Tag Archives: Michael Bonacini

Gusto premieres new original series Bonacini’s Italy

From a media release:

Gusto continues to pack its schedule with premium lifestyle programs featuring the most sought-after personalities with the premiere of all-new cooking series NIGELLA: AT MY TABLE and Gusto Worldwide Media’s BONACINI’S ITALY, beginning June 4.

Culinary superstar Nigella Lawson shares the food she cooks for family and friends in her latest, six-part series NIGELLA: AT MY TABLE, airing Mondays at 8 p.m. ET. A companion to her latest best-selling cookbook of the same name, the series celebrates home cooking and the food that makes people feel happy and welcome as they sit around a home cook’s table. Whether offering up her fresh take on familiar classics, or creating new dishes inspired by different cuisines, Nigella ensures that everyday eating is always pleasurable, with a minimum of fuss. Recipes include Parmesan French Toast, Herbed Leg of Lamb, and Beef and Aubergine Fatteh.

Following AT MY TABLE, viewers venture to Italy with MASTERCHEF CANADA’s Michael Bonacini as he showcases the country’s diverse and sumptuous fare in the premiere of Gusto’s latest original series, BONACINI’S ITALY. Airing Mondays at8:30 p.m. ET, the 15-episode, half-hour series features Bonacini preparing unique and sophisticated dishes from specific regions across Italy including Seafood Couscous (Sicily), Mint Fava Bean Soup (Lazio), and Chickpea Flatbread (Liguria).

BONACINI’S ITALY – Premieres Monday, June 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET – Gusto Original Series
BONACINI’S ITALY is a new sophisticated food series featuring celebrity Chef Michael Bonacini as he cooks up diverse Italian cuisine. Set in a contemporary kitchen, Bonacini explores different regions of Italy by preparing dishes unique to each local tradition. In the premiere episode, Bonacini explores the region of Tuscany, creating delectable Tuscan dishes including Panzanella (tomato and bread salad), Gnudi con Ricotta e Spinaci (spinach ricotta gnudi), Peposo con Fagioli all’Ucelletto (peppered beef stew and beans in the style of small birds), and Pesce al Forno con Patate (baked sea bass with potatoes).

BONACINI’S ITALY is created by Chris Knight, President and CEO, Gusto Worldwide Media. Bell Media Production Executive is Danielle Pearson. Corrie Coe is Senior Vice-President, Original Programming, Bell Media. Pat DiVittorio is Vice-President, Programming, Bell Media. Mike Cosentino is Senior Vice-President, Content and Programming, Bell Media. Randy Lennox is President, Bell Media.




MasterChef Canada: Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile reflect on five seasons and discuss key home cooks

While the contestants change every season of MasterChef Canada, one trio has stayed the same for the past four. Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile and Alvin Leung serve not only as judges on CTV’s culinary competition but mentors as well.

They’ve taken that job seriously since Episode 1 of Season 1. Now, with the first episode of Season 5 under our belts, we spoke to Bonacini and Aprile about five seasons on the show, their responsibility as mentors thoughts on two home cooks we’ve got our eyes on.

Congratulations on five seasons on MasterChef Canada. Does it feel like it’s been that long?
Michael Bonacini: It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve loved every part of it. I still find it as exciting today as the first day that I got the phone call that said, ‘You have been chosen to be one of the judges to be on MasterChef Canada.‘ It’s a wonderful feeling and to be five years in is pure magic. The cherry on the cake, so to speak.

Claudio Aprile: Yeah, 100 per cent. Listening to Michael it reminded me of the phone call that I also received. I went into it very cautious and unsure it was what I wanted to do with my career. And then the competitive gene in me kicked in and I went from being unsure to really sure I wanted it when I did the audition. I waited a few weeks and there was no call and when the call finally did come in it was a really exhilarating phone call. What made it very interesting for me is during the audition process, Michael, Alvin and myself spent a lot of time just hanging out off-camera and it was interesting that the three of us got picked. I often thought there was another camera off somewhere just capturing our interaction because the three of us got on. I’m very mindful that this is a rare opportunity and it’s also a time-sensitive opportunity that won’t last forever. When I’m on set with Michael, Alvin, the crew, the writers … we’re really lucky to be part of this family that we’ve made. When I’m on set I’m there and in the moment, in the zone, and it just feels great.

Claudio, this is the first season the three of you hand-delivered the good news to the Top 21 home cooks. What was that experience like?
CA: First of all, you never want to sneak up on a man with a bow and arrow. I’ll never make that mistake again. Don’t ever ambush a large man from the East Coast with a bow and arrow and a bottle of moonshine. He looked at me and grabbed me like a rag doll. Note to self not to do that again. [Laughs.] For many reasons, it was very exciting to actually take MasterChef Canada on the road and deliver this incredible, exciting message to these home cooks. And for me, it really underscored that MasterChef Canada has now become a brand that people recognize. It means something to a lot of people. During my travels, people would stop me on the street and say, ‘I love the show and I love what you’re doing on the show and the Canadian spirit that you really carry so proudly.’

