When Cynthia Price of Arlington took a week off to compete on a nationally televised cooking show, some of her friends at work leapt to the wrong conclusion.
"I wasn't allowed to tell people what I was doing," she says. "I was sworn to secrecy. My bosses couldn't say anything either. So when I didn't show up that week, everyone was like, 'Is she in trouble?'"
Not in trouble. But Price was living in fear as one of 100 amateur cooks competing on MasterChef.
What if Gordon Ramsay, the famously hotheaded celebrity chef, didn't like the dish she prepared?
Never miss a local story.
"I was like: 'He might yell at me. What if he throws my food in the trash? How would I respond?'" she says. "I'm a fan of Hell's Kitchen. I've seen how he can be with people. That's what made me nervous."
The Season 2 premiere of MasterChef is at 7 p.m. Monday on Fox.
Price, a native Houstonian who moved to Arlington in 2003, is one of 15 Texans competing for the $250,000 prize (although she's the only one who lists Tarrant County as her home).
Price was selected during her Dallas audition on the strength of one of her signature dishes: shrimp, portobello mushrooms and green beans.
She also stood out from the crowd because a tiara topped her head.
"I was one of the finalists last year on Paula Deen's Real Women of Philadelphia [a cooking competition sponsored by Philadelphia Cream Cheese]," she says. "I remember Paula telling me one time, 'You have to do something that makes you stand out.' So I bought myself the tiara to wear."
Price, who is married with two kids, works as a human-resources representative at the Dallas Military Entrance Processing Station. She interviews young men and women who enlist to make sure they are qualified for military service.
Price moved to south Arlington after her husband retired from the Navy and her son enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington.
She says cooking is a lifelong passion. Speaking of passion, she says her cooking is one of the reasons Alonso, her high-school sweetheart, married her.
"I like cooking all kinds of food," she says. "But seafood is my main thing: spicy seafood, Cajun seafood, I like different gumbos. I've got a lot of different videos on YouTube. I love cooking, and I love teaching people how to cook."
She is not allowed to reveal how she fared on MasterChef. It's that secrecy bugaboo again, which was quite hard on her.
"It was crazy," Price says. "When the information about the contestants was put out on the Internet, you could see my name and home city, and all of a sudden I had all of these people calling me up. 'Why didn't you tell me you were on MasterChef?' People were yelling at me. And all I could say was: 'I'm so sorry. I couldn't say anything.'"
The one thing she does reveal in advance, however, is an interesting tease.
"I think viewers will think of me as a villain," Price says. "Although I'm a sweet person, when I get upset, I can get a little rowdy at times. My friends and family know who I am, but I think viewers might see me a little differently."