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Jennie Kelley in "MasterChef"
Jennie Kelley MasterChef
Jennie Kelley from "MasterChef" is one of the top 18 contestants in Season 2 of the FOX reality cooking competition series. She is a 37-year-old musician from Dallas, Texas. Her signature dish is Rustic Bolognese with Pappardelle.

Q&A with Jennie Kelley ("MasterChef"):

Who was your first cooking inspiration?

My first cooking inspiration came from my mom. She worked two jobs to support us, but always managed to put a home-cooked meal on the table. This work ethic I carry on today. But my other inspiration came many years later, from being in a successful touring band. We were fortunate enough to travel the world, and that's when the true food bug bit me. So many different cuisines and cultures! My goal became to try and not only recreate inspirational dishes in the comfort of my home, but also put my own personal touch on them.

What is the first dish you ever mastered?

A lobster mac and cheese with orzo pasta, gruyere, fontina and peas. I have many tricks for this seemingly simple dish, such as using the same water for the lobster and the pasta and undercooking the pasta just slightly.

What is your favorite thing to cook?

This is a tough question because there isn't anything I don't like to cook. The great thing about being passionate about food is that one can be learning the rest of their lives. I'm a keen learner. I liked school. I know, weird, right?! But if I had to pick one thing, I'd pick the classics, mostly from France and Italy. Because as you master the classics, you also learn the history of the cuisine you're cooking. I recall one day when I'd had a tough day at work and was feeling blue. I thought, what can I do to get out of this funk? And then it came to me! I went to the store and bought a Dutch oven (I had needed one for a while) and went to the grocery store and bought a whole chicken, some veggies and a couple of bottles of wine. I proceeded to make coq au vin for the first time and immediately felt like a new woman. That's when I knew for sure that cooking was my calling, it was the one thing that gave me solace and inspiration at the same time. Who could ask for more?

What did you learn as a contestant on "MasterChef"?

I learned so much from my experience on "MasterChef." I told everyone that I was going to a food bootcamp, and I wasn't lying! I learned a ton about food, I learned how to manage my time in the kitchen better and I learned to improvise, which any good chef needs to know! But what I learned most is to believe in myself. This may seem simple to some, but for me it wasn't easy. For as long as I can recall, I've put other's needs before my own. I am a natural giver. But this time, I stopped and took time to just focus on what I was passionate about and it paid off.

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Age: ∼42 years old
Hometown: Dallas, TX

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