Ph.D. Pitt. Student Brett Bankson wins Top Chef Amateur competition

Food may be a necessity or a pleasure for most of us, but for Pitt Ph.D., 28. candidate and recent “The best amateur cooks” winner Brett Bankson, food is much more. For him, food is a way of interacting with others and the world around us.

“For me, food is a way of expressing myself, of interacting intimately with people,” Bankson said.

Brett appeared in the first season, episode 12 of BravoTVs’ “Top Chef Amateurs”, a spin-off of the hit series. “Excellent chef.” On the show, home cooks are invited to compete for a chance to win $ 5,000.

The casting process took about three months, starting with an online quiz followed by a series of interviews and auditions, according to Bankson. Once sunk, the show’s producers took Bankson to Portland for three days of filming. After quarantine of eight days, Bankson went through a day of pre-interviews, a day of competition and a day of post-interviews.

While Bankson was thrilled to have won the episode with a separate nut soup, he said the cooking shows only offered a brief glimpse into what cooking and food means to him.

“In my day-to-day life, I am a very uncompetitive and non-confrontational person,” Bankson said. “I don’t think cooking contests are anything but what they are. Which in this case is an hour of two people in a very artificial environment on television.

Food for Bankson is anything but an artificial concept – it has been a staple of his life since childhood. He pointed to memories such as eating Gouda cheese on the floor of his new home with his cousins ​​when he was a child and explore new cities through their culinary scene.

“The most poignant memories of my life have a food component,” Bankson said. “I like to interact with the world through taste.”

Food isn’t the only passion in Bankson’s life. Along with his flourishing culinary career, he is also pursuing his doctorate. in Cognitive Psychology at Pitt. He works under the guidance of Associate Professor Avniel Singh Ghuman student high level vision – how people recognize faces, objects and other visual stimuli.

Ghuman said Bankson has an incredible ability to balance different aspects of his life.

“By balancing everything in his life, he has a passion for each of them,” said Ghuman.

But Bankson’s relationship with his academic pursuits has not always been a healthy one. The academic path can be a mentally exhausting path paved with failures and frustrations, according to Bankson. Throughout his college career, Bankson has said he is fueled by thoughts of perfectionism and struggles with feelings of inadequacy.

“If I didn’t feel overwhelmed, I didn’t feel like I was doing enough,” Bankson said.

It was during this time of intense frustration that Bankson turned to his passions and began to find solace in them. He described the tensions between seeking new and exciting opportunities in the food field, following obtaining “Top Chef Amateurs” and staying in cognitive psychology.

“There’s this tension between this thing that I have no training for that makes me feel so good, and this thing that I have developed skills in for over eight years,” Bankson said.

Sydney Boutros – Bankson’s best friend who is currently pursuing a doctorate. in Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon University of Health and Sciences – says the rigor of a doctorate. program often leads people to other creative outlets.

“The stress and difficulty of having a doctorate. program really pushes people to find something outside of the doctorate, ”Boutros said.

According to Boutros, food and cooking aren’t just stress relievers for Bankson – they’re a way to convey love and interact with those around him. She said Bankson started cooking for her and her other friends only to share the love that food brought her.

“He started out cooking for all of his friends just because he wanted to share the joy it brought him,” Boutros said. “And to see him be recognized for his creativity is amazing, because the more people there are who experience the love he puts into his kitchen, the creativity and all the thought processes behind it, it really is something special. . “

For Bankson, he said the success of “Top Chef” was just another opportunity for him to continue to spread love through his work.

“I have had a very uplifting and positive experience sharing my thoughts on food with people due to this wonderful random opportunity on ‘Top Chef’,” Bankson said. “Clearly people care, it’s fine, I just want to cook for you.” “

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