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Diamond Alexander, 24, of San Diego is cooking her pots and pans off as she vies to win MasterChef now airing on FOX Wednesdays.

A vegetarian (which is rare but not unheard of for this show), and a web designer and online food blogger, Alexander has advanced to the top 15 home cooks in the country in Season 7. She has been one of the strongest contestants on the show so far.

In addition to her participation in MasterChef, Diamond was also Miss San Diego 2015. Here’s more of our interview with Alexander, who could very well be the next MasterChef. Be sure to tune in to see her whip up something great.

Debbie Sklar: Why did you want to be on MasterChef?

Diamond Alexander: I’ve ALWAYS loved to cook. At 5 years old, all I wanted to do was watch Food Network in my grandparents’ bed all day long. I would beg my grandma for a bowl, spoon and spices so I could say ‘Bam!’ like Emeril Lagasse always did. From then on, even as my academic path took me in different directions, I decided my dream was to cook on TV and inspire people the way those chefs inspired me. After competing in the Miss California pageant, I was sent a casting email for the show and once I auditioned, the rest is history.

DS: How long have you been cooking?

DA: For as long as I can remember. As a kid, I would ask for gift cards to Williams-Sonoma, Bed, Bath & Beyond and grocery stores so I could get equipment and ingredients. Butter and sugar is expensive for a 10 year old! I would beg my parents to enroll me in cooking classes, sometimes I was the youngest one there. It’s a passion deep in my heart that I believe I was born with.

DS: What is your favorite thing to cook?

A: I am definitely more of a baker than a cook, so I really enjoy making biscuits, cookies, and cakes from scratch. Breakfast is my favorite meal so anything having to do with that is also a favorite.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Diamond, Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck in the “Wolfgang Puck” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Friday, June 17 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Cr: Greg Gayne / FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co.

S: What is your best dish?

A: Hmm…Well on the savory side, I make really good pasta, especially this porcini mushroom gnocchi I made for a San Diego news show. On the sweet side, I’m known for my chocolate chip cookies. They’re chewy, gooey; perfectly crunchy on the outside but still soft, and a touch of sea salt gives them perfect balance.

DS: What does your family think about you appearing on the show?

DA: They are so excited and supportive of me! They’ve always supported my love of food and cooking so it made perfect sense to them. When I’m home, we all tune in to watch, rewinding and laughing at all of my dramatic facial expressions.

DS: Why do you think you will win?

DA: Because cooking is something that is at my core. It’s a big part of my identity and I think that passion shows in both my food and my willingness to be team player during challenges.

DS: How will you continue to ‘wow’ the judges?

DA: As a mostly plant-based eater, I’m going to show the judges that I can handle whatever they throw at me, even meat. Although it was really tough, Gordon Ramsay said my de-shelled lobster was ‘great.’ I think I proved you don’t have to be a major carnivore to handle meat-based challenges.

DS: Have you appeared or auditioned for any other reality shows?

DA: No this is my first show! I am a former beauty queen (Miss San Diego 2015 and third runner up to Miss California) so being in front of the lights and cameras is normal to me.

DS: Are you a MasterChef regular viewer?

DA: I am now!

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Diamond in the “Wolfgang Puck” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Friday, June 17 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Cr: Greg Gayne / FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co.

DS: Which cooks/chefs are your inspirations?

DA: Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pepin, Wolfgang Puck, Ina Garten, Matthew Kenney and Ayesha Curry.

DS: Favorite place to eat in LA, SD?

DA: San Diego: Sprout’s health food store; I don’t eat out a whole lot in San Diego so I enjoy shopping for ingredients at Sprout’s and transforming them into something super awesome at home. LA: Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles of course! (I don’t order the chicken anymore) Also, I really like Sugarfish’s large scallop sushi and HopDoddy’s Ahi tuna burger.

DS: Do you have more to prove on the show because you are a vegetarian?

DA: Absolutely, Hetal Vasavada from Season 6 is my inspiration because she went so far as a vegetarian on the show, which from my understanding is rare for MasterChef. I know that everyone looks at me as a weak cook but it’s hard cooking something you don’t really eat. Hetal is the MVP for sure; I hope I can live up to her legacy.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Diamond, guest chef Edward Lee and host / chef Gordon Ramsay in the all-new “The Good, The Bad and The Offal” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, July 20 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Cr: Greg Gayne / FOX. © 2016 Fox Broadcasting Co.

DS: Hobbies? Spare time?

DA: What spare time!? Well, when I do have a break, I love reading so I’m always reading a book, blog articles, street signs, whatever is around. I also enjoy experimenting in the kitchen with vegan and vegetarian recipes so I’m always researching new ways to make a vegan nacho sauce for example. The whole scientific process, inevitable trial and error, is so fun to me. I also enjoy being outside so going to the beach, hiking, even just sitting outside at a park makes me really happy.

DS: Education?

DA: Graduated from Oklahoma State University with my Bachelor’s in Food and Nutritional Science.

DS: Married? Kids? Pets?

DA: Single and sorta ready to mingle; I’m definitely going through that Millennial quarter-life crisis of trying to figure out my life. Once I feel more settled, I’ll be ready to date and adopt a baby pig.

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