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'MasterChef' recap: Victory is sweet for Whitney

September 16, 2010 | 11:01 am

Whitney The pastry princess reigns supreme.

It was a Miller vs. Miller showdown as Whitney Miller, a 22-year-old college student from Mississippi, upended David Miller, 29, a software engineer from Boston, and was named the first American MasterChef -- a.k.a. the best home cook in America.

Even more impressive: Whitney's giggly, cute-as-could-be exterior concealed a steely self-confidence, focus and unflappability that would be remarkable in someone twice her age, and with three times as much experience. She even surprised herself.

"I was even shocked at how intense and focused I was," Whitney said during a media conference call this morning. She even managed to stay cool-as-a-cucumber when she -- SPLAT! -- dropped her chicken dish on the floor with just seven minutes to go in the final challenge. What did she do? She calmly started over.

"I just knew I wanted to stay focused. I kept telling myself, 'You've worked so hard through this whole process, you can't lose this at the end.'"

She did confess, however, that she was bluffing when she went before the judges and told them -- with confidence -- that she was sure that her Round 2 chicken was cooked all the way through, even though the judges, chefs Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot, and restaurateur Joe Bastianich raised doubts about whether chicken could be properly and fully cooked in such little time.

"I was nervous, so nervous about the chicken. I didn't know for sure whether it was cooked through. I didn't look it on the outside, but I had worry on the inside, for sure."

Whitney also conceded that victory tasted that much sweeter for beating out David, who could be an overly confident, cocky jerk. (Those are my words, not Whitney's.)

"He has that confidence, and I think that definitely came across as arrogance, that was just his personality, it was definitely funny to see that come across," she said.

And was it equally gratifying to beat him given all that chest-pounding? "Oh, definitely," she said.

Last week, I wondered whether Whitney was worthy of the "MasterChef" title. There was no doubt that she could cook. But I wondered whether she had talent that went beyond an ability to execute a recipe. Well, I was wrong: I was in awe of her steadfastness and confidence during the finale. She more than held her own -- she excelled -- and was truly deserving of the title.

Whitney said her confidence comes from her family and her faith, and a "very good work ethic." She said she never felt unnerved by competitors who were twice her age, or had far more experience.

Actually, the way Whitney sees it, she was one of the most experienced cooks in the bunch: Her mother taught her to cook at a young age, and she loved it so much that she has been the one responsible for making the family dinner each night -- and has done so for a decade. "At age 14, I was cooking profiteroles," she said.

So what's next for Whitney, after winning the $250,000 and a contract to write her very own cookbook? She said she is trying to decide whether her cookbook should play off her "pastry princess" persona or focus on Southern hospitality and down-home dishes. (Whitney, the answer is WRITE TWO COOKBOOKS!) She is also focused on expanding the catering business, Glaze, that she owns with her mother.

[Click here for a look at the new "MasterChef" cookbook accompanying the season, plus news on a new iPhone app for fans.]

In true Southern fashion, Whitney says she loves catering because it allows her to create a perfect moment for someone else: "I really like taking that time to make it personal and make it special for someone."

Oh, and she would love to have her own TV show.

So what did you think? Did the right person win?

--Rene Lynch / renelynch

Photo: Fox