‘MasterChef’ gets a taste of Maine cooking

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 6:44 PM EDT
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WOOLWICH, Maine (WABI) - There’s a Mainer competing for the prestigious title of Masterchef.

“I want to get people excited about wild food, so that they are inspired to protect wild places.”

That’s the message that Woolwich’s own Nina Interlandi Bell brought to one of the world’s most renowned, and feared, chefs: Gordon Ramsay.

Bell is a contestant on this season of MasterChef, branded as “United Tastes of America,” and that Maine influence definitely showed up on her plate.

“Maine cooking for me is all about using whatever you have access to. Whatever you have in your yard, whatever your fisherman friend just pulled in at the wharf, whatever you’ve got lurking at the bottom of your freezer that you didn’t finish after last year’s hunting season,” Bell said.

Bell forages for her food, using wild ingredients like dandelion roots, wood sorrel or squirrel fat.

“If you open my freezer, there’s all kinds of weird stuff in there. People just sort of bring me stuff that they don’t know what to do with. I love the way this stuff tastes, and there’s so many reasons to eat it that I think anybody can get excited about it and do it,” Bell said.

Bell returned from Master Chef with more than just some new recipes.

“I didn’t go to culinary school. I believe that if you put yourself in really uncomfortable situations, you’re bound to learn something - even if you don’t know what that is yet,” Bell said. “That was really uncomfortable for me! I live in Maine. I live on a farm. There’s not a lot of people around, there’s not cameras and lights, you’re not cooking under time pressure.”

And as far as cooking for Gordon Ramsay goes?

“I like constructive criticism. How else are you going to get better if people are just telling you you’re great all the time?” Bell said.

“I mostly managed to stay out of his line of direct fire. But, I’ll tell you the one thing that surprised me the most is how good he smells. Gordon Ramsay smells really good!” Bell said.

“He does get fired up. But I realized that it comes from a place of caring a whole lot about the food, and about the ingredients, and wanting people to treat those things with respect.”

A message that hits home for Maine’s own Masterchef.

Bell has just released her first book, “Foraging for the Rest of Us,” available on her website.

You can also follow her on YouTube and Instagram for her latest food photos and more.