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Reality TV chef visits Mascenic

  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration using an immersion container on Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration using an immersion container on Wednesday afternoon.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Regional High School Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon. Miller showed students how to cook steak and eggs in in an immersion chamber, and dehydrate Nutella spread. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Regional High School Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon. Miller showed students how to cook steak and eggs in in an immersion chamber, and dehydrate Nutella spread.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The students of Shae Higley's Food and Nutrition class at Mascenic Regional High School watch a demonstration of modern food preparation technique by guest speaker David Miller of Boston.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    The students of Shae Higley's Food and Nutrition class at Mascenic Regional High School watch a demonstration of modern food preparation technique by guest speaker David Miller of Boston.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration using an immersion container on Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Regional High School Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon. Miller showed students how to cook steak and eggs in in an immersion chamber, and dehydrate Nutella spread. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • The students of Shae Higley's Food and Nutrition class at Mascenic Regional High School watch a demonstration of modern food preparation technique by guest speaker David Miller of Boston.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • David Miller, the season one runner-up of Fox's hit show Masterchef, provided the Mascenic Food and Nutrition class with a cooking demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

NEW IPSWICH — David Miller was a Boston software engineer with a flair for cooking until three years ago, when a new Fox television series turned him into a reality television star. Now when he’s not at his day job, he spends his time cooking for charity dinners, making appearances at wine and food festivals and, yesterday, teaching some of Mascenic High School students a little about alternate ways to cook their food.

Back in 2010, the Fox network premiered a new cooking show created by chef Gordon Ramsey, called “Masterchef.” Unlike Ramsey’s other hit cooking show, “Hell’s Kitchen,” which featured contestants who are looking to make a living at cooking, “Masterchef” was looking for a different kind of cook: an amateur.

Friends of Miller had long praised his cooking, he said in an interview Wednesday, and when they heard of the show, urged him to apply, so Miller gave is a shot. He said he had no expectation of even getting on the show, much less making it to the finals, where he ultimately lost out to fellow contestant Whitney Miller, who is no relation.

Shae Higley, the foods and nutrition teacher at Mascenic, said she was thrilled to get someone from the outside into the kitchen — and she wasn’t put off by Miller’s amateur status. In fact, she said, it was a bonus for the kinds of cooking she teaches in her class. “I think the fact that he’s not what we would call a trained culinary chef makes it even more exciting,” said Higley in an interview Wednesday. “Because it shows the kids, you can really get into that kitchen and have a good time without being a professional.”

Miller first became fascinated with food when he found himself facing a problem a lot of college students have — bad dining hall food. But rather grin and bear it or rely on junk food, and put on the inevitable freshman 15, Miller ditched his meal plan and outfitted his dorm with a George Foreman grill, microwave, hotplate and refrigerator, and taught himself how to cook.

Now, he said his ultimate dream is to have a television show that shows college students both how to use those kinds of accessible tools to feed themselves healthy meals and explore other food options outside the cafeteria. On Wednesday, he was able to get a taste of what monitoring students would be like, when he made an appearance at Mascenic to give a demonstration to Higley’s food class.

Going into the class, Miller said he framed his lesson a little differently because he knew he’d be walking into an audience that was already interested in food and cooking. So instead of covering the basics, he decided to take a jump forward and show the class some techniques that he considers the future of food. “We’re doing a lot of modernist stuff today,” said Miller. “What I’m doing today is trying to intrigue these kids with the future of food.”

He showed the students how to prepare steak sous-vide style, a method of cooking in airtight plastic bags in a water bath, in a devise called an immersion circulator, for a long period of time — up to three days for short ribs, for example. This method isn’t new; it was discovered in the 1799, and then taken into the mainstream in the 1960s as a way to preserve mass produced food in the hospital food industry. But nowadays it’s used at high-end restaurants.

Miller also showcased a realm of food science known as molecular gastronomy, a term for the practical use of the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur while cooking. In this case, Miller showed the kids some new uses for the common preservative ingredients found in a lot of their everyday food, including the chemicals used to make the powdered cheese in boxes of macaroni and cheese. The kids also got to see how to turn Nutella spread into a powder, and create a foam out of flavors that might otherwise be too overwhelming, such as grapefruit juice or hot sauce.

“I like that the students get to see the food preparation and the science behind it,” said Higley. “And where it’s going in the future. It’s really phenomenal. I’d like to, if we can, take what he’s doing and pull it in to how to use it in a traditional home. Can they use some of that exciting new wave prep in a home, and pull in all that science that we’re learning? It’s one way to create a bridge between academics and the real world.”

But for Miller, it’s all about playing around in the kitchen and getting others to do the same. “Teaching anyone anything is totally worth it, if they’re receptive,” he said. “If I inspire one kid to get an immersion circulator or buy some chemicals, and try out anything I show them today, I did my job.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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