Georgians Dorian Hunter, Noah Sims make mark on ‘Masterchef’

Both are now in the top 10 with Dorian positioning for a win

Originally posted Monday, August 5, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Georgia has two memorable characters on the current 10th season of Fox's "Masterchef" with 10 remaining chefs competing for the title: Dorian Hunter of Cartersville and Noah Sims of Epworth in north Georgia.

Dorian has set herself up as a likely finalist with impressive cooking skills that have won her two consecutive individual challenges to date. She did so well replicating a champagne-infused cake in the episode that aired last Wednesday that she received immunity and was able to take a break the next round and avoid having to make macarons.

Her personality? Humble, quiet, determined, sweet, loving.

In contrast, Noah Sims is a tall, overall-wearing septic tank technician who takes no prisoners as a cook. He has a bit of WWE wrestler in him as well as a super heavy Georgia accent making him a favorite for "Masterchef" editors seeking colorful bon mots.

My interviews with the two of them last week couldn’t have been more different.

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Let’s start with Dorian, 45. She said she was the fifth of 10 kids and admired her mom’s cooking abilities growing up in Ohio. “She introduced me to deep South flavors,” she said. “My parents had me cooking at age 12 as my chore. The first time my dad had me do grits, it took me six times to get it right. It prepared me for what I’m going through now.”

Dorian, who is married with four kids (ages 6 to 26), has lived in Atlanta for seven years.

Right now, she wants to be a chef for a living: “I love to cook I put all my eggs in this basket. I don’t have another career. Even when I had other jobs, I retreated to cooking.”

Over the years, she has done retail, she's made Hoover sweepers, built containers for Rubbermaid and prepared  meals for county jail inmates. "I've always tried to do a little catering and personal baking on the side," she said. "I worked at a bar in the kitchen." 
Dorian's dream? Own her own restaurant where she can cook what she wants. "It's time for me to start doing it for myself and just having a place that has those flavors," she said.

The $250,000 win would definitely give her the means to do so. And she is hungering for that additional prize of being trained at each of the judges’ restaurants on top of that.

She is tracking two past winners: season 7 winner Shawn O'Neale and season 9 winner Gerron Hurt and likes what she sees. "Shawn is traveling the world doing appearances," Dorian said. "He's doing classes. He has merch. He's promoting his own family on a plate. Those are footsteps I'd like to follow."

So far on the show, Dorian has excelled - except in team challenges. She said she’s used to going it alone so this was especially difficult for her. “I learn patience goes a long way no matter the situation,” she said.

She was most proud of her performance during the grill challenge, having never grilled meat before. Her steak, the judges said, was perfect. She was deeply relieved.

As a baker, she used her expertise during last week’s cake challenge, creating a perfect replica of a pink champagne cake provided by the judges. She baked it in honor of her mom, who passed just two years go. She ultimately won the challenge.

"I'm without words," said Aaron Sanchez to Dorian. "You are a living testament of what we are trying to accomplish in this competition. Tackling your fears, taking instruction and then putting yourself out with a beautiful cake like this."

"The butter cream is so luscious and light," said Joe Bastianich.

"Visually, it's breathtaking," Gordon Ramsay said. "It cuts like butter. The sponge is light... I've never seen a cake put together like this in 75 minutes. You've done yourself proud."

She won $5,000 worth of Breville counter-top appliances and received immunity for the next challenge. “I’m overwhelmed. It means a lot to me. I was really missing my mom. To see that pink cake meant a lot to me,” she said. “My mom was my very best friend. We watched the show together all the time. It’s like she made it happen for me.”

As a fan of Ramsay, she takes everything he and the other judges say seriously but she said she didn’t mind being yelled at by Ramsay, who is usually far calmer than he is on his original hit show “Hell’s Kitchen.”

“I welcome it,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to be yelled at by Gordon Ramsay?”


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Noah, during his interview, was nothing if not unconventional.

We talked about his life around septic tanks. I noted how well-maintained ones don’t smell bad at all. But he said a woman with a super healthy organic diet stunk up the tank something terrible. “It smelled like a gas chamber,” he said.

A friend, he then said, directed him last September to an in-person “Masterchef” audition 13 minutes from his condo while he was living in Atlanta. His friend’s note: “Listen man! Don’t be a b****!. No excuses. Be there! It’s time to see if you’re as good as you say you are.”

Noah, 32, purposely opted to create something cold because he figured ahead of time that anything hot would not be very hot by the time the show judges tasted it. He kept his steak tartar in a cooler and that gambit worked. He flew through a multitude interviews and an extensive psych exam. And voila! He was cast.

And while he doesn’t consider himself crazy, he believes the casting folks had to inject a little nuttiness into the sauce. “Some of these people,” he said, “are literally commitable.” (Did I say he was quotable?)

He complained about the editing of the show, then noted how he had become a “rock star” in his hometown of Epworth [population: 480]: “I don’t pay for drinks or food. It’s really kind of weird. It’s fun.” The town is in Fannin County, 8.5 miles north of the much larger Blue Ridge.

Noah suddenly went political and noted how he wanted to run for office and  “drain the swamp and go about it with analysis, morals and principles.”

Some of his ideas for Blue Ridge: a food truck park, a community garden and “crushing big pharma, big sugar, big tobacco. Big corporations are stealing and robbing us blind!”

At this point, the Fox publicist was starting to sweat bullets and gently tried to guide Noah back to the subject at hand: “Masterchef.”

"This is way past Masterchef!" he said. "I told them they needed to grab me before I became a phoenix, a shooting star. I'll be too hot!"
He said he will be friends for life with a lot of people on the show but especially fellow top ten cook Nick DiGiovanni and a top 36's Charlie Spiegel. He praised top 20's Evan Tesiny and top 10's Subha Ramiah. And Dorian? How could he not like her? ("Team Georgia!" he said. "I like her honesty!")

“We formed such an amazing bond,” he said. “We didn’t bite the bulls***, we weren’t going to drink the Kool Aid. Only one person I won’t name did not do that and drank it. It made it brutal.”

Noah’s performance on the show has been all over the map. His projected confidence doesn’t hurt him.

“I can win ‘Masterchef,’” he told me. “I wouldn’t be wasting your time. I wouldn’t be on the show if I didn’t think I could win.”

During the cake challenge last week, for instance, Noah purposely opted for the most difficult one: an opera cake. He managed to get the flavors right but aesthetically, it was a mess.

So far, his strategy has been to go big and take on the toughest task and if it doesn’t work, so be it. In this case, he survived.

Noah has big plans once his “Masterchef” contract is up. “I have one year to build my fame from this show,” he said.

He hopes to do a cookbook and a weight-loss book as well, which he expects will be a New York Times best seller.

Winning $250,000, he said, is relatively inconsequential. He believes how he leverages his screen time will far exceed that dollar amount.

Masterchef," 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fox