WEST ENGLEWOOD — West Englewood resident Corey Rice said he’s excited to show off his culinary skills on the new season of Fox’s "Master Chef," which airs Wednesday.
"Walking onto the set was a dream come true," said the 35-year-old. “I get chills thinking about it right now — tears. People were like ‘Why are you crying?’ But folks don’t understand. I was one of those statistics who wasn’t supposed to make it. Yet here I am, in Hollywood, on one of the best culinary competitions in America, in the world, and I’m representing Chicago. It’s a dream come true.”
He said he’s proud to represent Chicago as the only male from the city.
“We have a lot of gun violence going on, so just to be able to rep my city, I feel like this is something positive,” Rice said.
He has been in the kitchen since he was a boy, and watching his grandmother and mother is how he quickly learned to cook. By 12, Rice was baking cakes and on the grill.
His favorite meal to prepare includes Southern buttermilk fried chicken with sauteed corn and red mashed potatoes with the skin on. He said for women who love hosting an ABC “Scandal” watch party, he likes preparing sea scallops wrapped in bacon and topped with mango salsa.
“I’m alive when I’m in the kitchen,” he said. “I’m giving back. I’m pouring out through my heart, sweat and tears on a plate. I love it.”
The opportunity to be on “Master Chef” didn’t come easy, Rice said. He has been a huge fan of the show since the fourth season. After he saw a commercial about producers looking for Chicago contestants, he tried out for the sixth season but didn’t make the cut.
“I got a little depressed, and I didn't think I was going to do it again,” he said.
His decision changed one day when he bumped into author and TV host Steve Harvey on the street. After taking a quick photo, Rice said that Harvey told him not to give up, saying, "Keep pushing black man, keep pushing.’”
Those words stuck and became motivation to not give up on his dream.
The second time around was successfu,l and he said the “special lady” in his life has been by his side the entire time.
Rice graduated from Harper High School, where he studied culinary arts.
Rice has worked for CTA for 17 years as a computer systems administrator in the CTA Control Center.
He enjoys his career, he said, but his ultimate goal is to become a celebrity chef.
“I want to become someone who other future culinary artists can look up to and say ‘I want to get to that level.’”
Rice advised those trying to become culinary artists to never stop sharpening their skills and to never quit.
“If they’re a student, and they have to cut onions and celery, and the executive chef says they can’t go to the next level, well, keep on doing it because all that chef is doing is making them better. Don’t rush it.”
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: