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07.30.2014

Former Bulldog making “Chic Comfort Food” on MasterChef

Combining southern charm with a New York edge can be tricky, but former Bulldog, Elizabeth Cauvel (ABJ '04), has done just that in her time in the kitchen. Cauvel has stepped into the spotlight as one of 30 contestants on season 5 of “MasterChef."

Known for tantalizing recipes and wild expressions, Cauvel is in the running for the coveted prize: a cookbook deal, $250,000 and the title of MasterChef. We caught up with Cauvel to see how she made the journey from Athens to Los Angeles for the show. 

Tell us a little about yourself, and how you came across joining this season of "MasterChef"?

I'm an associate creative director at MRY, a digital and social advertising agency in New York. After graduating from UGA, I attended Creative Circus, a creative advertising portfolio school in Atlanta. I started working in Chicago as a copywriter in 2007 and moved to New York in 2010.

I am a huge fan of MasterChef and while watching the show, I saw an ad for open auditions in New York. Despite the fact that auditions were a mere two weeks after my wedding, I decided to try out for the show. I brought homemade lasagna as my audition dish, and after making it through the initial rounds, I learned that I'd be flying to Los Angeles with the final 100 contestants. From there, we were narrowed down to a group of 30. I'm proud to say I'm still in the running and have won six individual competitions this season. 

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a chef so far during or outside of the show?

My greatest accomplishment since filming the show is being invited to Lexington to cook for a group of chefs and journalists with my MasterChef co-contestant and real life friend, Dan Wu. The meal was styled, photographed and hosted by Tiffany Mitchell, creator of www.offbeatandinspired.com. It was a huge honor to work with a talented content creator like Tiffany as well as work alongside a competitor and friend I deeply respect.

How did your time at UGA influence your interest in becoming a chef?

Living in Athens exposed me to cooking styles, ethnic cuisines and restaurants that I'd never had access to in my hometown. I tried new foods and started to expand my palate. I realized I loved experiencing different cuisines, which inspired me to dabble in the kitchen.

I started off slow, mostly cooking with pre-made ingredients, but soon learned to conceptualize dishes and follow basic recipes. As I began to learn practice, I experimented with cooking from scratch. Cooking brings me so much joy – I think I might actually be addicted to it! Cooking is meditative for me; it's truly my therapy. I want everyone to be able to experience the joy of cooking at home and sharing a meal with loved ones.

What is one of your favorite things to cook?

I love to cook pasta! I have been perfecting my lasagna recipe for about three years, and it got me on MasterChef, so I think it's pretty solid! I love making pasta from scratch and I'll spend an entire Saturday simmering a tomato sauce. I'm not Italian, but I still aspire to be an Italian grandma.

What are your plans for after the show is over?

I'm still working in advertising, but I'm also doing small catering gigs, private dinners and events. I'm working on food photography, styling and writing, too. I blog about my cooking adventures and I frequently post food pictures on my Instagram account

Ultimately, my dream is to inspire people to cook at home, by showing them it’s easier and more accessible than they think. I'll go wherever that mission leads me.

With such passion for cooking, we expect Cauvel to go far in her culinary journey and wish her luck on the show. To catch Cauvel in action, watch Season 5 of MasterChef on Monday nights at 8 p.m. on FOX. To find out more about her journey to the show watch her contestant video here.

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08.26.2015

Alumna Spotlight: Ailsa Von Dobeneck (BS ’07)

Alumna Ailsa Von Dobeneck (BS ’07) has built a career on communications and world travel. She’s travelled extensively to locations such as London, Singapore, and Washington, D.C. for her developing government and international relations career. Most recently, however, Ailsa travelled to Los Angeles to display her passion for cooking on the Fox's MasterChef. 

University of Georgia Report Writer Erin Miller recently spoke with Ailsa regarding her experience on appearing on Masterchef’s rapidfire sixth season, her global travels and favorite memories of UGA. 

What motivated you to pursue cooking as a passion? Have you always spent a lot of time in the kitchen?

You know how there are some people that live to eat and some that eat to live? I am the former, through and through. After I graduating, I took a semester off before I started my masters at King’s College in London and decided I to spend the time really learning to cook. After all, if you love to eat, it is great to know your way around a kitchen. I enrolled in the advanced beginner’s class at the Le Cordon Bleu in London and learned the basics. I have been experimenting on those I love and travelling in search of new and exciting flavors ever since. My professional career took me to Singapore, where I worked in shipping, and I was able to travel extensively throughout the region. I now work in government affairs in Washington, D.C. and am doing more foodie time travel then travel. I spend my free time looking through old White House cookbooks at the Library of Congress. It is amazing the kind of gems you find in there. Next month I will be starting a weekly column on presidential recipes in my blog The Curious Tastebud, which will run through to the election next year.

On your Master Chef contestant page, you described yourself as a “unicorn” because no other contestant possessed your unique set of skills.  What are some of the unique skills that you acquired at UGA? 

I think UGA was the place where I truly started to learn about myself; I discovered what I’m great at, good at, and need to work on. I think the skill that I focused on developing first was time-management. Like in the kitchen, you need to really be prepared to pace yourself and use your time wisely at UGA. As an out-of-state student, my experience at UGA encouraged me to put myself out there: to introduce myself to people and take risks.

  

What is a positive Master Chef experience that you’d like to share with fellow UGA alumni?

