After securing the pizza ingredients, it was time to channel my inner Master Chef. I feel confident with this challenge, I have been perfecting this dish for over a decade. That said, you do not win Master Chef by playing it safe, so I decided to try a few new things such as garlic salt to stand out from the competition — I can hear Gordon Ramsay asking me in his British accent “Why on earth would you choose to try something you’ve never done before on such a crucial night?”
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for me, today’s dish will not be evaluated by our standard judges; but rather, by the most important person on earth, my stunning wife. She has flown all the way from the living room to be in this Master Chef kitchen with us tonight. I feel privileged and honored to be cooking for such a distinguished guest tonight.
I am looking at my fresh basil, succulent Roma tomato, and spicy jalapeno, and I feel good about what’s in my metaphorical basket. I am ready when suddenly, in an unprecedented turn of events, a new judge emerges from behind the scenes, right in the middle of the competition — a first in Master Chef. Introducing for the first time, our beloved third member of the family, Bagheera.
Bagheera, or Baggsy as I like to call her, is an even tougher judge. She’s been in the eating business for 3 years, and has an insatiable desire to eat all the cat food worldwide. Now, she’s looking for the one person good enough to become America’s first, Baggsy Chef. Just look at her intently evaluating the freshness of the basil. With 90 minutes on the clock, the competition begins, now!
Graham Elliot approaches my station and asks me why pizza. “As an American of partial Italian descent, pizza is very close to my heart” I reply while focusing on adding the right amount of salt to my flour. “What’s the most important thing to do right now for your dish?” he asks. “The dough, I need to make sure it has enough time to rise” I respond as I begin to knead the dough. “Will you have enough time to let the dough rise?” he follows up. “Yes Chef” I assure him. “Good luck!” he says with skeptical undertones. “Thank you Chef” I conclude the conversation as I move on to the sauce.
With just enough time for the pizza to bake, I place it in the oven and hope that the risks pay off. I stare at my pie through the oven window as the crusts begin to turn golden brown. The clock keeps ticking. I look at the pie, then at the clock, and back to the pie. We are down to the last few minutes. I open the oven door, confirm it is cooked, and take the pie out. “60 seconds remaining,” I hear the judges say. I briefly let the pizza cool down before plating. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, hands up!” they shout.
It came down to the last second, but I did it! Feeling accomplished, the judges ask me to come up. Joe Bastianich makes his way to me, “describe your plate” he commands. I imagine him throwing my plate in the trash, then snap out of it. “Today I present an American rendition of a traditional Margherita pie composed of fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes instead of San Marzano, and organic basil, drizzled with garlic-infused olive oil.” He looks at my plate, then at me. We make eye contact when, enter our guest judges, wife and Baggsy.
The wife is pleased and the Baggsy is satisfied just sniffing. I exhale a sigh of relief! That was an intense challenge, one that ultimately was worth it just to see my gorgeous wife smile.
Tell me, have you ever made pizza from scratch? Do you enjoy cooking, or do you prefer take-out? What is your favorite dish to cook?
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(Featured Image by: Mr. Ramdolfi)