Imagine – you’ve out-cooked thousands of contenders and grabbed an apron for MasterChef season 6’s Top 22. But it’s still a competition, and someone gets the boot early. Some of us would be bitter at just missing out, but not Charlie Chapman or Ailsa Von Dobeneck. 

Maybe it’s the distance they’ve gained since filming ended several weeks ago. Or maybe it’s just that these two upbeat Southerners realize one speed bump on the road to gastronomic glory can’t hold them back. As we move closer to the season finale, I caught up with these gone-too-soon home cooks.

Charlie Keeps It Chill

An HVAC technician by training, Charlie Chapman says he’s back doing air-conditioning work post-MasterChef. But he has his sights set on a career in the kitchen more than ever. “My wife and I are currently working on our joint culinary business venture and trying to decide what direction to go in,” he says. “We’re busy in the kitchen coming up with new recipes. Details to come later!”

The New Orleans native went home following the double-elimination birthday cake challenge during MasterChef‘s 100th episode. (Amanda Saab was the other chef who disappointed the judges that night.) For Charlie, the clock got the better of him, as he baked a wonderful tasting — but crazy messy — cake. 

“Time flies when you’re on camera!” he says. “I just thought I would have the opportunity to interact more and be a sponge around the judges.”

If Charlie has any regrets, they center on the missed chance to both teach and learn. “I’m terribly disappointed that I went home as soon as I did, but I got to learn so much and meet so many amazing people. I wish I had the opportunity to lead a team challenge and to show the roots of my style of cooking, which is New Orleans cuisine.

“And I would have loved the opportunity to cook in the restaurant episode with the Top 6. Being that close to Gordon Ramsay and getting his critique would have been amazing.”

He also has no regrets about the friends he’s made, a common theme among this season’s contestants. “I regularly talk to Jesse — he’s my neighbor in Baton Rouge. I also keep in contact with Shelly and Katrina. I wish I had time to stay in contact more with the rest of the contestants, but there never seems to be enough time!” (Time is the other common theme, but if you’re a MasterChef fan, that’s probably not too surprising.)

If they ever do MasterChef All-Stars, sign him up (as fast as possible, of course). “It was a wonderful experience! If the opportunity presented itself I would do it again in a heartbeat.” 

Ailsa Believes the Risks are Worth the Reward 

Ailsa Von Dobeneck’s luck ran out in Las Vegas when she cooked a slightly underdone filet mignon. But she’s not sorry she took a gamble on a run for the MasterChef trophy. 

A native of Norfolk, Virginia (my hometown!), Ailsa has returned to her old job in Washington, D.C.  “I work in government relations for a freight-rail company on Capitol Hill,” she says. “I’ve been with the same company for two-and-a-half years, and I love feeding my office!”

As the fifth contestant eliminated (not counting Dan, who left voluntarily — hold the arithmetic comments, people), Ailsa believes she still had a lot to give that viewers never saw.

“I wish I’d had the chance to lead a team,” she says. “I have a tough side I’d have liked to put on display. My team would have rocked it!” 

She really must have a tough side — Ailsa’s the only contestant I can think of who’s sorry she didn’t cook in a “dreaded pressure test” after her team won that episode’s initial challenge.

“I weirdly look back and wish I had the chance to bake that apple pie. I would have done my Oma’s apple strudel. There is no way they wouldn’t have loved it!” 

Tough and positive. “I’m very happy I went for it,” she says. “I live with a strict ‘no regrets’ policy and always take risks as they shape you the most. I’m sorry I went home early but was very proud of my performance. I couldn’t ask for anything more.” Except maybe more time. You guessed it — she says those time crunches are indeed killer.  

“I’m also very happy that I still talk to a lot of the other contestants. I think if you go through something as extraordinary as MasterChef together, the experience will always bind you. Corny much?” (Her comment, not mine!)

She also has a message for the fans. “The viewers made my experience so special,” she says. “I was overwhelmed by the amount of positivity from people across the world. And I have a fun new project coming up looking through old presidential recipes from the Library of Congress.” She invites you to check out her progress online.

Could You Be a MasterChef? Don’t Let Time Run Out!

Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Do your friends compliment your casseroles, praise your pizza, and kvell over your quiche? Then MasterChef wants you to try your hand at taking home that “coveted trophy” (and cool quarter mil, too).

With auditions for season 7 getting underway in cities all over the country, now’s the time to apply. Visit the MasterChef casting site to learn more.

MasterChef airs Wednesdays at 8pm on FOX.

(Images courtesy of Greg Gayne, FOX.)

Alison Stern-Dunyak

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV