The Truth About Elena Ross-Salonga From The Julia Child Challenge

"Enjoys learning through failing at baking," reads a line in "The Julia Child Challenge" contestant Elena Ross-Salonga's Instagram bio. It's a humble description that echoes the spirit of her "culinary heroine," Julia Child. Child, legendary cookbook author and host of "The French Chef," was known for encouraging audiences to view kitchen mistakes as opportunities to grow. Judging from the content of Ross-Salonga's page, it seems she embodies that very mindset. In one post, she admitted that she was still working out the kinks after her eighth attempt at making baguettes.

Like Child, Ross-Salonga, a self-taught food lover who cooks primarily inside her home kitchen in Cambria, California, enjoys trying new things. One novel adventure for her this year was becoming a contestant on the upcoming "Julia Child Challenge" competition series, which premieres March 14 on Food Network and the discovery+ streaming service. The show follows eight fans of the culinary titan as they compete in various cooking challenges with the hope of winning a course at Child's alma mater, Le Cordon Bleu in France. As Ross-Salonga shared on social media, the opportunity to be on the show couldn't have come at a better time. "Last year I told the universe, hey universe let's do more things that will take me out of my comfort zone," she wrote. Three days later, she got her shot. She added: "I hope you guys will tune in to see your friend get out of her comfort zone and compete with some of the best home cooks in the country."

Ross-Salonga enjoys a good cooking challenge

According to Food Network, Ross-Salonga's experience in the kitchen was initially born out of necessity. After immigrating from the Philippines to the U.S. with her family at age 11, she learned how to cook from her mom so she could feed herself and her brother when her parents worked. What started as an obligation eventually evolved into a hobby, which then became a passion. Since 2018, Ross-Salonga has used her Instagram profile to publicly chronicle her culinary journey, cooking up everything from homemade pizza to grilled lamb, as well as challenging herself to try new baking recipes. 

Through it all, Julia Child, along with other notable female food figures, have remained a significant source of inspiration for the California-based cook. Growing up, she had photos of The French Chef hung up on her walls, complete with quotes for motivation. While her appreciation for Child is what initially attracted her to "The Julia Child Challenge," Ross-Salonga notes that what ultimately convinced her to overcome her hesitations about being on camera was viewing it as a chance to "see how far" she could push herself, while honoring those who have influenced her career path. "When the universe gives you the answer you just say CHALLENGE ACCEPTED ... Doing this is my thank you to my culinary heroine Julia Child," she said. "Doing this is my thank you to the recipe makers who have made me a better cook."