it's definitely really hard. You put everything into it, and it's a very emotional experience - and it's just something that you kind of have to be there in the moment, and it just takes complete control out of everything you're doing."
"We really worked very hard," Luca said. "I think the reason why we both made it to the finale is because we were the ones who really (competed) like with more anger to win. The finale itself absolutely was probably the toughest, because there was so much at stake and the emotions were doing a big, big part on it, because you know that that was the last chance that you had to go for the title. There was no comeback from that one. So, you really had to put more than 100 percent."
Throughout the season, Luca, 31, an Italian-American from Astoria, and Natasha, 26, a stay-at-home mom from San Diego, had something of a love-hate relationship. The two often exchanged verbal shots, though their banter was not malicious. When given the chance, Luca tried to eliminate Natasha by giving her challenging ingredients to work with in the "MasterChef" kitchen. She, in turn, rose to the occasion and set her sights on sending Luca home.
Ironically, they worked together in the semifinals to ensure their place in the final cook-off.
"I think for the most part Luca and I are pretty much similar people," Natasha said. "We're real strong characters, and when you put two people that are very strong (together), they're going to clash, and they're going to get along, and it's just going to be an up-and-down relationship. I have nothing but good things to say about Luca. I really do want the best for him, and we were with each other every day, day in and day out, 12- to 14-hour days long - no break from each other - so it's bound to happen."
"Being the exec producer, I've lived with these guys for the four months of shooting and throughout the (post-production), and I think Natasha is absolutely right in that these two are very, very similar personalities," said showrunner Robin Ashbrook. "Nobody else had the same passion, the same commitment, the same level of dreams and the will to succeed as these two, and that's, I think, what ultimately brought them there. And as you'll see (tonight), that battle continues, because their level and their passion is second to none, and higher than anybody else that came into the kitchen."
The victor receives a trophy, $250,000 and the opportunity to create a "MasterChef" cookbook. Show judges Gordon Ramsay, a world-renowned chef and star of "Hell's Kitchen"; restaurateur and noted wine aficionado Joe Bastianich; and award-winning chef Graham Elliot chose the winner based on the results of the final cooking competition.
"MasterChef" airs at 9 p.m. on FOX. Learn more about the home cooks online at http://www.fox.com/masterchef.
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