UIC student vies for ‘MasterChef’

Rim Zivalich in 2011 'You're the Chef'

Rim Zivalich in the 2011 “You’re the Chef” student cooking contest. She and teammates Brenda Moreno and Paul Rosenkranz won the contest for two years. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Rim Zivalich, a two-time winner of UIC’s “You’re the Chef” student cooking competition, wants to conquer another culinary feat, this time on Fox-TV’s “MasterChef.”

Auditioning against more than 40,000 people from across the country, Zivalich is one of 100 to advance to Los Angeles, where she will present her signature dish to MasterChef judges Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich on the season premiere, which airs at 7 p.m. May 22.

As an Army National Guard sergeant with 10 years of experience, including two deployments to the Middle East, Zivalich is no stranger to performing under pressure.

“What was different for me was cooking with cameras right there; that was new,” she said. “But nothing like some self assurance to get me all ready.”

Zivalich’s relationship with cooking began when she was on her own at 15 years old. With a younger brother to feed, cooking was a necessity.

“I started cooking — well, more like experimenting — and those experiments started tasting good,” said Zivalich, a senior in biological sciences.

Ever since, cooking has become second nature.

“I love how it just comes to me so easy,” she said. “I don’t — and never have — followed recipes. I create my own versions of food that I try all the time.”

She shares the results of her culinary talents with her husband, Christopher Zivalich, also an Army sergeant, and their son, 9-month-old son Zavier.

“I believe cooking in the kitchen is my happy place,” she said. “While others may not look forward to making dinner after a tired day, I count down hours until I can pick up some fresh ingredients and turn it into deliciousness for my husband and baby.”

Her experience as a competitor in UIC’s “You’re the Chef” student cooking competition in 2010 and 2011 was invaluable for Zivalich as she faced her MasterChef competition.

“They were very similar when it came to cooking in front of an audience and with cameras and the judging,” she said.

Unlike UIC’s contest, MasterChef allowed competitors to bring their own ingredients. Contestants had one hour to cook and five minutes to present and impress the judges.

“The competition was great,” said Zivalich. “I met some amazing people from all walks of life who have a true passion for cooking.”


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