Cooking up the competition: 2014 GCHS graduate lands spot on MasterChef

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Photo courtesy of FOX.

By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

Savannah “Sav” Miles is no novice when it comes to cooking for friends and family, but now she is learning how it feels cooking in front of a crowd of celebrity judges.
Miles, a 2014 Gadsden City High School graduate and Ballplay resident, is competing on the current season of MasterChef. This season’s theme is “United of Tastes of America” and Miles is in a group representing the South.
The TV show features amateur and home chefs competing to win the title of MasterChef. The current line-up of judges consists of Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Aarón Sánchez.
The competition takes place on a stage located in Los Angeles, California, which includes a large kitchen with several cooking stations, a stocked pantry, a freezer/fridge and a fine-dining restaurant/seating dining area room used for certain challenges.
Throughout the season, competitors face off in a variety of challenges, such as skills tests, mystery box challenges, elimination tests, team challenges and pressure tests.
Once the competition is reduced to the final two or three competitors, finalists will compete against each other in a three-course cook-off. All courses of the meal are judged by the celebrity judge panel and an overall winner is crowned. The winner of each season wins $250,000, a MasterChef trophy and the title of MasterChef.
So far, the competition has been challenging, but Miles has now made it into the top 20 competitors on the show and is in the running for the grand prize.
As for her other competitors, the chefs in the group representing the South have embraced southern hospitality.
“The five of us are so close,” Miles said. “It is so cool to see the diversity of the people selected to represent the South. It really was such a beautiful picture of what the South is and the fact that we get along so well really speaks to that southern culture.”
Getting on the show was a long process, according to Miles.
“I applied on a whim. I have always watched cooking shows, even as a little kid. I recently got back into watching MasterChef. I looked up the application and the deadline just happened to be four days later. So, I jumped on and applied. Then I got a phone call and did the interview. It really was a process.”
The interviewing and auditioning process took about three months to complete.
“We had to do all kinds of videos and Zoom interviews and we had to do different cooking challenges. It was a lot, even before thinking about going out to California, it was a lot,” Miles said.
Miles’ friends and family helped her during those three months. Her boyfriend helped film videos for her and her family taste-tested all the food she cooked. Her mom even let her cook in her kitchen because the lighting was better for filming.
“It really took a village to even think about going out to L.A. for the in-person auditions” Miles said.
Now, her friends and family are glued to the TV each episode to watch Miles compete.
“The response has been so overwhelming,” Miles said. “The amount of support and love from folks here in Alabama has just confirmed my love for my state and my community. It has been amazing.”
Miles has had support from the community before, especially her former teachers, when after graduating from Gadsden City High School she attended Harvard University and graduated from the prestigious university in 2018.
“I got really, really lucky. Someone up in an admissions office thought that I deserved to be there. So, I am grateful that I got that chance.”
Harvard was a hard move for Miles, who enjoys being with those she loves.
“To be honest, once I left and as soon as I was gone, I missed home. I had kind of taken for granted the fact that people smile at you… As soon as I got there, it was on my mind to come back,” Miles said.
One of the educators that helped Miles along the way was Tammy Piazza, who just recently retired from St. James Catholic School in Gadsden.
“Mrs. Piazza is honestly life-changing for so many of her students, including me. We went to her retirement party and she had all of these photos of her students that she had taken throughout the years. She organized them for each student and put them in a little bag. I was looking through the pictures she had for me, and she had for three years in a row, she had a photo of little baby me with a jar of cream in my hand. I had no idea that photo existed.”
According to Miles, the jar of cream was from a semi-local dairy farm, Wright Dairy in Alexandria. The dairy farm staff came to Piazza’s class with a jar of fresh cream for the students to shake into butter.
“I always told her that my very first memory and one of the reasons I got into farming and got interested in food was being in her class. I always remember that as my first memory. I just think it was the coolest thing and it really peaked my interest in food and farming,” Miles said.
Miles bought her three-acre farm in Ballplay in 2020 and grows a large variety of fruits and vegetables that she sells and uses to cook her own meals.
The farm is constantly evolving and changing.
“When I do farmers market applications and it asks you to list what you grow, it takes me like an hour to fill out. We grow over like 50 varieties of heirloom fruits and vegetables. What we really specialize in is heirloom tomatoes.”
Miles, who says she never likes to cook the same thing twice, uses her farm to source her meals.
“I always like trying something new,” she said. “It depends on what is in season and what’s fresh. My favorite ‘go to’ is whatever we have fresh and ready on the farm.”
The next episode of MasterChef airs on Wednesday, July 12, and it will feature the first mystery box challenge of the season. The episode will air on FOX at 7 p.m. The show will also appear online on Hulu.

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