Matt Auckland finds the positive in his Next Level Chef experience, interview

Matt Auckland on Next Level Chef Season 3
Matt Auckland on Next Level Chef Season 3 / FOX

On Next Level Chef Season 3, Matt Auckland had several distinctions to his time on the FOX culinary competition. Although he might have preferred more opportunities to cook, he has fond memories of the experience, even if he might never look at radicchio the same way ever again.  

As fans of FOX’s Next Level Chef appreciate, the culinary competition brings together social media chefs, home cooks, and professional chefs. Matt, a social media chef from Illinois, is a rising star in that realm. With millions of followers on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, his approachable, welcoming personality has resonated with fans.  

During a recent conversation with FoodSided, Matt discussed why he chose to compete in Next Level Chef, what he was trying to accomplish with his unlikely smash burger flavors, and why he will forever be associated with radicchio.  

When asked what compelled him to compete in Next Level Chef, Matt shared that he is relatively new to the social media scene. With a little more than a year’s worth of experience, he appreciated that he might be at a slight disadvantage. Still, he believed that his competitive nature would serve him well. As he mentioned, “I wanted to see how I would stack up against the other chefs.”  

As the last pick in the draft, Matt admitted that he understood why he was the final member to join Team Blais. He said, “I did not do that amazing in the audition, but I did not do horrible either. It was definitely a lack of experience situation.” Even if his moment might not have been as impressive as some chefs who have been cooking their whole lives, Matt did not make a fool of himself.  

When it came to the first challenge, Matt was dealt a blow from the platform. During the smash burger challenge, the basement did him wrong with the ingredients. Even if the dull knives and lack of kitchen appliances are meant to be an obstacle, the lack of ingredients that can pair together are much tougher. The chefs might want to roll the dice in hopes of a big reward, but that risk can backfire.  

As Matt learned the hard way, salmon, raspberry, and harissa are not three ingredients that have been paired together or should be paired together. Richard Blais might have referenced Dr. Seuss in describing that combination but even the colorful world that brought people green eggs and ham would not dare to attempt this pairing.  

But, Matt did have a concept for this salmon burger. He explained that he wanted to bring together the idea of a spicy glaze. Many people appreciate a salmon filet with a sweet and spicy note. The concept makes sense; unfortunately, these ingredients were not the ones that could execute that plan.  

Matt admitted that his platform grab was 100% the issue. He might have been trying to snag a familiar food, but the competition requires more than just immediate reaction. The chefs need to see three or four steps down the line. It was a hard lesson to learn.  

As the bottom chef from Team Blais, Matt was sent into the elimination round. Facing Team Gordon’s Chris in a fish taco face-off was difficult. Since the chefs have very different backgrounds, Matt knew that it would be tough. But, if Blais’ last pick could knock out Ramsay’s top pick, it would have been an epic food television moment.  

Matt mentioned the intimidation was part of the challenge. Whether it was cooking against Chris, who has cooked for years, or presenting his dish to Gordon Ramsay and Richard Blais, the moment is far different from cooking videos on social media.  

In some ways, that mental aspect could have been part of the mistake which caused Matt to be eliminated from Next Level Chef Season 3. Mistaking radicchio for red cabbage is something that he will not live down anytime soon.  

Matt shared that the mistake was “lack of experience. I was totally rushed, and I was trying to do my best. I knew better, but, in the moment, it was chaotic.”  

Even though Matt stood by the pivot to use store bought tortillas, the radicchio was the flavor issue that could not be overlooked. As Ramsay said, that bitter note was not what he wanted in a taco. It was the clear difference between the two fish tacos.  

Matt is taking that mistaken ingredient moment in stride and can laugh about it now. He mentioned that some of his fellow contestants have sent him radicchio recipes or funny videos reminding him of the errant ingredient grab.

Although his time on Next Level Chef Season 3 is over, Matt is moving forward with his culinary career. He might not be showcasing a salmon burger with raspberries and harissa anytime soon, but his social media account is full of approachable, comfort food concepts. Those food ideas are ones that will always earn a win around the table.  

Next Level Chef Season 3 airs on FOX Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Episodes can be streamed the next day on Hulu.  

Matt Auckland is known as ChefZealand on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.