MasterChef Canada rings in the holidays

The holiday season is usually spent with family, with gifts being exchanged and a table laden with goodies at the offering in the background. For four former MasterChef Canada contestants, this holiday season featured a return to the kitchen for the franchise’s first-ever MasterChef Canada: A Holiday Special, airing tonight on CTV.

Dora Cote, Pino DiCerbo, Tammara Behl and Season 1 runner-up Marida Mohammed are all back in the kitchen in front of judges Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile and Alvin Leung, but this time there’s a twist. Instead of competing as individuals, the fan favourites are helped with members of their own families. And while this is still a culinary competition things aren’t as cutthroat as what viewers saw earlier this year.

“It is a holiday special,” Aprile says. “It’s not a blood sport by any stretch of the imagination. It’s really designed to bring people closer together for the holiday time. It wouldn’t be appropriate if they were going for the jugular.”

master_chef1“The competitive spirit is an amazing thing,” Bonacini counters. “Someone may not say they’re a sore loser, but the competitive edge does come out throughout the group.” Everyone wants to come out on top, and with good reason: the winning family nabs $10,000 to donate to their favourite charity. That alone gets the adrenaline running for the competitors and their squad. Fans of MasterChef Canada will get a kick out of seeing Pino, Marida, Tammara and Dora surrounded by the people who have loved, supported and inspired them to compete in Season 1.

“In some instances we were really able to see where the seeds were planted,” Aprile explains. “It was fascinating to see Pino and his mom … they are really going to embody this need for family. They are close and they work incredibly well together. They finish each other’s sentences. She has incredible skill and you see that in the way that she rolls pasta.”

As for the tests themselves, all are based on the holidays. The four teams are challenged to recreate their picks for key plates to be served during the Christmas season, with a skills competition thrown in for good measure. A cool test utilizing a MasterChef Canada version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and a choir serves as a jumping off point to the spectacle. And while the tests were tough, none of them involved making the most controversial food of the festive season.

“Fruitcake was not one of the challenges,” Bonacini admits with a laugh. “But I am going to put that in the hopper for, hopefully, next year.”

MasterChef Canada: A Holiday Special airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.