MasterChef Canada returns with a shocking Episode 1 twist

After four seasons of a reality competition program, it’s easy to grow accustomed to the format. MasterChef Canada is, after all, about home cooks competing against each other (and themselves) for the chance to impress judges Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile and Alvin Leung on the road to winning $100,000. How different can that be going into Season 4? Very.

Returning on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, MasterChef Canada launches out of the gate with one heck of a twist to the audition process: 24 finalists receive a box of rice in the mail and have just 20 minutes to figure out what they’ll create. That happens before the contestants even set foot in the MasterChef kitchen. Once they get there the stress level only increases; this may just be the most dramatic and challenging season.

Here’s what Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile had to say about Season 4 of the show.

I was literally on the edge of my seat watching the first challenge.
Michael Bonacini: It was a great twist and it’s been fun unravelling these twists before the home cooks’ eyes and seeing the sheer shock on this faces and the vibe that you pick up from being in that kitchen in the moment. It is priceless.

Claudio Aprile: It really set the tone for the next 11 episodes because it was very intense, unpredictable … no one had any idea what was happening until it happened.

I loved the curveball in Episode 1 because, at this point, in the franchise’s history, contestants think they know what’s going to happen.
Michael Bonacini: It’s exactly that. Even you, as a viewer, think you know the rhythm and the routine. Every once in a while we’ll throw in a humdinger that turns it on its head and reinvents it, and leaves you gasping for breath.

What keeps you coming back as judges every season? You all have restaurants to manage, so why do it?
Claudio Aprile: I really enjoy it. I’m aware that it’s really rare to be on a show like this and when you arrive on set you realize just how special it is. I get to work with an amazing crew and have been a big fan of Michael and Alvin forever. We have a lot of fun. Sometimes we just pinch ourselves that we’re on this aspirational show which, I know it sounds cliché, has changed people’s lives.

Michael Bonacini: It’s a real joy to be a part of. I was scared to death the first time I showed up on set and saw the magnitude of the set and the number of cameras and the crew. I felt so small and insignificant. It put the fear of God into me. You push yourself to do a better job each time every time to do a tasting or visit a cook’s station. You really want to be able to communicate how things taste and the technique they’ve used and hope viewers latch on to that as well. It’s not just the road of excitement of the show but what is going on in the mind of the cook. It’s truly a joy to be a part of this and to hang out with a couple of dudes like Alvin and Claudio is a bonus.

Are you still looking for the same high bar from these home cooks? Has that changed in Season 4?
Claudio Aprile: For me, it always boils down to one thing and that is making food that is delicious. Nothing else matters to me. When I’m at that podium and the home cook presents their dish, all I’m looking for is deliciousness. Presentation and creativity is important but if it doesn’t taste good, the presentation and creativity become irrelevant.

Michael Bonacini: I think, as the seasons progress, there is this for me, the next group of home cooks to be that much better than the season before and so on. That’s tough to acquire and find and part of getting to that spot is part of our responsibility in terms of critiquing, the comments and the challenges. But there are definitely moments within every episode, every season, where home cooks exceed those expectations. There are disappointments, but when someone exceeds your expectations it just blows your mind.

MasterChef Canada airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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