After months of fierce culinary competition, Claudia Sandoval, 31, from La Mesa won the title of MasterChef on Wednesday night, making her the first Latina in all six seasons of the Fox Network show to walk with the $250 thousand dollar prize and a cookbook deal - not to mention world-class mentorship from hosts and culinary royalty Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Christina Tosi.
"Si se puede!" Sandoval yelled out at last night's viewing party at the W Hotel in downtown San Diego when Ramsay announced the winner. Throughout the show's 20 episodes, the resolute single mom spoke of determination and setting the best example for her daughter, like Sandoval's mother did for her. The victor later Tweeted: "En la vida nada es dado, se es merecido. Con empeño, corazón, y mucho desempeño todo se puede..." which tanslates to, "In life, nothing is given, it is earned. With hard work, heart and fulfilling [your goals], everything is possible."
During the finale, Ramsay and fellow co-hosts praised Sandoval for elevating rustic Mexican cuisine to MasterChef status. Tosi said she could "taste the love" in Sandoval's appetizer round, with Ramsay exclaiming that no one had ever cooked with cactus in the show's history, until now.
In an interview with DiscoverSD last week, Sandoval compared the show to "culinary boot camp," adding that despite the outrageous challenges and temper for which Ramsay is known, he's a caring mentor underneath it all. She recalled an encounter between herself and Ramsay after she fought her way into the final three during the particularly challenging restaurant takeover. "He told me to shake it off," she said about the grueling competition that night. "Those words from Gordon made so much sense - like a coach, I will never forget his genuine 'let's go, keep moving' advice."
Earlier this year, North Park's Nathan Odom, 13, won Season 3 of MasterChef Junior.