Cheftestant Profile: Audrey

As the competition heats up on The Taste, we're getting in touch with our favorite cheftestants to hear about their experiences on the show. First up is #TeamMarcus member Audrey, who lives by healthy cooking.

(Photo from Audrey Johns)

What was your first thought when you were chosen? When I was chosen by Marcus, I was in shock! I was overwhelmed meeting all the accomplished chefs that went before and after me, so I was truly shocked and honored to be in the top 16. It was an amazing opportunity to train under such an accomplished chef. I mean, come on. How many thousands—no, millions—of chefs would kill to work with Marcus for one hour, let alone have him as a mentor!

What was your greatest challenge over the course of the show? My greatest challenge over the course of the series had to do with my physical limitations. I have a disease called CRPS that ranks as the most painful disease on the pain index, significantly higher than natural childbirth. My right arm and left leg are stricken with the disease, and standing for hours on the cold concrete and sitting in metal folding chairs made the pain a constant problem. I knew that if I could make it through, I could inspire millions of people stricken with the disease to change their lives and stop saying "I can't" and start saying "I'll try."

What is the most lasting lesson of the competition that you have learned? This series taught me to trust myself more. I found myself cooking far outside of my "healthy living" comfort zone to please my mentor and the judges, but often I took it too far. Like with the chorizo dish last night: I love to eat chorizo but don't cook with it often, so I didn't know that serving it anything less than piping hot will only make the fat congeal and ruin the dish. I should have trusted my instincts and stayed a little truer to myself while still taking chances. I too often jump in headfirst and learned I've got to find a better balance.

(Photo from Audrey Johns)

Do you have a signature dish? My signature dish is whole roasted chicken with potatoes and onions. I did a spin on it in last night's team challenge. Roasting an entire chicken in an hour is impossible, so I worked with smaller cuts. I always come home from grocery shopping with 3 whole chickens, one for tonight, one for later this week and one for the freezer. I change up the spices, but at least once a week, I fall back to my favorite garlic, sage, mustard marinade—it's delicious and on my blog.

What's your favorite ingredient to cook with? My favorite ingredient to cook with is garlic. I can't get enough garlic. It's free of calories but full of flavor. Raw, it's spicy, and roasted, it's sweet, and it makes everything taste homemade.