(WARNING: Major MasterChef Season 5 Spoilers ahead!)

MasterChef, Fox’s marquee cooking reality competition, just concluded its fifth over-the-top season of impossible challenges for these home cooks looking for their big culinary break. Though this season had a particularly high amount of lovable characters (high schooler Ahran, Mr. Mom-and-step-dad-of-Sabrina-the-Teenage-Witch Leslie, and Big Willie, to name a few), just like Highlander, there can be only one.

And this year, it was Courtney Lapresi of Philadelphia, who cooked everything from a croquembouche to duck sumac to get to the top and win a cash prize and book deal. Throughout the season, the producers constantly reminded us how driven she is. After all, she’s an aerialist and has worked in a gentleman’s club in college to pay her tuition. So, when I spoke to her this last week, I had to ask…

Playboy: Where can people see you doing aerials in the future?
CL: Now that I’ve won MasterChef, I’m not so sure I’ll be performing aerials very often. I’ll still probably go to the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts for classes, but I’d like to keep food be my primary focus. Winning MasterChef doesn’t mean I won’t still be taking ballet classes or aerial classes, but it might mean I have to put them aside while I pursue this new avenue of my life.

Playboy: Shooting completed in the spring; How did you keep a secret this long?
CL: It was tough! I was writing my cookbook, celebrating my win, and trying to live my ‘normal’ life in complete secrecy! I kept telling people I was very 'busy’ and had 'a lot of work to do’ but could never go into any detail. I basically told everyone if they cared about me at all, they would respect my privacy, and they did.

Playboy: Can you tell us about the Spice Girls photo shoot?
CL: Ha! That was from a competition my friends and I entered into in 2013. We did a Spice Girl themed circus act with two aerial acts, a whole bunch of rhinestones and good old Union Jack. It was the most fun I’ve had on stage with my friends.

Playboy: What are your plans to do with the prize earnings?
CL: I really have no idea. I would love to find a way to invest it and secure financial stability for my future. And of course I would like to finish paying my student loans.

Playboy: Was there a lot of offscreen romance between the cast members?
CL: I wouldn’t know, I didn’t spend much time socializing with the cast members in my off time. We spent all day competing against each other, I just wanted to go 'home’ [to the hotel] and have some quiet time.

Playboy: What were hosts Joe Bastianich, Graham Elliot, and Gordon Ramsay like when the cameras stopped rolling?
CL: They were very nice. They were wonderful mentors who were genuinely concerned with making sure we were cooking to the best of our ability. I am very grateful for their mentorship.

Playboy: What’s the strangest request or message you’ve gotten from a fan?
CL: A lot of my fans send me messages asking if I’ll marry them. Its very sweet and I’m flattered, but sadly, I’m just not ready for marriage at this point in my life.

Playboy: What do you say to the critics who think you won because your story was really strong?
CL: I say that I was a strong and confident competitor with a very good strategy and a talent to win.

Playboy: Any regrets?
CL: I really shouldn’t have any regrets—considering that I won. But I do still wish that I had gone to the front of the kitchen to watch Chef Ramsay fillet the Alaskan King Salmon. That was an invaluable cooking lesson that all of the competitors missed out on.

You can pre-order Everyday Fancy, Courtney’s cookbook, here.