MasterChef Contestant Received Her First Culinary Stamp of Approval from USciences

Written by Lauren Whetzel-Siburkis
Published on September 5, 2016

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With no formal culinary training, MasterChef Season 6 contestant and alumna HETAL (SHELADIA) VASAVADA BC’06 said the key to her success is having the scientific lowdown on how each basic baking ingredient functions in the kitchen. In fact, she even credits her culinary start to her time at University of the Sciences.

quote“I’ll never forget the first day of organic chemistry at USciences when the professor said to the class, ‘If you know how to bake, you’ll pass my class,’” recalled Vasavada. “We all thought he was joking until I later learned firsthand the important role science plays in the kitchen.”

With a BS in biochemistry, Vasavada said she approaches her cooking like a scientist. Just as a chemist has to understand the reason for using a particular reagent in a reaction, she said she tries to understand the science of why foods are cooked in a certain way.

For instance, although she wowed the MasterChef  judges with her original jelly-filled peanut butter cookie, they were not easy to perfect. That’s because as the jelly heats up in the oven, it produces steam that can cause the cookies to explode. Vasavada did not reveal her secret to baking them, but after several tweaks to her recipe, the final product helped earn her a win for that round on the show.

Students had a chance to hear from stories from the set of MasterChef when HETAL (SHELADIA) VASAVADA BC’06 returned to campus for a meet, greet, and eat reception on October 6, 2015.

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Students had a chance to hear from stories from the set of MasterChef when HETAL (SHELADIA) VASAVADA BC’06 returned to campus for a meet, greet, and eat reception on October 6, 2015.

Long before she impressed worldrenowned chefs and foodies across the country, Vasavada got her culinary stamp of approval from dozens of her USciences classmates who purchased home-cooked vegetarian meals from her small kitchen in Osol Hall. As the president of USciences’ student chapter of the American Chemical Society, she also created a periodic table composed of nine different types of brownies representing the different types of elements.

Vasavada was shy of reaching the top five when she was eliminated from the MasterChef competition on August 26. However, the self-proclaimed “science nerd” said her experience on the show has increased both her confidence and credibility in the food industry.

“I am forever grateful for the education and opportunities that I was given as a student at USciences,” she said. “I may not have taken the most traditional career path for a chemistry graduate, but I rely on my science background every single day.”

As for now, the married, mother-tobe lives in San Francisco and has her hands in several projects with different food start-up companies. She also regularly posts recipes and baking tips on her blog, Pretty Polymath (prettypolymath.com). Over the next five years, Vasavada said she would like to open her own cookie business and eventually start a food incubator for potential restaurateurs to develop their recipes and learn the risks involved with operating a business.

Watch video from Hetal's campus visit where she met with current USciences students.

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Categories: The Bulletin, Profiles, Alumni, Proven Everywhere, Biochemistry, Department of Chemistry, Misher College, Biochemistry Homepage

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