WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Central Indiana has recently been well represented in the reality cooking show, MasterChef. With West Lafayette’s Bowen Li competing in season nine and Fishers resident Kelsey Murphy taking home the title of MasterChef in season 11 last year. 

This season is one unlike any other, called, ‘MasterChef: Back to Win’ giving a second chance to past contestants, including Bowen Li. 

“I’m the best,” Bowen said, “Gordon Ramsay told me I’m a good cook and also, he said I was a born chef. That means a lot, that means the whole world to me! Because when Gordon Ramsay says you’re a really good chef that means I’m good chef. I’m a great chef.”

West Lafayette business owner and Purdue grad Bowen brings not only a taste of Hollywood to the Hoosier state but also something more.

“I’m not only representing Chinese culture, but also representing central Indiana,” Bowen said. “I’m from Chi- Tianjin, China and I always incorporate my heritage, Asian food, into the dish.”

Bowen crafted masterful mozzarella-infused pot stickers for us to try – an admittedly unusual combination for the traditional Asian entree. 

“I think people have a WOW reaction like, where does the idea come from?” Bowen said. “You know it isn’t normal, but it does taste good.”

Bowen says he learned to cook from his father when they both lived in China. He calls his dad the ‘Chinese version of Gordon Ramsay’ recalling the many times his father got vocal in the kitchen. Unlike Mr. Ramsay, however, was Bowen’s father’s outlook on passing down his skill to his son. Bowen said being a chef is not a good job in China. But, his parents are able to watch him from China and are proud.

Bowen remembers how his parents were impressed with how gracious he was in his defeat last time on the show.

“You know, the elimination moment, it is hard to accept. But as an adult, as a great chef, you [are] supposed to stand up when you fell at that moment and I feel like I did learn from my mistake last time,” Bowen said. “But it is difficult because you can make no mistake in front of Gordon Ramsay. Because he’s yelling at you in the kitchen the whole time, make you flustered. It’s for real!”

But with some, hard-to-swallow moments, comes delicious growth.

“His (Gordon Ramsay’s) advice is worth million dollars. And that’s why I become a chef as right now,” Bowen said. “You get – the best advice from Gordon Ramsay and then you can learn so much while you’re cooking when he teach you something you learn it fast but understand cooking in front of Gordon Ramsay is one of the most serious moments in your life – trust me.”

These tense moments – often observed throughout the Master Chef season, have helped Bowen hone his craft, highlighting attention for detail. 

“Every customer, when they see my plates, they will have a wow face,” Bowen said. “Every single detail, it make it big difference. So, I basically focus on very small detail. All that comes together, is presenting beautifully when you bring the plates to the customers.”

And I was certainly no exception, observing the beautiful display on the plate – it stands to reason why Bowen lets his food speak for itself. 

“I don’t speak perfect English because food is universal languages – can bring people together. Can make people knowing you. Can make people understand you. And people can read from the plate because you’re just plating your life on their plate,” Bowen said.

The plates served up at Bowen Bistro, taste like home.

“I love West Lafayette. I graduated from Purdue and then I feel like I should open one restaurant to develop West Lafayette people’s taste buds,” Bowen said. “That’s the reason why I want to showcase myself on TV. I want to represent people who has passion for anything. Just keep following your dreams. One day your dream will become true – just like me. I want to inspire people when they are watching me on MasterChef. They say, oh! Because of me, because of Bowen, I changed my life – I followed my passion. I never stopped working. I never stopped following my passion. I did make my dream come true.”

Bowen would like to one day become a Michelin-rated chef and work for Gordon Ramsay at one of his restaurants. 

In the meantime, you can make a reservation to eat at Bowen Bistro in West Lafayette. 

MasterChef: Back to Win airs at 8pm on Wednesdays on FOX59.