MasterChef Latino 2: Venezuelan Contestant John Pardo Is Using His Story To Inspire The World

Several of the participants in MasterChef Latino have incredible stories of personal growth and difficult challenges but the case of John Pardo is a very special one.

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Courtesy of MasterChef Latino

Years ago, when John was 21 and lived in Venezuela he was shot in the back, which left him paralyzed. Yet, he always had a positive attitude to achieve his dreams and goals.

VIX talked with John abut his documentary about "The Way of St James" and his journey in MasterChef Latino.

VIX: Tell us how the love for cooking was born and why you want to win the chef title in MasterChef Latino?

John Pardo: I always loved to cook since my earliest memories, always helping my mother and grandmother in the kitchen. However, as I got older I began to understand the romanticism of cooking, that cooking is a true expression of love. Travel also inspired me. From a young age I was fortunate enough to start travelling, getting exposure to Spainish, Italian and French cooking and this really ignited my curiosity for flavour and ingredients. And I started experimenting to replicate what I was experiencing.

What finally brought me to where I am today as a cook was becoming paralysed. When you lose the use of a part of your body it is said that other parts of you become more sensitive and intuitive. I found this to be particularly true when it came to taste and smell. I was always drawn to the smell of the kitchen but today the aromas and creativity of the kitchen really move me and is integral to who I have become.

I have worked hard at cooking over the years but with cooking you never stop learning. On Master Chef I am growing as a cook and continuing to learn from my mentors and my fellow contestants. However, the reason I entered Master Chef and one of the reasons I continue to push myself is so I can inspire people who are in the same situation as me to keep growing and learning and never stop experiencing what life has to offer.

VIX: You have a documentary called "Camino De Santiago," tell us a little about that experience?

John Pardo: After coming out of my 18 year marriage I had reached a crossroads in my life. I needed to rediscover myself and find my way forward again. I had heard about the "Camino De Santiago "also known as 'The Way’"or the "The Way of St James" and that going on this 800km journey across Spain can be a life changing experience. For abled bodied people this is a gruelling challenge but no one had completed "The Way" unassisted in a wheelchair. But off I went, armed only with my unmodified chair and a GoPro.

This ancient route took me over the Pyrenees mountains and across the vast and changing landscape of Spain. The Spanish people were so kind and hospitable to me, welcoming me into their homes and inviting me to dine and experience truly local Spanish cooking. It is difficult to articulate how important this was to keep me going during one of the most challenging journeys of my life.

I completed "The Wa" in 28 days and created my documentary "Did It My Way,"which chronicles this journey and tells the story of the people I met and the challenges I faced.

VIX: You say publicly that your wheelchair is not an impediment to get ahead, how do you assimilate it in this competition?

John Pardo: The moment when I got shot was obviously devastating for me but it was very difficult on my family. So as critical as it was for me to get moving, a large part of my motivation was driven by not wanting to see my family hurting. So I dug really deep and got moving again. Finding that kind of strength was difficult but once you find it, no one can take it away from you. So I use what I gained in that deeply tragic point in my life to power myself through all the challenges of my life. Win or lose, I will always push my hardest and strive to do my best and I think that is all any of us can do.

VIX: What message do you want to leave on your way through MasterChef Latino?

John Pardo: I entered Master Chef Latino, to improve my cooking but also to inspire others that are in a similar place to where I was when I became paralyzed - to inspire, even if it is just one person, to keep going. I have realized over time that the only limits we have are the ones we put in front of ourselves. Also that to get where you want to, you simply have to do things your way.

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