Michael Newman is anything but your typical chef.
The Asbury Park resident, currently competing on FOX’s “MasterChef: Legends,” is vegan. He’s also a “sexpert,” combining food, fitness and more into relationship and lifestyle coaching — more on that in a moment.
“I’ve always cooked,” he said. “Growing up, it’s just something naturally that came to me. My talent really is going into the fridge and just finding random things and putting them together.”
That knack for crafting delicious dishes kicked into high gear when he adopted a vegan diet three years ago.
So when his wife Basia was watching “MasterChef” and saw a call for auditions, she asked a half-asleep Michael to name some of his dishes and sent in an application.
“She basically submitted my name and everything without me even knowing,” he said.
From there, it was “home run after home run” through the audition process, Newman said.
One of his proudest moments on the show was four judges giving him a “Yes” on his vegan crab cakes.
“It was truly amazing to me to get those chefs to say yes to something that’s not what it is — to be able to fool the palate … to make them say, ‘Wow, this is amazing’ — was really, really a blessing,” he said.
Newman is currently in the Top 14 on “MasterChef: Legends.” He’s been hosting watch parties at the Shore as the episodes air.
He said he is especially happy to show off his hometown Asbury Park pride.
“People know where it is and how eclectic and unique it is,” he said. “Very proud to represent Asbury Park.”
The show features three judges, Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sánchez, both acclaimed chefs, and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. The legends in this season’s title comes from the invitation of culinary icons Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen, Roy Choi, Nancy Silverton and Morimoto to join in the judging process.
Newman’s vegan diet is sometimes at odds with each week’s challenges.
I’m wanting to cook vegan and do everything,” he said. “But you have to do what the challenges are. You can’t just go out there and say, ‘I don’t care if it’s fish today. I’m gonna do what I want to do.’ You have to do exactly what they’re asking. So it was a little bit challenging to do that. But, you know, all fun.”
“MasterChef: Legends” started production pre-COVID, and then was shut down for more than six months before the contestants returned with new protocols in place.
“When we went back, everything was different, with all the COVID rules, masks, shields, the whole set situation,” he said. “Everybody was a little bit on edge. It was a little bit weird. But it was so fun. Being part of the MasterChef family (was special). I think it bonded us as a cast.”
The cast is close and keeps in touch via group texts and more, he said.
Newman said he took on somewhat of a father figure role as one of the older contestants.
“I said to the whole cast, I said ‘Guys, let’s have fun here, no matter what happens,’ ” he said. ” ‘We all can cook, obviously. But there’s only going to be one winner. Each one of us goes home. Let’s not be angry at each other, let’s not be filled with drama and jealous or whatever.’ That was important to me.”
That leadership role fits in with Newman’s day job, running Jersey Style with his wife. He says the business started out offering fitness advice, but grew to include relationship and lifestyle coaching as they earned certificates in matchmaking, relationship coaching and more. They bill themselves as “Lifestyle Relationship Sexperts.”
Newman says food fits in naturally with his work.
“Food and sex work together,” he said. “Food is like sex. Food is very orgasmic. When you eat something that’s super delicious, it kind of releases the same emotion, same endorphins. It kind of all ties together, which made sense for me.”
He is enjoying the ride as this season of “MasterChef” airs — as well as the ability to talk more openly about appearing on the show. That was difficult for him, he said, particularly adding in the COVID shutdown time that added months to the wait.
“It’s the biggest emotional roller coaster I’d ever been on,’ he said. “It truly was, from every challenge to you just didn’t know where you were or what (the judges) were thinking and you’re just at the mercy of your cooking and of the judges.”
Nevertheless, he says he is nothing but grateful for the experience.
“It was really a positive experience,” he said. “It’s nothing but good things, that’s for sure.”
Visit instagram.com/jerseystyle to learn more about Jersey Style.
“MasterChef: Legends” airs at 8 p.m. on Fox.
Published by: Ilana Keller, June 30, 2021, Asbury Park Press
Original Link: https://www.app.com/story/entertainment/2021/06/30/masterchef-legends-contestant-michael-newman-asbury-park-vegan-pride/7783463002/
Ilana Keller is an award-winning journalist and lifelong New Jersey resident who loves Broadway and really bad puns. She highlights arts advocacy and education, theater fundraisers and more through her column, “Sightlines.” Reach out on Twitter: @ilanakeller; firstname.lastname@example.org