When Joey Stasolla, the owner of the great Joey's Pizza in Briargate, went before the brutal chef trifecta of Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot Bowles on FOX's MasterChef, he was feeling pretty good.
“I been cooking since I was a little kid," says the 27-year-old Long Island native. "Especially if I’m cooking Italian food, man: I know, I know, it’s gonna be good. There’s no way it’s not gonna be."
Doing the talking was a homemade manicotti, and it spoke volumes. Bastianich said Stasolla "really hit it on all levels," while Ramsay told him, "You've got every right to be cocky, arrogant and very smart, because that was delicious." (Click here for the clip entitled "Extra Helping: With Joey from New York.")
That was in February. Stasolla's journey actually began in November of last year when a buddy signed up as a contestant on the amateur cooking show.
"So I had to go to Denver, and I had to bring some of my own homemade food, and a portfolio type deal," he says, adding with a laugh: "They all told me that I had a VIP pass to get through the line — and it was freezing outside — and it turns out everybody and their mother had a VIP pass, so we’re all waiting outside.”
After nailing a tasting cut, and a personality interview with the show's main producers, Stasolla was told he was one of the top 100 amateur chefs in the country, and flown to California for filming of the first round.
I asked him if the post-round celebration is encouraged by the show's producers.
"That’s just a natural thing, man," Stasolla says. "I mean, it’s really exciting — it really is. You’re cooking for three renowned chefs in the country. They came out when we were cooking and, you know, were like ‘You better make this the best dish of your life, bada bada bada,’ you know, put the real pressure on.”
It wasn't until the next episode when the cook ran into some trouble. An hour-and-a-half-long apple cutting marathon thinned the ranks even further — "I’m looking around and everybody’s, you know, one by one they’re disappearing and I’m like ‘Oh my god, everybody’s cutting their damn fingers off here'" — before whole chickens were rolled out and contestants were told to make anything they wanted to feature the meat. Stasolla went with a chicken piccata that, unfortunately, opened up the exit door.
"I don’t know what the deal was," he says. "Graham liked it; he said he couldn’t wait to taste it. Joe, he was a little confused why I put it over pasta and not like on the side. And Chef Ramsay, he just came over to it and he goes ‘I don’t get it,’ and I was like ‘all right.’
"It doesn’t really matter, man. This is a show, I know it is. It’s not about my dish right now, it’s about my personality. And I’m being cocky and I’m being arrogant, and maybe you guys don’t want this shit on the show. They had me standing there for 20 minutes before I got eliminated, man, by myself, just standing there."
Either way, Stasolla thinks that a fellow contestant — the dickish Max Kramer, an 18-year-old student from New York City — has the right idea.
"Max, he’s cool — he’s from Long Island too," Stasolla says. "He’s a cool guy; he knows what he’s doing, you know what I mean? He knew there’d be somebody like that. You have to, bro; on these TV shows, these reality shows, you gotta be like, either the really good guy, or the asshole."
Catch the whole episode tonight when a repeat runs on KXRM FOX 21 at 7.