Getting to know MasterChef Contestant Ralph Xavier Degala

Ralph Xavier Degala’s take on a Filipino noodle is what led restaurateur Joe Bastianich to hand over a coveted white apron on season 9 of the hit cooking show, MasterChef U.S. Ralph went on to be mentored by Joe. The pair even cooked an Italian dish together during one of the challenges. But even with two wins under his belt, it was a citrusy dessert that cost Ralph his spot in the Masterchef kitchen.

While Ralph is no longer cooking on MasterChef, he’s gearing up to bring Filipino specialties to select U.S. cities. He has upcoming Eatwith events in LA . We caught up with Ralph to get the inside scoop on his culinary journey.

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a well-travelled Filipino family. I spent summers abroad in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States when I was 10 years old. Because my family was immersed in different cultures, I had an early start in cultivating my taste palette. This became fundamental to building my interest in different cuisines and cooking.

Ralph’s Food Journey

Tell us your foodie story. How did you start cooking?

My culinary journey began, like many great aspiring chefs, in my home kitchen. Because my parents worked long hours in the medical field, I, the oldest of three children, learned to cook meals for my family. That’s when I grew to love Mediterranean and Southeast Asian cuisines. Outside of the kitchen I was always exploring new restaurants, watching different food shows, researching cooking techniques and connecting with other food lovers. Soon enough, my passion for food is what led me to pursue cooking more seriously.

Who is your foodie inspiration and why?

Emeril Lagasse and Anthony Bourdain are my foodie inspirations. Growing up, I always watched the Food Network and Travel Channel. Through watching both personalities, I was able to get a sense of how to cook with heart and appreciate other cultures and their food. Sharing a meal breaks through any barrier that’s out there.

What is your favorite cuisine and why?

Filipino food is my favorite cuisine. For me, it’s nostalgic and the flavors always hit home.

What is your favorite dish to eat or make?

I love to eat Chicken Shawarma. It reminds me of my childhood and upbringing in Saudi Arabia. It was a snack we would get at least once a week.

Ralph and his time on MasterChef

What is your favorite memory from the show?

My favorite memory from the show is getting the coveted white apron from my mentor, Joe Bastianich. My wife, mother and brother were outside waiting when I walked out with the apron, the whole place just erupted in applause and cheers. This moment meant a lot because Joe chose me after trying my pancit. It was a huge moment to be able to cook Filipino food for such a large audience.

Name one thing you learned on the show that you’ll incorporate into your future cooking.

Coulis. It’s kind of an inside joke with the other cast members but I was obsessed with making coulis out of anything and incorporating it to my dish. Couli is a thin sauce made by blending and straining a fruit or vegetable, using a tami or strainer. It’s great for adding a finishing touch to dishes or being able to fully tie-in all aspects of your dish. As Gucci Mane said, “If you don’t have sauce, you lost”.

Ralph and his Eatwith Experience

What about hosting an Eatwith experience are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about being able to share my passion for cooking with others and making them happy with what I present on a plate.

Can we expect any of the dishes you made on MasterChef to be served at your EatWith experience?

Yes, specifically the dish that I auditioned with, pancit. It’s a Filipino noodle.

What message/feeling do you want people to take away after they’ve come to your experience?

Being able to cook for someone is very special to me. So when people taste my cooking, I hope they are able to taste the different cultural influences in my life and understand my journey to get to where I am now.

Part of hosting an Eatwith experience is setting the ambiance. What’s your go to dinner party music playlist?

My go to dinner party music playlist is anything with R&B. At my dinner parties, you’ll hear Miguel, Daniel Ceasar, Jorja Smith, H.E.R., the Weeknd, John Legend and of course Musiq Soulchild.

If you could host a special guest (dead or alive) who would you invite to your table?

I would invite Anthony Bourdain just to say thank you for influencing so many of us and to be able to share some dishes and laughs with him. In Houston, it would be an honor to host rapper Bun B. I remember being in middle school and hearing him explain the meaning of “TRILL” and how you should always stay true to yourself and keep it real. It’s always stuck to me. Every time people ask me if I cook Filipino food, I always say its more “TRILLipino.”

Ready to Eatwith Ralph? Check out his upcoming Eatwith events in Los Angeles!

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