HomeCulturalUPDATE: Westford resident qualifies for semi-finals on cooking show

UPDATE: Westford resident qualifies for semi-finals on cooking show


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Editor’s note: This piece was originally published by reporter Melanie Duronio on Aug. 1.
Sections of this piece have been updated to reflect Mustoe’s placement in the semi-final round. 

WESTFORD — With a lifelong passion for cooking, Westford Academy business teacher Gina Mustoe has qualified for the semi-finals on ‘Favorite Chef.’

Why ‘Favorite Chef’?

Mustoe first stepped entered the spotlight during an episode of “Top Chef Amateurs” in 2021. As a self-proclaimed “‘Top Chef’ superfan,” Mustoe sought to compete.

‘Favorite Chef’ is a competition hosted by chef Carla Hall to fundraise for the James Beard Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to supporting aspiring chefs by providing awards and support to create a sustainable future for the restaurant industry.

After an ad for “Favorite Chef” came across her social media feed, Mustoe entered and was chosen as one of the ten final contestants. At the time of reporting, Mustoe is fourth in the semi-final round.

“I didn’t anticipate making it to August, and now here we are,” Mustoe said.

Mustoe aimed to improve her culinary skills throughout the contest. On her ‘Favorite Chef’ page, she added, “I want to win so I can share my passion for cooking with more people.”

The first-place winner of the contest will be featured in Taste of Home Magazine and win $25,000. If she wins, she says she will use the prize money to further her catering business and donate to Feeding America, a charity that aims to end hunger in the U.S.

“It’s just a sin that people in our own country are starving. That’s why I’ve always thought highly of that charity and donated to it,” Mustoe said.

Mustoe’s passion for cooking

In the Mustoe family food is more than just a meal, it is what brings them together.

Mustoe recounts fond memories of cooking Sunday dinners with her grandparents, consisting of Italian dishes, lamb, and roast beef dinners.

“Even when we were wicked busy with our [activities], we would make it a point to make sure we all sat down at some point before we went to bed and had a meal,” Mustoe said. “It’s a huge part of why I love food…we had that time together that you’re never going to get back.”

Mustoe also believes cooking provides “valuable life skills” that can teach one to be confident in themselves and their abilities, which then extends outside of the kitchen.

“I do some cooking classes here and there, and it’s so much fun to teach adults how to cook and see the delight in their eyes…The amount of self-esteem that you build when you’re able to create something from start to finish is amazing.”

Plans for the future

Mustoe says her goal is the eventually combine her teaching experience with food.

“To me, it is absolute bliss to be able to share that [cooking] skill and be able to empower people with the opportunity to make their own food and give them just a little bit of the passion that I have. That for me would be the ultimate career path,” Mustoe said.

She hopes to eventually expand her catering business and open a food truck on the side.

“There is no better joy than cooking a delicious meal for people that you care about. Especially when they really enjoy eating your creations and appreciate all of your work.”

Votes can be cast for Mustoe on her Favorite Chef page. One free vote per day is provided, but voters can purchase additional votes for $1 each. Voting closes on Aug. 11.

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