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(Photo © Sarah Partain)

Chatting with "MasterChef" Guest Judge Nick DiGiovanni!

Written by Skylar Zachian. Published: June 12 2024


Calling all "MasterChef" fans! This season of the classic cooking competition has an exciting new twist — a focus on Generations. Millennials, Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Gen-Zers are competing in the kitchen to find out who has what it takes to win. Plus, tonight’s Gen-Z audition round features former "MasterChef" finalist Nick DiGiovanni as a guest judge! A Harvard grad, a chef with over 32 million followers across all socials, and a New York Times bestselling author, Nick has a lot of wisdom to share. 


We recently chatted with Nick about his experience as a guest judge on "MasterChef" and his other current and future projects. Check it out below!


YH: You were last in the "MasterChef" kitchen in 2019 when you competed in Season 10. Can you tell us a bit about what went through your mind when you stepped back into the kitchen as a judge?

ND: I was excited! It’s just crazy to get to experience both sides of the TV show. At one point, I was on one side of the table, facing Gordon Ramsay, and this time I got to stand next to him and mess around with him. There was a lot of goofing around. If I had poked fun at him when I was a contestant, he would have sent me out of the kitchen. So, this is a very different dynamic than my initial moments on "MasterChef"! 




YH: Now that it’s been 5 years since you were a contestant, what have been some of the most important lessons that you’ve carried with you from your experience on "MasterChef"?

ND: The number one lesson I learned on "MasterChef" was to be fearless. I went into it having never done any sort of cooking competition, and I left with an overwhelming sense of fearlessness. At that stage in my life, I was finishing college and going into the real world for the first time, so that was very helpful for me. 


YH: What was your experience representing your generation when you were on the show in 2019 as the youngest finalist? 

ND: In all of the different things that I cooked on the show, I was definitely willing to try anything. I was going with the classic Millennial and Gen-Z approach of “just try anything and see if it works”. Looking back on it, now that I’m a few years older and a bit more mature, I realize that I was going a bit too far there. Maybe I was being a bit too Gen-Z! 


YH: Judging the audition rounds, you are responsible for identifying chefs who have a unique spark and who you feel could grow over the course of the show. Can you talk us through how you identify exceptional talent? 

ND: You can see the spark and the light in someone’s eye when they are truly passionate about food and what they are cooking. Gordon and myself, we would go together and check in with contestants while they were cooking and then talk behind the scenes after with [fellow judges] Joe [Bastianich] and Aarón [Sánchez]. I’d get this gut, on-the-spot feeling when people were excited about what they were making. The other piece is actually tasting the food, and those judges have a tough job. A lot of the food is really good! And then some of it, when it’s put down in front of you, all of the judges sort of look at each other and don’t want to eat it. There are some crazy dishes that people make on competition shows like this!


YH: As a judge, are you able to get a glimpse into people’s personality, background, or family traditions through the food that they make? 

ND: The exciting thing about "MasterChef" specifically is that it is such a global show. It draws contestants from all over the country and people with backgrounds from all over the world. Every single dish that I got to taste during the auditions was totally different, and every single person had such a cool, unique story as well. When you serve food, you are also telling a story. It was amazing to taste so many different dishes and, in a way, so many different stories.


YH: Can you share your thoughts on the differences between chefs of different generations as well as the power of collaboration between people of all ages in the kitchen? 

ND: I’m biased, because my first ever collaboration in the kitchen was a generational collaboration — me, my grandma, and my great-grandma. I think there’s something so powerful about being able to cook with someone who is a totally different age than you and who has experienced all different sorts of foods and cooked all different sorts of things. Everyone can learn something from each other. The older generations, from what I’ve seen, are more by-the-book in the kitchen. Younger generations are looking for recipes that give instant gratification because they are quick and simple… I wish, when I’d learned with my grandparents and great-grandparents, that I’d been a bit older and been able to contribute a bit more, but I’d like to think that I encouraged them to have more fun in the kitchen.


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YH: You do a great job of making cooking look cool, accessible, and appealing on your online platforms. Can you talk to us a bit more about your experience with social media?

ND: It’s very interesting to be a part of this whole new wave of chefs making content online. Food trends happen all the time, like kale and quinoa. If sunchokes become the biggest new thing tomorrow, within 24 hours I can post a video on a creative, easy way to make sunchokes. It’s also really nice to not only be able to share things really quickly online but be able to learn very quickly online as well. 


YH: In addition to being a contestant and now guest judge on "MasterChef", you’ve broken multiple Guinness World Records. What led you to work towards breaking these records? 

ND: The records all started out with my friend Lynja. She and I both shared a love for challenges as well as for cooking and food. The first record we did was a silly one where I made this giant cake pop. I don’t think I even knew what a cake pop was before Lynja showed me! We were so excited about breaking that record and we craved more. Fast-forward to us having broken 10 records!




YH: You’re also very involved with a clothing brand called Happy Potato, which uses proceeds to donate meals to those in need. Can you tell us more about this?

ND: Right now, for every single item that you buy, you donate 10 meals. We found a really great affiliate partner called The Farmlink Project who helps us do that. We’ve already donated over 100,000 meals and are projecting to pass 1 million by the end of this year. I just want to keep seeing the number of meals we donate grow. That’s our biggest focus. The company isn’t about the clothing but about raising awareness around how much food is actually wasted and then donating. In college, I studied environmental science. Happy Potato has allowed me to get back in touch with that interest in topics like food waste and climate change.


YH: What are you most looking forward to that we should know about?

ND: I’m always constantly excited for whatever big video we are posting next on YouTube. I can’t say too much until the videos are posted, but I can’t wait until people can see what we are working on next!


Can’t wait to see more from Nick DiGiovanni? Check out Season 14 of "MasterChef" tonight (June 12) at 8pm on Fox!