Everything about Masterchef Canada, eh?

MasterChef Canada selects its Top 3 in emotional episode

We are just a few weeks away from the finale on June 1, and I have to say this season of MasterChef Canada has been incredible. The guest judges have been A-list and the challenges are the most diverse and difficult I’ve ever seen. Everyone involved should be proud of the work they’ve done.

That, of course, goes for the home cooks who have been put through an emotional wringer this season. They’ve made it this far, but one was set to fall on Thursday night.

“Harvest Family Dinner” began with the final team challenge set on a farm on a crisp autumn day. The word “Family” in the episode title was, of course, a hint that producers would throw Barrie, Trevor, Mai and Thea for an emotional loop by bringing their families in to try out their menus. Barrie, who won the last challenge before Miranda was eliminated, chose his teammate. Her kept the bromance going with Trevor by selecting him, putting Mai and Thea together. The winners of the challenge would immediately be put into the Top 3 … and things got serious super-fast.

I can only imagine how fast that two hours of prep and cooking time must have flown by for the final four, but camera work was a pretty good indication. Hands and feet flew, eyes were focused and every home cook was out of breath. Barrie and Trevor opted for an elevated hunter’s meal of venison while Mai and Thea opted for a surf and turf of bison steak and scallops to reflect their home provinces. Barrie and Trevor worked side by side but without collaboration, trusting each other to pull their weight. Thea and Mai, meanwhile, made recommendations to each other and kept up the advice, and Mai threatened to take over. Which method of working would end up being the winning formula? Remember that it was Thea and Mai’s conflicting advice that had a hand in Justine’s elimination a few weeks ago.

Barrie’s wine sauce for the venison and Thea’s scallops threatened to derail the plans of both squads. The sauce was fixed and the scallops weren’t, meaning that chunk of protein was ignored and Thea’s time had been wasted. Two layers of doneness on the venison was a knock against Barrie and Trevor; the same went for Mai and Thea as Alvin’s steak was overdone. You have got to nail the doneness on protein if you want to score well on MasterChef Canada and those misses were Week 1 mistakes.

Trevor and Barrie won, sending them into the Top 3 and Mai and Thea into the Elimination Challenge. For that, the pair would have to replicate a Hawaiian cloud dessert containing a ginger cookie, pineapple sponge cake and frozen kiwi hidden under a cotton candy cloud. It seemed like an impossible task for Thea and Mai to achieve—I’d love to see Alvin, Claudio or Michael make one—and it looked in the early going like a too-puffy cake would eliminate Mai. But Thea’s candy cloud was a tad deflated and her sponge cake too dense … but her tuille was perfect. Mai’s cloud was fluffier, but a piece of foil from the butter ruined her otherwise wonderful sponge cake.

Mai was eliminated from the competition, meaning Thea is headed to the Top 3 alongside Barrie and Trevor. MasterChef Canada is taking a break for one week during U.S. May Sweeps and returns May 25.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


Getting fishy in the MasterChef Canada kitchen

Some of my favourite episodes of culinary competitions challenge the contestants to show their knife skills. Top Chef Canada All-Stars did it a couple of weeks ago when the chefs prepped ingredients in a speed test and MasterChef Canada did it this week with salmon.

“Take Five” began with Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile performing a masterclass with the ruby-fleshed fish. I was hoping the trio would explain what was in their glaze, crust and poaching liquid so I could replicate the recipes at home, but editing cut all that down to before and after shots. Pity. I’d also hoped the judges would demonstrate how to properly break down a salmon, pulling out pin bones and filleting it for their recipes. Instead, we had to sit through agonizing moments watching Miranda’s knife slide around inside her poor salmon.

Claudio questioned Barrie’s decision to pair a lemon cream sauce with his rich, crusted fish and Alvin was excited to try Trevor’s fried fish eyes. Urp. Miranda, Trevor and Barrie had their plates tested and Trevor was nailed for his grainy potato purée. And though Claudio was still critical of Barrie’s cream sauce, he liked the crust on the fish. It was Miranda, with no experience breaking down or cooking salmon, who won this week’s challenge. (The look of shock on Trevor’s face was stellar.)

