Yakima chef plans to use national exposure to help his hometown - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Yakima chef plans to use national exposure to help his hometown

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YAKIMA, WA - A Yakima pastor and home chef went national this week as he got the chance to showcase his cooking skills on a popular competition show. 

Shawn Niles was 1 of 34,000 home chefs to audition for the 8th season of FOX's MasterChef in Portland, OR last year for the chance to win $250,000.

"I'm just a home chef. My full time job is a pastor. I'm the pastor of Dad's House Church in Yakima," said Niles.

Drawing culinary inspiration from the memories he made with his father in the kitchen, this home chef made a bucket list in 2009, writing down that he wanted to cook for his chef hero, Gordon Ramsey.

"Being a home chef, you don't have a lot of opportunity to put your skills up against people who are doing this professionally," Niles said.

He was 1 of 40 to advance to the competitive cooking show and he was the only person from Washington state that made it to the show. Season 8 debuted on FOX Wednesday. The stiff competition is trimmed by half right off the bat as chefs face off in a 2-person round to become an official contestant.

"I was immediately intimidated when I found out I'd be making fried chicken against my competitor," Niles admitted.

As far as the outcome of round 1, unfortunately Niles didn't get the coveted white apron. But he says he gained so much more.

"When Gordon Ramsey said that it was clear that I was born to cook, it really got me and there was a moment where I thought, I'm going to burst into tears on national TV because it felt so good to have one of your cooking heroes to really confirm your cooking skills," said Niles.

Niles' focus now is to give back to his hometown.

"This is my city, I love Yakima with all my heart."

He's now using his passion to tackle issues like violence and crime, in partnership with the Yakima Police Athletic League (YPAL). Dad's House Church has raised $5,500 to sponsor a 3-month culinary program for kids in Yakima.

"Because of my opportunity on MasterChef, it just made sense to start a program where I could be both a pastor to a group of kids and also be able to teach them some incredible skills," he explained.

They plan to launch the program at the end of this month, teaching kids cooking and business skills. At  the end of the program, the kids will have a chance to run a restaurant for 3 nights.

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