Amanda Saab, a Dearborn chef and baker, gets another shot on 'MasterChef: Back to Win'

Amanda Saab knows the pressures of competing on a cooking show.

In 2015, the Dearborn self-taught chef and baker competed on MasterChef season 6, though was eliminated in the eighth episode.  She was the first Muslim woman in a hijab to compete on the show. 

Fast forward and the former contestant, Saab, 33, is back. She's on the new show MasterChef: Back to Win, airing at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on Fox TV. Saab made the final cut in the first of three audition round episodes securing her spot as one of 20 chefs, narrowed from a field of 40 competing. 

Gordon Ramsay, a celebrity and well-renowned chef, hosts and judges the competition. He’s also well-known for his sharp and often harsh critiques of the competing chefs and the dishes they present. Celebrity chef Aarón Sanchez and restaurateur Joe Bastianich are also judging the competition.

The show involves previous MasterChef contestants, including those on MasterChef Junior who now are adults, getting a second chance at the coveted MasterChef title. 

Saab, reached by phone Wednesday morning, said she is excited to be competing. But she also asked thought long and hard about going in front of Gordon Ramsay and going through the whole process again. 

"You have to be super vulnerable," Saab said. "Your food is being criticized on national television. It takes a special level of vulnerability and confidence to be able to do that."

Saab, of course, can’t reveal any details about the show filmed late last year in California. 

But Saab admits being on the new show was different from the first time on Season 6 as a self-taught home cook and baker.

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"I'd never done anything professionally, I never cooked for that volume of people," Saab said. "So just the personal growth in the last six years that I have in my professional cooking and baking skills definitely gave me the confidence to go back. "

She's hosted dinners, cooked for a number of people, had the bakery (Butter Bear Shop in Livonia) and has done cooking pop-ups, with one most recently at Frame in Hazel Park. 

Saab said that this time around, Ramsay, was different. 

"Gordon was definitely, I think, a lot softer this time," Saab said. "He's since had another baby, maybe that brought on an additional empathy."

But Saab feels the pressure with this competition since she's established herself in the food world. 

"Now there's more on the line and the stakes are definitely higher," she said.

That pressure is also felt among others competing, she said, because "they've also gone on to do some amazing things."

"You really don't want to mess up at this level."

When she made the final 20 making a Za'atar Olive Oil Cake, Saab said the feeling was amazing.  Her mindset stepping into the kitchen, she said, is to do the best she can and get to the next round. 

"Those are like the two things I am thinking about and that are at the forefront of my brain," Saab said. So, when I got the apron ... thank goodness and a sigh of relief. "

Saab has been featured in cookbooks and written about nationally and in the Free Press spotlighting her Dinner with Your Muslim Neighbor events, where she invited strangers in her home to gather around the table for a meal, to build bonds across cultures and talk about Islam and Muslims. 

Though Saab works full time for Tech Down Detroit supporting small businesses and is mother to daughter Hannah, who is four years old. She plans on more pop-ups and baking workshops this summer. Saab also has more than 43,000 Instagram followers and you can also follow her recipes on amandasplate.com.

Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky and send food and restaurant news to:  [email protected] Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.

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