We were rootin' for Newton on Season 8 of MasterChef. With his signature black felt hat and rough and tough no-bull demeanor, the self-professed Cowboy Chef from Lipan, Texas, seemed poised to ride all the way to the culinary competition's finale.
That's why it seemed both odd and unfair that Mike Newton received an unceremonious mid-season elimination in 2017. His final episode ended in a cliffhanger, and editors cut his departure from the show entirely. He simply disappeared.
But, we have good news about the hometown-ish chef. Newton's still cooking, and you can even book a private dinner or class with him — as well as other MasterChef alumni — via "culinary experiences" website Eatwith.
Now airing its ninth season on Fox, MasterChef features home cooks from across the country vying for the top spot through a series of increasingly difficult skills and leadership tests. Former contestants have already been booking dinners for three years, but in June the site announced a new exclusive partnership with the show's producers. That means contestants from the current season have already begun scheduling their own events, and fans can request bookings with them as early as the day after their elimination episode airs.
So far, Newton's dinners have received stellar reviews on the Eatwith site. Don't let the country setting fool you; the dishes implement high-end ingredients and showcase a lifetime of culinary curiosity, inspired in part by an old Julia Child cookbook his parents sent when he was in his 20s and living as a single guy on a secluded ranch in Paris, Texas.
Today, his cooking costs around $125-175 per person for five courses. His three go-to current summer menus feature sophisticated ingredients like haricots verts and red onion marmalade side-by-side with hearty bone-in ribeyes and chipotle mashed potatoes, a rep says. Guests are asked to bring their own beverages, including alcohol, if desired.
Newton's private dinners are available almost anytime, by request; guests simply submit preferred dates online. They can take place at his ranch, about 60 miles west of Fort Worth, or at virtually any other venue at a guest's request, a rep confirms.
In fact, he has expanded to large parties and catering and has serviced auctions and galas for nonprofit organizations like Tarrant Area Food Bank. Since September, he has helped raise more than $350,000 for local charities, he said via email, and he has set a goal to make that number $500,000 by the end of the year. He lists similar special events on his personal site, cowboychefnewton.com.
Fans looking to hone their own kitchen skills can also take Newton's cooking classes throughout D-FW. Over the summer, Newton taught North Texans with two other memorable MasterChef former contestants, season 8 finalist Jason Wang and fan-favorite Gabriel Lewis, whom, during an emotional elimination, chef-judge Gordon Ramsay vowed to send to culinary school.
As for the Cowboy Chef, the fourth-generation Texan left an immediate impression in season 8's opening scene when he earnestly drawled, "I'm here to win this sumbitch."
But, he first had to earn a spot on the show. Leading up to his first challenge, he expressed hope that his inaugural dish for celebrity chef judges Ramsay, Aarón Sánchez and Christina Tosi would involve a piece of beef, but he was tasked with something daintier: a cupcake.
He produced a Lone Star State-inspired espresso chocolate dessert with chipotle bourbon and pecan frosting, which he described as, "a little cupcake, just like me, easy on the eyes."
Notorious potty-mouth Ramsay responded:
"If that's what you can do with a cupcake, [expletive] knows what you can do with a piece of steak."
Newton was finally given the chance to show him with a porterhouse in episode 8, appropriately titled "Whole-y Cow."
"The only problem I have with this dish is that the 14 people behind you can't taste it," Ramsay said, referring to the other competitors. Feeling as though he was emerging as a threat, Newton said in an interview: "I'm like an old locomotive. I'm a little slow to get started, but it's going to be hard as hell to stop me."
Alas, it was a bottle of caviar that ultimately derailed the cowboy.
Unable to remove the lid, Newton ran out of time and was forced to leave his oysters without their final required ingredients, a disqualifying factor. He later told Glen Rose Reporter his dish was otherwise "perfect," according to the judges, but he had struggled because of weakness in his left hand due to MS and a stroke he suffered just months before appearing in the MasterChef kitchen.
Speaking openly and frequently about those health issues during the show's airing, Newton described his MasterChef appearance as part of his "second chance." He said the stroke had inspired him to focus on becoming a full-time rancher and chef.
He might not have made it to the show's finale, but it seems the former reality TV star has made that dream a reality.
Scroll through for more photos from our recent visit to the Cowboy Chef's ranch: