Atlantan Tracy Nailor became a pediatric doctor many years ago, but she’s always felt as comfortable wielding a kitchen knife as a scalpel.
She is the Atlanta representative who made the top 14 last week on Fox’s new show “MasterChef,” featuring non-chefs who work in other professions vying for $250,000 and a cookbook deal. The ubiquitous Gordon Ramsay is one of the judges.
“It was definitely a huge leap of faith,” she said in an interview last week. “I think the essence of the show is we are all people passionate about cooking whether we have an intention to go into the culinary field or not.”
In the first episode two weeks ago, Nailor told the judges her inspiration was her mom, a great cook, who had died suddenly in 2007 of bacterial meningitis.
“There wasn’t a moment she wasn’t on my mind” while she was cooking, Nailor said.
She said given the time constraints, she purposely chose a family recipe that did not take long to prepare: smothered chicken with braised brussels sprouts. “I figured it was a slam dunk,” she said. ‘You can’t pass up that gravy!”
The judges were indeed enthralled and she moved on.
Last week, Nailor got through the round cutting onions properly. (”I just kept thinking, ‘Do not cut yourself! You’re a doctor!’) Then she was the only one to make a dessert using only one egg, a banana pudding, that passed with flying colors and landed her into the top 14. “I deconstructed it. I used components of the egg, the yolk for custard, the white for meringue, and just went for it.”
Her specialty is desserts, she said. As a pastry specialist, “we kind of get a bad rep,” she said. “But desserts take a lot of skill. It’s very precise.”
A University of Kentucky grad, Nailor fell in love with Atlanta while volunteering for the Olympics in 1996 and found a medical job here. Now she’s a single mom with a four-year-old son, who showed up in the first episode. “So far, he’s pretty unimpressed,” she said. “He’d see me on TV, then move on.”
Here is Nailor doing a recipe in her home of a carrot cake:
“Masterchef” 8 p.m. on Wednesdays on Fox