Michael Bonacini sits atop a restaurant empire that boasts eight high-profile eateries in the Toronto region. He and Peter Oliver have built a reputation for incredible food amid wonderful settings. So it would seem impossible for the remaining MasterChef Canada finalists to sully his name with one bad service. Was he nervous at the thought of Cody and Line leading their charges around the Canoe’s hallowed kitchen for Sunday’s Restaurant Takeover?
“You’re damn right I was!” Bonacini says seriously. “Even the thought of re-watching it and reliving it on Sunday makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck a little.” While there were some friendly faces in the restaurant in Bell Media employees and at least two television critics, it didn’t make things less stressful for the veteran chef and restaurateur. Bonacini explains Canoe was selected because if its iconic location 54 storeys above the city’s financial centre and reputation made it the perfect place for the Top 6 to show their chops for 60 invited guests.
During Sunday’s episode, Cody, David, Christopher, Line, Sabrina and Michael have mere moments to absorb the news they’ll be preparing appetizers and mains in Canoe’s kitchen before they’re whisked to the top of the TD Centre and donning their whites. Bonacini outlines the ingredients needed for each plate and how to prep and plate them before hungry diners descend.
“It didn’t take long for the deer-in-the-headlights looks and silence to come over them,” Bonacini recalls. Sunday’s menu items include onion soup, tuna tacos, white salmon and steak, four dishes with several ingredients each and with plenty of pitfalls. But regardless of what goes on the plates, the biggest challenge for the remaining home cooks was the biggest killer in a professional kitchen: timing. Mess that up, Bonacini explains, and you’re dead.
“In an à la carte kitchen, you have all these orders coming in and you have to be able to handle that,” he says. “You might have special dietary requests, things requested a certain doneness and you have to be able to time all that out. It’s an enormous amount of pressure.”
Who succeeds in that environment and who crumbles? Tune in on Sunday night to find out.
MasterChef Canada airs Sundays at 7 p.m. ET on CTV.