The Elimination Challenge was a major curve ball. After weeks of access to copious ingredients and a tricked-out pantry, the Top 5 were tasked with using just five ingredients in their next creation. As if cooking with just five things wasn’t difficult enough, once everyone was done shopping Miranda’s advantage kicked in: she switched all the baskets. Thea got Mai’s basket of pasta ingredients, Barrie received Thea’s halibut and corn, Trevor was given Barrie’s beef broth and chorizo sausage and Mai got Trevor’s pasta ingredients. I’m not sure if Miranda was playing favourites or not, but she gave Mai four of the five ingredients she’d initially picked, so Mai definitely had an advantage. Miranda, naturally, kept her own basket containing flank steak.

Thea had issues immediately—she’s allergic to shellfish and has never prepped shrimp before—and began deveining the little critters by cutting into their bottoms. No vein there, Thea. Miranda, who has helped so many of her competitors in the past, stepped up again and showed Thea what to do before returning to her own station. Would the fact Thea can’t taste her dish hurt her chances at staying in the competition?

Trevor’s shrimp succotash was impressive, though Alvin wanted two heads to go with the two tails. Still, the flavours were there. Miranda, who kept her ingredients and had an advantage, undercooked her steak and—more grievously—cut it against the grain, a major no-no on a tough cut of beef. Unless everyone else messed up royally, Miranda was going to taking off her apron. Mai’s amateur plating was offset by delicious egg-filled pasta and Barrie’s halibut and corn was a winner. It all came down to Thea … and she erroneously included a vein in shrimp onto her pasta. Barrie received top marks for the week with Trevor close behind, leaving Miranda and Thea, unsurprisingly, in the bottom; Miranda was shown the door.

I’m going to miss Miranda’s humour and, most of all, her gamesmanship when it came to supporting the other home cooks. Were you surprised Miranda was eliminated? What have you thought of this season so far? Let me know in the comments below!

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


MasterChef Canada burns one team in Restaurant Takeover

I’ve always wanted to visit Auberge du Pommier, Michael Bonacini’s landmark Toronto restaurant, but haven’t gotten the chance. Yet. In the meantime, Thursday’s new episode of MasterChef Canada opened the doors on the property’s 30th anniversary and let the home cooks in to run the kitchen. The fact it was Auberge du Pommier was stressful enough but during the third decade of business? Crazy.

Not that their performance would sink the place—the restaurant takeovers are packed with network folks and special guests (including the Your Morning crew) of the production rather than paying customers—but still.

After a week off, “Auberge Anniversary,” returned with the Top 6 heading into the kitchen to prepare dishes for dinner service. Barrie and Aaron, who made the best Scotch eggs two weeks ago, were the captains of their teams. Barrie picked Trevor and Mai while Aaron chose Thea and Miranda. At first blush, it looked like Barrie had the best squad, a trio of folks who were not only strong in the kitchen but stellar at plating. But would tables of patrons cause them to wilt under the pressure and send Barrie’s team to the Pressure Test?

I must say that making two appetizers and two mains with just three people seemed like a daunting task … and a little unfair if you ask me. I hate it when culinary competitions throw a small number of cooks into a kitchen when the fact is a phalanx of chefs would be there during a full-on service. Still, it does make for good TV, and we certainly got that on Thursday. Duck consommé en croute, artichoke salad, beef tenderloin and ham-wrapped monkfish proved to be a challenge during prep and service to the 52 “customers.” In the early going, Barrie crumbled and Trevor stepped in to take over while Aaron was running a tight ship. Of course, the tide quickly changed for the mains and the beef tenderloins flummoxed both squads. Trevor’s meat wasn’t cooked enough and Aaron’s were just plain burned.

In the early going, Barrie crumbled and Trevor stepped in to take over while Aaron was running a tight ship. Of course, the tide quickly changed for the mains and beef tenderloins flummoxed both squads. Trevor’s meat wasn’t cooked enough and Aaron’s were just plain burned. Adding insult to injury? Chef Michael came back into the kitchen and told Aaron the error of his ways. The red team got their mains out and blue struggled to keep up, but then ironed out issues after Aaron let go of his pride and let Miranda help him. After the judges tasted plates from each team, they awarded the win to Barrie’s red team and blue were headed to the Pressure Test.