One of the things I have loved about MasterChef Canada is the three of you. You are always so respectful of the contestants even when something doesn’t taste or turn out the way you thought it should. You’re enthusiastic, you coach them along and focus on the positive rather than the negative. How important is it for you to be that way rather than cut the home cooks down?
MB: It is so important to be a mentor on the show. The home cooks have so much respect for each of the three judges. This is something they are putting their lives on hold for, the opportunity to have a life-changing experience for themselves and not in a negative way. Yes, there are dishes that are good and great, and there are dishes that are—to be quite honest—not so great because of bad plating, under seasoning or bad decisions. But all three judges know they have seen that over the years in our own restaurants from our own individual selves and our own employees and it’s part of the course of mentoring, growing and developing people. Long gone are the days when you could scream and shout, throw something at someone and have a tantrum. That’s no way to mentor. It’s about being honest—and I’m not afraid to be brutally honest—it is about communicating clearly and concisely about what I feel is incorrect or could be improved or should have done to the dish to make it better. I think that’s important feedback to a home cook who may or may not have the chance to cook for you again. If that was my son appearing on such a show, I would expect the mentor to act the same way.

CA: When you’re reading someone the culinary law of the land, it serves us in a very poor way if we’re degrading or condescending. It’s not a good look whether it’s a television program or real-life, the optics on that don’t look good. When you can actually control your emotions and speak to someone with dignity and respect it captures people’s attention, both the home cooks and the audience.

I have to give the folks at Proper Television some kudos. Having that twist of eliminating home cooks during their audition dish prep was dramatic. Clearly, the point being driven home is that you can’t get comfortable in this competition.
CA: The word ‘comfort’ is not a word that I would think of when I think about MasterChef Canada. There is nothing comfortable about it. It is uncomfortable, it’s pressurized, it’s unpredictable. That’s for many reasons. The show is about entertaining first. We don’t want them to figure things out. We want it to be exciting and who doesn’t love the element of surprise? The cooks that watch the show think they have us decoded. And I have to say, you thought wrong. We switch it up a lot. Collectively, we have over 100 years of culinary experience. There is nowhere to hide. We will pick things out.

Let’s discuss two home cooks that caught my eye in Episode 1. Beccy is just 19 years old and made a beautiful beef and beetroot dish. What can you say about her?
MB: Beccy is an interesting young home cook. She has very few words to say and she’s fascinating to watch. She is the youngest home cook we’ve ever had on the show and that’s what makes her interesting. She comes from England and is a tile-setters helper. It’s a pretty humble job and she loves to cook at home.

Claudio, can you comment on Reem? A lot has been made of her Muslim background already, but I was wowed by her baba ganoush.
CA: I think Reem is a very, very talented home cook. There is the religious aspect to her story, but I feel she’s going to champion a different cause. She is very strong and a very kind person. But don’t mistake her kindness for weakness. Her food is incredible, like knockout dishes.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.




Comments and queries for the week of January 12

Michael Bonacini’s Christmas at the Farm is one of the best cooking shows ever. Quiet, not drowning out with music and a good down-to-earth love of food. He should do a regular show. —Alice

We agree! Are you listening, Bell Media??

How do I find out the music being played during the Jan. 3 episode of Mary Kills People, especially when the couple, who wanted to be killed, were dancing on their balcony? Where does one find out the credits? Thank you. —Jan

We used our trusty Shazam app and discovered the song you’re talking about is “For Your Precious Love” by Otis Redding. It was really effective in that wonderfully sad, heartfelt scene between Betty and Victor Lisko. Fun fact: Betty Lisko is played by Karen Robinson, who can also be seen co-starring in Schitt’s Creek and Frankie Drake Mysteries, both on CBC.


Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.




MasterChef Canada’s Michael Bonacini rings in the holidays with Christmas at the Farm

I’m a huge food TV fan, especially during the Christmas season. I’ve enjoyed holiday specials starring Michael Smith and Michael Stadtlander and Jamie Oliver churned out a series of them recently. There’s something comforting, for me at least, watching chefs at home making recipes that have become traditions for their families and giving me some ideas too. (I credit Oliver for two standards at my house on Christmas Day: roasted vegetables and a killer gravy.)

Now MasterChef Canada‘s Michael Bonacini has jumped into the mix with his own Gusto special Michael Bonacini’s Christmas at the Farm, airing Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on the specialty channel. The hour-long celebration ticks all the boxes for me: snow, a fireplace, decorations and amazing recipes. Add to that an amiable, charismatic host in Bonacini and Christmas at the Farm is a truly enjoyable project.

Filmed on his sprawling property outside of Toronto, Bonacini’s traditional plates includes food celebrating his Italian last name and his mother’s Welsh background. Potato and leek soup garnished with smoked salmon is the first to be made, a scrumptious-looking bowl of warmth that is super-easy to create in your own home. Soup is followed by cheddar and bacon scones, gnocchi, roasted leg of lamb, maple roasted root vegetables, slow-roasted breast of veal and molten chocolate lava cake. (Though Bonacini doesn’t give any measurements or directions in the episode, viewers can get the recipes via the Gusto website after broadcast.)

But what sells Christmas at the Farm and sets it apart from other cooking specials is Bonacini. MasterChef Canada viewers get just a taste of his cooking knowledge and personality on CTV’s popular cooking competition. Here Bonacini is allowed to relax, show off his knife skills, discuss how he came to be a chef in the first place and how growing up on a Welsh farm impacted on his life.

Michael Bonacini’s Christmas at the Farm airs Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on Gusto.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.




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.