Set visit: MasterChef Canada cooks up Season 3

A cardinal rule in a reality is never, ever come off as cocky or over-confident in front of someone who is judging you. Two MasterChef Canada contestants learned the hard way when they received a dressing down from Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile during the first day of production on Season 3.

CTV’s culinary competition—set to return in early 2016—started rolling on two months of production with plenty of drama. Myself, along with longtime film and television critic Chris Jancelewicz, spent several hours in the series’ super-secret set hidden just west of Toronto and it was a pretty impressive sight. One corner of the expansive building is devoted to shelves piled with pots and pans, another area is set up for confessional one-on-ones and a conga line of fridges are labelled with daily ingredients. Once a warehouse, Proper Television transformed it, putting in the water, power and gas lines needed to create stations for each of the finalists to prepare their dishes for judging.

Bell Media

It’s one thing to watch the finished product on television; it’s quite another to witness the raw emotion in-person. One after another, competitors hoping to move past the auction round had an hour to prep their signature dish in front of their fellow contestants and show producers before rolling their cart in front of the judges for a final five minutes of finishing touches and plating. Devoid of a music track, those minutes with Claudio, Alvin and Michael were a study in stress. Peppered by the trio’s questions about who they were and what the heck they were doing, sweat beaded on foreheads and stammering began. I squirmed as the chefs stepped forward for tasting, delivered their remarks and abruptly turned their backs on the contestants and walking away. Claudio was especially good at this; he’s developed quite the withering stare for Season 3.

Were aprons awarded while I watched? Yes, though fewer than I imagined. I can’t tell you who advanced and who didn’t yet, but I can say that Season 3 of MasterChef Canada promises to be the most challenging yet.

MasterChef Canada returns in 2016 on CTV.