MIAMI – Through his meals, Venezuelan John Pardo touched hearts and served as inspiration for thousands of people in the second season of “MasterChef Latino.” And he did everything “in his own way.”
Pardo took advantage of his participation in the program broadcast by the Hispanic network Telemundo to show the world the main ingredient of his triumph in life: “Yes you can when you want.”
“I wanted to show that there are no limits. The limits are set by oneself, they are in the mind,” Pardo said in an interview at his Miami home. “This is how I live my life; I don’t put limitations on myself. I am not a ‘superhero’ or anything special. But if I, who am in a wheelchair, can do it, everyone can do it.”
Pardo said he is the first person in a wheelchair to participate (and become a finalist) in a reality cooking show in the United States.
A graphic designer and businessman, Pardo, 46, is about to release a documentary called, “I Did It My Way” (johnpardodidit.com), which recounts his nearly 28-day and nearly 500-mile journey on the Camino de Santiago, known in English as the Way of St. James.
The Camino de Santiago is a series of Christian pilgrimage routes of medieval origin that go to the tomb of the apostle Santiago el Mayor, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain.
Pardo’s documentary was awarded first place in the 2018 WorldFest Houston with the Gold Remy for best documentary.
“I describe the ‘Way’ as a metaphor for my life; in it, I leave a testimony of great experiences, friendships and teachings. It is much more than a trip or a blog. It is a documentary piece that seeks to reveal with realism and simplicity that we can develop when we set out to do something and work on it,” Pardo said.
Pardo made the journey in the wheelchair he regularly uses, not a modified or electric chair, because it “is his legs.” Armed only with a GoPro camera, Pardo took his August 2017 journey on the longest route, the oldest, crossing the Pyrenees from France, an experience that he says “allowed him to learn to shed material and put his ideas in order.”
Another of his projects about to “get out of the oven” is his book, titled “Cook Your Way.”
Pardo says he has loved to cook since he was 5 years old, inheriting that love from his mother’s and grandmothers’ kitchens. He teaches private cooking classes and his exquisite home, which he designed and describes as an eastern oasis, is frequently listed for rent to travelers.
Pardo is the son of an American mother and a Venezuelan father but grew up mostly in Venezuela. His life changed radically when he was 21; a gunshot in his back left him a paraplegic.
“Because of my youth and immaturity, I faced some criminals who wanted to steal my car. I bled so much that I think I died three times,” he said.
The young businessman, accustomed to surfing, participating in triathlons, marathons, swimming and extreme sports, was left in a wheelchair without being able to move his left arm.
He returned to the United States for rehabilitation and has remained in the U.S. for 25 years.
“After the accident, I fell into a deep depression, but I soon got up.
My personality is like that,” he said, “always a fighter.”