Fox's 'MasterChef' is a high-wire act

Courtney Lapresi tries to impress "MasterChef" judges (from left) Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich.

As an aerial dancer, Courtney Lapresi is accustomed to working under pressure.

And then she performed at the stove in front of Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot on Season Five of Fox's MasterChef, the cameras were rolling, and well....

"That could get pretty intimidating," said Lapresi, 25, who performs at Haven nightclub at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

Lapresi is one of 30 home cooks appearing on the season premiere, Monday, May 26 at 8 p.m.

Lapresi, who grew up in Geneva, N.Y., and came to Philadelphia to attend the University of the Arts as a dance student, decided to try out for the show because she is fan. Among her friends, she's the one who is always cooking and sharing food. "I'd see the challenges and try to replicate them," she said.

For the MasterChef tryouts, hopefuls are asked to prepare a signature dish and bring it with them. "I didn't want to go crazy," she said. She made a honey almond cake that did not require special care or refrigeration.

She got the callback. On the show, details of which she could not discuss, "they throw you into the kitchen.

"You were cooking for your life."

Or at least for $250,000 and a cookbook deal.