Helene Leeds of Baldwin, Maryland made her way to the 15 contestants out of the over 30,000 applicants from across the U.S. It was her Saffron Risotto with Burdock wrapped Scallops that became the talk of the show during week two, when judge Joe Bastianich tossed it into the trash and Gordon Ramsey referred to them as “baskets” that we first take notice to Helene. It’s this dish that pushes her into the bottom three, but she survives.
In week three Helene competes in a crab challenge, but sadly she makes just enough mistakes in her dish to cause the judges to say goodbye.
What we never see, or hear about is Helene’s story. She suffered a debilitating illness as a child, forcing her into a wheelchair and ultimately obesity. After countless doctors’ visits and research of her own, Leeds finds the path to health and cures herself through diet. Now a raw foodie, Helene’s ultimate goal as a MasterChef participant was to share her knowledge of nutrition, but circumstances forced otherwise.
I had the chance to speak with Helene about her experiences on the show and this is what she had to say:
What was your winning recipe that got you a place in the top 36?
“It was a raw vegan recipe. A medicinal mushroom aphrodisiac soup using Chaga and Reishi mushrooms, and a raw kale salad with mulberries and cocoa nibs.”
Can you explain the process of getting chosen as a participant on MasterChef?
“It was not knowing what to expect and being ready for anything. It was like entering the unknown where the field of possibility exists.”
The judges seemed like they disliked you from the beginning, did you sense this while on the show?
“I didn’t sense favoritism and there was rhyme and reason as to why they were judging and how they were judging. Although what they tried to show couldn’t have been appreciated or understood based on their culinary past.”
What was the hardest thing about being a contestant on MasterChef?
“Waiting. You have to wait a long time. Long hours, and not being able to care for my well-being.”
What is your favorite food?
“Reishi Mushrooms and other superfoods, especially raw chocolate.”
What was your mission in participating on the show?
“To be able to have a platform to share that being healthy is not being without, but celebrating the abundance of flavors available.”
Was it hard for you as a raw foodie to participate in the challenges?
“Yes, it was really hard and extremely difficult because the judges expected the star of the meal to be the protein and there wasn’t a Vitamix available so it limited my ability to make things like sauces.”
“I felt like I didn’t have the tools that I needed. I really wanted to wow the judges but didn’t take the chance.”
What were your thoughts when you saw the animal parts such as the lamb head, etc.?
“My thoughts were, “oh my gosh!” It was so graphic, I was just shocked. Although, it was artfully laid out.”
How were you able to follow through with preparing a dish?
“I kept reminding myself that Chinese medicine has used organ meats as part of their healing diet for ages and it gave me motivation. It’s one of the medicinal cultures that I believe in strongly.”
“You have to try the foods you are making, and it was disgusting. The odors were vile. The tongue was especially grotesque.”
So everyone wants to know, what happened with the crab challenge?
“Within 5 minutes of finding out whether I was assigned canned or live crab, I had to decide was I was going to make and which ingredients I was going to use. I never have had Dungeness crab.”
“Being from Maryland, my mom told me that she would disown me if I stopped eating crabs, when I switched to a vegan diet. I thought a traditional crab soup would be the way to go, with a twist and new layers of flavors.”
“I sautéed the shallots, steamed the crab in beer broth, grilled the corn, and used veggies that aren’t common in a crab soup, like Jerusalem artichoke. Also a fish stock reduced from what I steamed the crab in. I made the cornbread in a cast iron skillet in a typical Eastern Shore style”.
“I’m not competitive cook and some skills I lack. In this challenge, I didn’t execute this dish properly and I didn’t add enough broth. I should have added more broth and had less veggies and should have left the crab meat in big clumps.”
Before you were eliminated, we hear you say that, “you aren’t doing what you feel in your heart, but what you think the judges wanted from you”, can you explain what you meant and do you think that played a role in your being eliminated?
“I think it’s more interesting to the show to eliminate someone on a crab challenge that is from Maryland. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t have been eliminated, and I trust that it was in divine alignment.”
“The intention was to share that healthy food can taste great and I didn’t feel that I could get my message across with the challenge that I had been given.”
