Jennifer Maune of Little Rock has made it to the final three on the Fox cooking competition MasterChef. The lifestyle blogger and mom of six faces off against Grant Gillon of Altoona, Iowa, and Kennedy U. of Denver for the $250,000 grand prize in the Season 13 finale, which airs tonight at 7 p.m.
“I’m so thankful for this opportunity,” Maune said earlier this week. “No matter what happens Wednesday night I feel like I’ve already obtained what I set out for, which was to grow as a chef and get experience.”
Maune, who has a pastry degree and a culinary degree from the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality at the University of Arkansas Pulaski Tech and who has an advanced certification in pastry from at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, joined 19 other contestants on this edition of MasterChef, which debuted May 24. The season, subtitled “United Tastes of America,” divided competitors into regions — West, Northeast, Midwest and South. Their dishes were judged each week by celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sánchez and restaurateur Joe Bastianich.
On last week’s doubleheader episode, “Restaurant Takeover – Hell’s Kitchen/Semi-Finals: Pasta & Keeping Up With Gordon,” Maune and the other chefs had to replicate four dishes by Ramsay at his Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Harrah’s Resort Southern California.
“The Gordon cook-along challenge and the restaurant takeover were two of the hardest things I’ve done professionally,” she said. “Working at his speed, keeping up … he expects a lot. I missed some of the instructions … but overall I was very proud just to have the experience of cooking alongside one of the world’s greatest chefs.”
Maune excelled on the pasta part of the challenge, impressing the judges with her Red Beet Tortellini with Veal Osso Buco and Ricotta, Veal Demi and Red Wine Reduction.
“It turned out beautifully,” she said.
The competitors will present a three-course menu during tonight’s challenge that represents their backgrounds and region.
Maune started with a Lobster Succotash with a Champagne and Caviar Vinaigrette in which she used heirloom tomatoes, corn and other vegetables “to represent our farming heritage in Arkansas.”
In a nod to the state’s hunting tradition, her entree included Herb-Encrusted Rack of Venison with Roasted Root Vegetables.
“My husband and my boys all hunt and we cook a lot with venison at home,” she said.
Dessert was a Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake, which is what her husband Brian served her 19 years ago when they were dating and he told her he loved her for the first time.
“I make that cake every year,” she said. “We call it the ‘I Love You Cake,’ so I had to make it for the finale.”
Maune, whose six children range in age from 3-13, will gather with family and friends tonight for a watch party at the Ben E. Keith facility in North Little Rock, where she plans to serve the three courses she cooked on the final episode of the competition.
“We will have 124 people coming, and I’m excited for everyone to see the show,” she says.