It's impossible to get the scoop from Malika Ameen
on how long she lasted as a contestant on Bravo's new series "Top
Chef: Just Desserts."
"I can't tell you; I signed my life away to the station,"
she says with a sigh. But she can tell you that it meant time away
from her kids and she'll hint just a little bit. "I've never been
away from them for such a lengthy time. It was quite some
Ameen, pastry chef and single mom to three boys, age 2, 5
and 7, made her first foray into reality TV with the series, which
kicked off Sept. 15, but was filmed in advance in Los Angeles.
While waiting for the show to air, she took a few minutes to talk
with Chicago Parent about her television debut and her life as a
I know you can't tell me how you did on "Top
Chef," but can you tell me what it was like?
"Top Chef" was very intense; there's a lot of pressure to
perform and you're completely out of your element. You have no
recipes. That was really hard for pastry chefs because our recipes
are our Bible. Pastries are very scientific; it's about formulas.
If you don't have your formula right and you put it in the oven,
you're in trouble. Put a group of pastry chefs out of their element
and then the pressure of "Top Chef," I can only say, watch the
I love the show "Cake Boss"-all the arguing in the
kitchen while they make the cakes. Is that what it was like for
I haven't seen that show, but a kitchen is a very intense
place. There's the pressure of time and perfection. ... Every human
emotion you can go through, I went through it on "Top Chef." It's
very surreal. It'll be interesting to watch myself and the other
contestants on the show.
Where did you learn your love of
It has to come from my parents. My parents are Pakistani,
and cooking in our home was a very important daily ritual. We never
ate out. Weekends were big in cooking; they always cooked together.
... My mom used to make French desserts out of Julia Child's
cookbooks. She'd make souffles and desserts. She always ventured
into something different.
What kind of food do you cook for your
I cook American and all types of ethnic cuisine. My
philosophy with my kids is not to give them anything that I don't
Are you teaching your boys to
I am in an apartment right now and I have a really small
galley kitchen, so it's sometimes hard to cook with them. But they
like to crack the eggs and my elder son is always asking to make
pastry with me. They have a fascination with meringue.
What do you always have in your
A variety of vegetables that I either put into foods, like
one-pot meals, or we'll do raw vegetables in salads or steamed
vegetables. And I always have Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. When I'm
trying to do easy food for the kids and I don't want to mask the
flavor, like something with pasta and chicken or warm spinach, this
is perfect to add.
Now that the show's over, what's
I'm working on my own online cookie business at
malikaameen.com. I'm going to be selling high-end gourmet
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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