Meet the awesome Amanda Saab.
A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine was gushing about how excited he was that there was a Lebanese candidate on this season’s Masterchef, which airs on FOX every Wednesday in the US.
On that episode, Amanda Saab had done a fusion cuisine dish, based on our very own Lebanese pride and joy: it was kefta with sumac aioli and jalapeño-dusted potatoes. Her favorite comfort food? Kebbeh nayye.
From that moment on, it’s only been looking up for her. She’s now considered by many to be one of the show’s front-runners. Amanda and I have spoken a couple of times on Twitter, and I’ve noticed how many people are rooting for her whenever a new episode airs. She keeps getting attention the more she progresses. But this is not only what’s impressive about Mrs. Saab.
Originally Lebanese and born in Michigan, when Amanda Saab does not cook, she works as a social worker in Seattle where she lives with her husband, Hussein. Cooking was her way to deal with the grief and horrors she witnessed in her every day job. Her inspiration cuisine is Lebanese, but she likes to add twists to it.
Amanda Saab is also the first Muslim candidate to go on the US’ Masterchef. She’s also the first veiled woman to go on any American primetime TV show.
I’ve been following up with news around Masterchef for a while now, and it’s safe to say that Amanda Saab is changing minds about Islam, about Muslim women and about Muslim-Americans for the general American audience.
This is to say that even if Amanda Saab does not end up being the show’s overall winner, which I do hope she is (the show has already been filmed), with her participation in Masterchef, she’s challenging preconceptions that Americans have about women in headscarves: when they’re seeing Amanda follow her passion, and do it in such a glorious way, they can’t but reconsider what they thought they knew.
At a time when the only news of Islam that’s propagating around the world is ISIS and their terror, Amanda Saab is showing that there’s another side to Islam, and it’s people like everyone else, with scarves or without, who can cook and who can’t.
Ramadan Kareem and good luck to Amanda!