Nina Interlandi Bell is competing for a $250,000 top prize on Fox’s “MasterChef.” She’s a vocal fan of wild food sources like weeds, mushrooms and game, and writes about her foraging and food adventures on social media. She’s also a rock singer and guitarist who blends music into her posts. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A marketing manager from Woolwich is hoping to show off her wild side to a national TV audience.

Nina Interlandi Bell is competing on the current season of the Fox cooking show “MasterChef.” Bell is a very vocal fan of wild food – weeds, mushrooms, game – and writes about her foraging and food adventures on social media. She’s also a rock singer and guitarist who blends music into her posts.

It was her online presence that led the “MasterChef” producers to ask her to audition. She had never seen the cooking competition show, hosted by the mercurial Gordon Ramsay.

“I did some binge watching before I went to the audition,” said Bell, 44. “It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Everyone seems so stressed out on TV. That’s how they edit it and keep people engaged. But all the people I met were cool and creative and professional. ”

Bell has already passed her televised audition for the show and will be reintroduced as one of the season’s final 20 contestants during the episode Wednesday. That means she’ll be able to compete against the 19 others for a chance to win the show’s $250,000 prize and the “MasterChef” title.


Bell appeared on the show’s May 24 episode, during the audition round, and made venison dumplings. Judge Joe Bastianich asked her if she was using some pork fat, since venison can be dry. When she said she wasn’t, Bastianich told her the dish seemed “super risky.” But the risk paid off, as the dish was good enough to qualify her to become one of the top 20 competitors and receive the show’s coveted white apron.

On that episode, Bell joked with Bastianich and Aaron Sanchez, another judge, about omitting pork fat in favor of something a bit more wild.

“In Maine, that’s what we do, we use what we have. Sometimes we don’t have pork fat, we have squirrel fat, we use that instead,” Bell said.

She didn’t actually use squirrel fat on the show, though she has a jar of it in her freezer at home. She did bring some foraged ingredients from Maine to “MasterChef,” including dried sweet fern, sea salt, maple syrup and hen of the wood mushrooms. But she and all the other contestants are restricted to using only things provided by the “MasterChef” pantry.

Nina Interlandi Bell of Woolwich, during the audition round on “MasterChef.” She qualified to compete on the show, beginning Wednesday. Photo courtesy of FOX

Bell said she’s been making the dumplings she made on the show for years, often with pork, but since moving to Maine 10 years ago – after growing up in Nashville and living in New York City and Chicago – she began adapting her recipes to include “whatever hunter friends gave me.”

She posts about foraging and wild food on her Instagram account and writes an email newsletter called “Wild Things.” She’s written a book called “Foraging for the Rest of Us,” which is available on her website, and is planning to launch a YouTube show about wild food, “gestalt seeking” and rock ‘n’ roll called “The Restless Rust” on June 25. She says becoming a rock star was her “plan A,” and she was in bands throughout her 20s and 30s before turning to a career in marketing. She continues to play and sing.


Bell, who works from home as marketing manager for a data company, eats dandelion greens and other weeds she finds around her home. She’s also a “very novice” mushroom forager and has taken up hunting over the past few years, but has yet to bag anything. She lives on a 5-acre homestead with her husband, Ian Bell, and two children – Grace, 6 and Sam, 11. The family has chickens, horses, fruit trees and an “enormous” garden.

On “MasterChef,” she hopes to continue spreading her enthusiasm for wild and natural foods.

“My passion has been to get people excited about wild food, and I hope that the judges are going to taste the passion that I have for my foraged ingredients,” Bell said on the May 24 episode.

Bell said that even though Ramsay is famous for his on-camera yelling, he was very supportive off-camera and offered cooks tips.

“He is very intense, but the yelling and stuff is just a tiny part of his personality,” Bell said.

Nina Interlandi Bell of Woolwich wears the coveted white apron of “MasterChef” contestants. Photo courtesy of Nina Interlandi Bell

This season’s edition of the show is titled “MasterChef: United Tastes of America,” and during the audition rounds, home cooks from the West, Northeast, Midwest and South battled each other to make the top 20. The cooks create dishes each week to fit that week’s theme or challenge.

The show airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. weekly on Fox stations, and contestants will be eliminated each week. The finale, when the winner will be crowned, is scheduled to air Sept. 20.

“I felt like I wanted to get at least this far,” said Bell, of becoming one of the final 20 contestants. “Everything else from here is gravy.”

Comments are no longer available on this story