Amanda Saab is Muslim and wears a hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf for women. She is a contestant on this season's Masterchef on Fox and is, according to Muslim Girl, the first Muslim female chef to appear in a hijab on an American primetime cooking show. Saab never intended to be a trailblazer; she simply wanted to follow her passion for cooking. She has, however, inadvertently become an inspiration for many.
In an interview with Muslim Girl, Saab acknowledged the preconceptions of those who see Muslim women in headscarves. "As with any profession," she said, "Muslim women wearing hijab can be faced with ignorance. In my experience, many stereotypes have been quickly dispelled as people get to know me. I believe my presence in the culinary world is breaking stereotypes that Muslim women are oppressed and cannot follow their passions."
Masterchef Australia had a contestant two years ago, Samira El Khafir, who was Muslim and wore a hijab. Her exit generated quite a bit of controversy due to the nature of the cooking challenge that led to her exit: cooking a pork hot dog. Pork is a prohibited food under traditional Islamic custom, and many questioned the fairness of asking El Khafir to prepare a meat that was in violation of her religion.
Saab is a social worker, and originally used cooking partly as an outlet for the amount of stress she experienced at her job. "I needed an outlet; a way to process the traumas and grief that I had witnessed," she said. "I would come home to prepare dinner and would feel better. I soon realized that cooking was my way to process my day, my creative outlet, my 'me time.'"
Saab began experimenting with recipes and started her own blog. Last fall, she saw a casting notice for the sixth season of Masterchef and applied. The season premiered last night. Saab is less concerned with stereotypes others have of hijab-wearing and women and more on her own cuising: "My cooking is a representation of me — East meets West. I love American food and I also love Mediterranean food. I love blending the flavor profiles and putting my own twist on classics."