DURHAM, N.C. – A little over one year ago, Tye Hall Brown and her family decided to try something unique for New Year’s. Instead of making the typical run-of-the-mill resolution, the Brown family vowed that each of them would participate in a contest they had never done before by the end of the calendar year. For Hall Brown, a former Duke basketball player who is now an Associate Professor at Howard University, this ended up providing the motivation to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
As the Brown family was sitting around the television watching Masterchef last October, a casting call appealing to home cooks aired at the end of the episode. Hall Brown’s son Tryston and daughter, Zoe instantly shot her a look and encouraged her to try out. Hall Brown was hesitant at first, as it was not in her nature to drop everything and pursue being on a reality television show.
“I laughed and said, ‘no way, there’s no way I’m doing that’” Hall Brown recounted. “But then I thought about our challenge to ourselves and thought this might be fun. This would definitely put me outside of my comfort zone and push me to do something I’ve never done before.”
From that point, Hall Brown made the verbal commitment and began her attempt to qualify for the show. After auditioning in Philadelphia with a homemade dish of chipotle shrimp over a bed of cilantro lime rice, Hall Brown was selected to continue on and partake in additional stages of the process. After going through more auditions and interviews, she finally received word in January that she had made it to Los Angeles and would ultimately end up appearing on Season Nine of Masterchef.
The show flew Hall Brown out to L.A., marking the beginning of an unfamiliar journey for the family. From the onset, she and her family embraced every moment of it.
“It was amazing,” said Hall Brown. “During the audition we got to experience a little bit of everything that would be on the show in terms of individual cooks, team challenges, and interviews. People came from all walks of life to audition and it was a lot of fun to hear their stories.”
Season Nine of Masterchef stars legendary chef Gordon Ramsey, along with restaurateur Joe Bastianich and chef Graham Elliot. These three food experts are given eight white aprons to hand out to any chef they deem worthy of their mentorship. Anyone who receives a white apron moves on to the final 24 and a chance to be America’s next Masterchef.
In Hall Brown’s event specifically, she was matched up against two other home cooks who had also earned the opportunity to receive an apron. Each of the home cooks in her group had to recreate one of Chef Ramsey’s famous dishes in as little as 45 minutes. Hall Brown chose to serve up a grilled lamb burger with olive tapenade sauce, paired with a Mediterranean cucumber and tomato salad.
In the end, Hall Brown did not receive an apron from any of the judges but found the competition to be very rewarding. She was proud to have pushed herself to step outside her comfort zone and to have to have conquered her family’s New Year’s resolution.
“I loved being able to challenge myself through all of the audition hurdles, including the battle for the white apron. I enjoyed the adrenaline rush and the focus I had to have while pushing myself to perform. It reminded me a lot of days playing basketball as a Blue Devil” Hall Brown said of her time on the show. “Overall, I’m so pleased and proud of the experience and just overwhelmed by the support I’ve had from family and friends. In particular, my husband Glen really stepped up to help make this happen, with the support of my mother Barbara.”
From the onset, Hall Brown received nothing but encouragement from loved ones. For decades, food has been an irreplaceable component of her family.
“Every summer we get together for cookouts,” said Hall Brown. “It’s a time that brings my family together. We talk in the kitchen and we hear old stories of what my mom and dad did when they were younger, or what my uncles and aunts were like. Food has always brought my family together.”
Hall Brown’s love for food developed through watching her older family members cook together on such occasions when she was a child. As she grew up, Hall Brown began to cook herself, learning from the various members of her family. When Hall Brown eventually became a Duke basketball player, the team would make dinner for the Ronald McDonald House. Whether it was making the sauce for the Ronald McDonald spaghetti or cooking up shrimp for her teammates, Hall Brown’s skills in the kitchen improved.
When it came time to compete on Masterchef, Hall Brown was prepared to face the pressures of performing on camera and under a time limit. Even Chef Ramsey, known to be a harsh and honest critic, was not of concern to the former Duke forward.
“Basketball has absolutely prepared me for being in high pressure situations,” said Hall Brown. “I’ve been with tough coaches who have yelled, pushed me to be my best, and that’s what I see it as. I see it as something that’s more encouraging and constructive than some personal attack.”
Although Hall Brown was disappointed Ramsey did not choose her to receive an apron, she revealed that he certainly provided helpful tips along the way. All in all, she was happy to have taken on a new obstacle and invites others to do the same.
“My experience was really worthwhile and I definitely would encourage other people to try it,” Hall Brown said. “I’m hoping to be able to do something futuristically that will build on this and help other people in the process."