“Wouldn’t it had been great if there were a challenge where we had to make the healthiest dish. That would contribute to the well being of the nation?”
“I believe in life, we have a choice of following the path of pleasure or transformation. I think you can have both but it has to be intentional. I am thankful to be able to continue my work outside of the show. Staying there wasn’t fair for me or them.”
What’s next for Helene?
“I run a business, Cloud 9 Raw Chocolate. It is the first raw vegan fudge of it’s kind in the entire world. It is a premier longevity superfood.”
“I am not interested in being a chef like most of the other contestants. It’s like that old saying, ‘you can give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, or you can teach him to fish and he can eat for a lifetime’. I teach cooking and raw food workshops. “
“I am all about cultivating optimal health. I work one on one with clients and with groups as a powerful health coach and host workshops and teaching programs where people can learn about optimum health and weight loss.”
“I am also working on a book which is very exciting”
You can also follow Helene’s Kitchen for wonderful recipes, health topics, and beauty tips.
Don’t forget to try out her amazing handmade fudge, Cloud 9 Raw Chocolate. Trust me, it’s so good!
You can see full episodes of Masterchef on their website and watch Helene in action.by Veg Writing Momma with no comments yet
I know, I know you are jealous right now. Don’t be. I was fortunate enough to attend a private dinner with raw food guru David Wolfe, but my opportunity to speak with him was just about nonexistent. Sure, I could have, with enough effort and forcefulness, made an adequate attempt to carry a conversation with David. But that’s just not my style.
With a dinner of about 70 attendees, I was more than happy to listen to what the raw foodie had to say, and was very much looking forward to his wise words. It was about an hour of mingling before everyone was in their seats. David made a quick speech and notified us that he would be speaking more throughout the dinner in addition to relocating his seat after each course. This was going to be great! Except that my immediate section was skipped right over, and David didn’t really speak very much to the group as a whole. Ah well. I had an amazing 7 course raw dinner, met some new and relatable people, and ate at an amazing restaurant in what David refers to as the “best hotel in the world”. Now that’s saying a lot, the man has traveled virtually everywhere!
Enough said, let’s talk about the menu:
We began with a Green Shot-Orange, grapefruit, avocado, pineapple, spinach, kale, and raw coconut water.
This was yum!
Next up was a shot of Fresh Nutmilk Cacao Smoothie-Sprouted almonds, hempseeds, spring water Wuyi tea, banana, cacao, maca, flaxseed, and fresh cocao nut.
There was a bit of a kick to this one on the spicy side, must have been the tea.
At this point people were starting to feel a bit hungry, and out came the Live Gazpacho Soup-tomato, cucumber, and lime. It was delicious.
Sprouted Enzyme Salad was next. It had an amazing dressing on top that everyone was raving about. The ingredients of the salad consisted of kale, red cabbage, carrot, red onion, alfalfa sprouts, shaved turmeric, Greek olive oil, sweet potato, and tahini/lime dressing.
This salad was rather large and at the end, we were all wondering how we were going to fit any more food into our bodies. Still three more courses to go!
Seems I missed the photo of this one-it was one small truffle that I popped in my mouth so quickly, the camera didn’t stand a chance.
It was nice to have a small sweet treat in between meals.
Up next, Raw Ravioli with house made vegan cheese-beet ravioli with fresh herbed cashew cheese and Cayenne yellow pepper basil sauce.
Oh-my-yum! I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t eaten many beets in my lifetime, my mother was never a fan, but boy was this good!
An finally, the rich and decadent Chia Mousse Tart! Made of avocado, blueberry, chia mousse on a sprouted walnut, almond, flaxseed, raw honey, date tart.
I’m not sure how the staff managed to make such a delectable meal for 70 people while maintaining the dignity of live and nutritious foods, but they did. Many thanks to the Olive Room, David Wolfe, and Dimitris, the owner of the Agora Market (located on the first floor of the hotel), for putting together such and amazing feast for us all.
And lucky me, I head back to the Olive Room for another raw dinner in a week. Keep your eyes peeled for the next review!by Veg Writing Momma with no comments yet