The Transylvania Times -

By Kevin Fuller
Staff Writer 

TV Show Chef In The Final 3 - Brevard NC


September 12, 2016

Former Brevard resident Shaun O'Neal is in the final three of the "MasterChef" TV show. (Courtesy photo)

Former Brevard resident Shaun O'Neale has cracked the top three on Fox's "MasterChef" and will compete for the grand prize during Wednesday night's season finale.

"It's been a long journey," O'Neale said, during a phone interview from Las Vegas. "I've been kicking butt."

The 33-year-old O'Neale, who graduated Brevard High School in 2000, has since moved to Las Vegas, where he is a professional DJ and amateur cook. He's a pretty good one, at that, landing a slot on the popular reality television show hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

It's the seventh season of "MasterChef," which combines chefs Gordon Ramsay and Christina Tosi with a different special culinary guest judge - including Wolfgang Puck, Aarón Sánchez, Edward Lee, Kevin Sbraga and Richard Blais - each episode.

O'Neale has won three mystery box challenges and three elimination challenges to garner him a shot at the winning the whole thing.

"It's been hard. It's been tough," O'Neale said.

The expert panel evaluates the skills of amateur cooks from all over the country, who are faced with challenges such as the mystery-box challenge that require them to work with the same ingredients.

They are also faced with team challenges, including restaurant takeovers and high-pressure tests that determine who is eliminated.

O'Neale said the pressure of having cameras watch his every move was challenging at first.

"Going on a show like this, you put everything out there," he said.

However, O'Neale adapted quickly.

"It's crazy how quickly you forget about the camera," O'Neale said with a laugh.

The cameras were hardly as challenging as dealing with the social media response to the show.

"They either love you, or they hate you," O'Neale said.

He said the response on Twitter alone has at times been tough.

"You have to keep your head on your shoulders," he added.

O'Neal has finagled his way through the politics of reality television, including social media backlash, and has won the trust and respect of his competitors on the show.

In fact, when fellow contestant Brandi Mudd, who has also made it to the top three, had her first pick of who she wanted on her team during a cooking challenge on the last episode, she chose O'Neale.

The two won the challenge, boosting them into the season finale.

The show is a tough competition, but O'Neale said most of all the contestants have stayed friendly and supportive of each other. Almost all of the contests get together each week to watch the aired version of the show.

"You get to relive it again," O'Neale said.

He had a special guest this time around, watching the last episode that secured his spot in the finals. O'Neale's mother, who lives in Charlotte, flew out to watch the show with him.

With the show airing in June, and filming wrapping up prior, the hard work seemed to be out of the way for O'Neale.

One of the more difficult tasks O'Neale has faced is not giving any spoilers.

"I can't tell friends, I can't tell family," O'Neale said. "It's a weird situation."

O'Neale said contestants, and family and friends, have a viewing party planned at a restaurant in Las Vegas. He said the guest list is already over 100.

There, O'Neale will have to muster up the strength one more time and sit through one more episode, for his friends and family, and the rest of the world to see if he is the MasterChef.

"We are just going to enjoy it," he said. "I cannot wait."

The finale will air in a two-part series at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night on Fox.


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