I had so many positive experiences on the show. One of the highlights was getting to prepare a filet for Gordon Ramsay in his own restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak, in Las Vegas. I had never been to Vegas and the razzle dazzle of the whole experience was really special. Though my filet didn’t get me to the next round, I was proud of my dish. I also really enjoyed meeting the other talented contestants. One of my favorite fellow contestants went to LSU, so we had some great football banter. Go Dawgs!

You’re an extensive world traveler.  What countries have you visited and would recommend based on their cuisine?

I’ve been lucky with my travel options, as both of my parents are from Europe and I lived in Asia for a time. I am completely in love with Vietnamese cuisine and would recommend a trip to Ho Chi Minh City for anyone who enjoys street food and isn’t afraid to try bold flavors. Italy will always be close to my heart when it comes to edibles. My family spent a lot of time in Venice when I was a kid, where I learned the joy of a big bowl of pasta. For those who aren’t as adventurous, the Italian menu will give you familiar classics made with the best ingredients possible. Gelato anyone?

When you’re at home, what are some of the dishes you like to prepare?

My absolute favorite part of cooking is seeing people enjoy what I have made. I host dinner parties at my house and focus on making dishes you can prepare ahead of time so you have time with your guests. There is nothing worse than an absent hostess. Risotto is a favorite; it is refined and can come in a host of different varieties. I make a gorgeous manchego risotto with chorizo, red peppers, and arugula. 

What is your favorite memory of UGA?  Are there any specific places in Athens that you remember from days as a student?

With enough amazing memories to last a lifetime, I am struggling to pick a “favorite.” Watching the Dawgs win between the hedges was always amazing. We won the SEC championship my freshman year against LSU in Atlanta. I remember being so over the moon that I had chosen the “best university ever.”

Athens also has so many places that stick out in my mind. The Pi Beta Phi house on Milledge brings back a lot of fun memories, from getting ready for formals to decorating the front porch for every holiday imaginable. If we are talking foodie memories, I still dream about the grits from Last Resort. Hugh Acheson from Five and Ten is a real talent and always dished out the tastiest Southern dishes every season. I ran to the bookstore when Acheson's book, A New Turn in the South, was published. 

Is there anything else regarding your career experience that you’d like to share?

In both my careers (government relations and cooking), my education at UGA has held in me in amazing stead. My time in Athens gave me access to some of the best and brightest professors and allowed me to really channel my energy in positive ways. It is amazing the amount of UGA alums I have met across the world. It seems Georgia alums are all connected by a life-long love of learning and I am really proud to forever be a Bulldog.

To learn more about Ailsa and to see examples of her culinary work, please visit her blog.

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08.21.2015

UGA students row for hemophilia research

In June 2016, UGA students and avid rowers Jacob Pope '17 and Chris Lee '16 will be rowing 2,400 more, from California to Hawaii, in the Great Pacific Race. The campaign is called Row for Hemophilia and is designed to raise money and awareness for Hemophilia of Georgia (HoG). The UGA Alumni Association invited Jacob to guest blog about his upcoming adventure. 

HoG, a local-non-profit pharmacy, exists so people affected by bleeding disorders may live as normally and productively as possible. The only agency of its kind in Georgia, HoG sponsors outreach programs for the bleeding disorder community, such as Camp Wannaklot, leadership opportunities for those interested in community advocacy and legislative issues, as well as social support and services. 

Jacob and Chris didn't pick HoG simply because it was a good cause: they knew if they were going to take on a challenge as great as the Pacific Ocean, that they could also make lasting changes to a community that is close to their hearts. Jacob was born with hemophilia and has firsthand experience with the services HoG provides, like outreach nursing, attending Camp Wannaklot and participating in an exchange program to Germany to learn more about hemophilia across the globe. 

L-R: Jacob Pope and Chris Lee 

Row for Hemophilia hopes to raise $125,000 in total, which would be enough to gain access to the safest rowing boats and navigational equipment necessary to make the journey, as well as enough to fully sponsor Camp Wannaklot in 2016 - an impact that would provide more than 100 young children with hemophilia the opportunity to experience a great adventure. 

To learn more about Jacob and Chris, the Great Pacific Race and Row for Hemophilia, visit www.rowforhemophilia.com and follow the guys' story on Facebook

As always, Row Dawgs! 

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08.20.2015

UGA Virtual Networking: Meet a Bulldog

The University of Georgia is proud to unveil a free series of virtual networking events for UGA alumni and students. Via desktop or mobile device, individuals will participate in up to one hour of 10-minute, one-on-one, text-based chats with fellow participants.

Depending on each event’s “theme,” participants will be randomly paired with other alumni or students. Some events will pair just graduates based on industry, location, educational background or other topics of interest. Other events will connect graduates with students to share advice, connections or other feedback.

Because each event can be accessed via mobile device (no app necessary!), you can join in from work, home, coffee shop or even in traffic (assuming you aren’t the driver, of course!). After each event, participants will be emailed a transcript of their conversations so they can follow up with the individuals they got to know during the event.

Why host virtual networking events?

The goal of these events is to provide networking and professional development opportunities with Bulldogs around the world. By participating, you will grow your own personal network, support Bulldog bonds around the globe and might even help a student navigate their career path.

Upcoming Virtual Networking Hours

Meet a Bulldog
Tuesday, August 25
5:00-6:00 p.m. EST  | Register now

Advice from the Big Dawgs (Students + Alumni)
Wednesday, September 30
Noon-1:00 p.m. EST

Connecting Women of UGA Everywhere (Alumni Only)
Friday, October 23
12:30-1:30 p.m. EST

Top Bulldog Cities (Students + Alumni)
Tuesday, November 17
6:00-7:00 p.m. EST

Learn more about this series of events.

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