Chopped Canada sets dramatic Season 2 table

It may not have had the stress of competing on Chopped Canada–returning for Season 2 on Saturday–but having lunch with two of the show’s judges was still pretty daunting. Would John Higgins and Anne Yarymowich–he the director of George Brown College’s Chef School and she an instructor there–note my nervousness and trepidation surrounding the collection of forks in front of me?

The setting for our late-November sit-down was The Chef’s House, George Brown’s student-run restaurant where those enrolled in the Chef School program not only work in the kitchen preparing dishes but at the front of the house too, taking orders and passing plates to paying customers. As for how I fared in front of Higgins and Yarymowich? Passed with flying colours. Hey, I can devour food with the best of them. As we chowed down on tasty treats (I went for the country paté appetizer and braised beef main), we chatted about Season 2 of Food Network Canada’s culinary competition.

Both admitted to having many of the same reactions I do watching chefs struggle to create edible offerings out of the mystery ingredients. Their first thought is always, “What would I do with that?” followed by “What are they doing?!?!” as questionable decisions are made as time starts to tick down. The challenge for the competitors will be made even harder, I was told, though the structure remains the same: more chefs from across the country compete for $10,000 in front of Higgins, Yarymowich and fellow returning judges Susur Lee, Lynn Crawford, Michael Smith and Roger Mooking, and new panelists Massimo Capra, Antonio Park and Eden Grinshpan.

Saturday’s return finds Carol Christie of Sooke, B.C., Brian McKenna of Langley, B.C., Mario Spina of Calgary and Keith Hoare of Mississauga, Ont., challenged by a Middle Eastern ingredient in the appetizer round, monkfish in the entrée round and tofu for the dessert. The tension in the challenges have been upped to new heights, with themed episodes scattered throughout the 13 episodes, including a Viewer’s Choice competition on Feb. 7 spotlighting prairie oysters, ketchup chips, Gefilte fish and squid ink.

Higgins and Yarymowich were mum on winners, promising only that Season 2 is more dramatic than the first. I can’t wait.

Chopped Canada airs Saturdays at 9 pm. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.