Moroccan vegetable tagine with herbed couscous was on tap for Aaron, Thea and Miranda, and only Aaron had any experience with it. But as much as he thought he knew what he was doing, Chef Claudio thought he was overthinking it. Miranda’s plate was given high marks from Claudio and Chef Alvin, Thea’s looked good but fell short on flavour and she was convinced she was headed home. Claudio and Michael criticized Aaron’s tagine for having too much clove in it and making the plate bitter. So, who out of Aaron and Thea was going home? Aaron … but it wasn’t all bad. Michael offered him a gig at his new Oliver & Bonacini restaurant in Montreal.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


MasterChef Canada scrambles one home cook with egg challenge

More than a few of you were shocked by the end of last week’s episode of MasterChef Canada when Thea and Mai’s well-meaning coaching of Justine and Matt lead to both of the strong home cooks to be eliminated. But, Justine and Matt and Alice did have the opportunity to return to the kitchen, as producers presented those two with one slot in the competition.

Whether you think it’s fair that someone cut from a competition show is certainly up for debate—I personally don’t—it certainly makes for some good TV when those still in it see someone coming back. That was the case for the Top 6, who were gobsmacked when Alice returned. For those who missed it, Justine, Matt and Alice fought for a spot back on the show in Redemption, an online exclusive judged by Claudio Aprile. Alice outlasted the other two—head online to see what happened to Matt—and was back in the action.

However, “Egg Showdown,” wasn’t a love-in, as the Top 7 donned black aprons and were informed no one was safe from elimination this week. Again, mad props to MasterChef‘s producers, who have amped up the challenges and made it tough for the cooks to advance this year. Thursday’s instalment tasked everyone with escalating tests involving the most basic of ingredients: the egg. Cooks would win a Pressure Test and be sent up to the gallery with the final pair fighting to stay on the show.

First up was a Scotch egg, that hard-boiled, sausage and breading encased mouthful, purportedly eaten in pubs. Making the job even tougher? Just one egg was given to each cook, meaning it had to be perfect. I think Thea’s hands were seizing up because of the ice water bath her egg was sitting in, but I’m no expert. Regardless, she got her egg done and fried alongside her competitors. Barrie, who said he’d never prepared a hard-boiled egg before, produced the best Scotch egg and was whisked to safety along with Aaron and Thea.

The next test? Eggs Benedict. Hollandaise sauce can be a killer, though Miranda thought she had it nailed down. Of course, the most confident person had issues and Miranda’s Hollandaise started to split. Still, she got it done and her plate looked good. What about taste? Undercooked bacon and broken sauce threatened to send Miranda home. An overcooked yolk sent Alice into the final test with Miranda while Trevor and Mai were safe.

The two home cooks faced off to create a cheese soufflé, with just 30 minutes to do it. Miranda made all the right moves, getting firm peaks on her egg white and getting them in the oven on time. Alice contaminated her whites with some yolk and they refused to whip. Stunningly, and showing an incredible amount of class, Miranda helped Alice get her soufflé’s in the oven. Miranda could have stood back and watched Alice fall, but instead, she came to her aid. Miranda prepared three, so took the best-looking soufflé up for tasting and it wowed the judges, earning the chance to move on. For Alice, it was the end of the road, but she almost made it with help from Miranda.

Do you think Miranda should have helped Alice complete her dish? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.


Proper Television’s Guy O’Sullivan passes away

Very sad news out of Canada’s reality television community. Proper Television’s Guy O’Sullivan, whose company is behind Canada’s Worst Driver and MasterChef Canada, passed away over the weekend. He was 49.

“It is with great sadness that we share the news of the sudden passing of Guy O’Sullivan, President, Proper Television,” the company stated on their Facebook page. “On behalf of everyone at Proper Television, we extend our sincere condolences to his children and family. Guy had a tremendous impact in the Canadian and international television industry, and was adored by his colleagues and staff. Out of respect for the family, no further comments will be made.”

O’Sullivan launched Proper Television in 2004 in Canada after five years at the BBC and has produced some of the most successful unscripted series in Canadian TV, including CBC’s True North Calling, CTV’s MasterChef Canada, Discovery Canada’s Canada’s Worst Driver, Don’t Drive Here and Canada’s Worst Handyman, W Network’s Come Dine with Me Canada and OLN’s Storage Wars Canada.