MasterChef Canada home cooks prep for competition

OK, I admit it, Mary Berg does have some competition in Season 3 of MasterChef Canada. Though I’d love it if Berg—the competitor I shadowed during the audition process—won the title, there are 39 other home cooks aiming to take her down. Two of them are Woodbridge, Ontario’s Michelle Nault and Vancouver’s Travis Petersen, who sat down with TV, Eh? back in July to chat about the road to MasterChef Canada, their game plan and what they think of the competition.

Judges Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile and Alvin Leung return Sunday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CTV to oversee Season 3.

Here’s what Michelle and Travis had to say:

Michelle Nault, teacher
How did you end up auditioning for MasterChef Canada?
Someone that I work with suggested it to me. I talk about food a lot at work. Food makes me happy and my job makes me happy. The spark was there and my coworker suggested I try out. She watches the show and believed in me and to have someone validate that for me was important. I auditioned online and they contacted me and asked me to come out to the tryout in July.

At least you don’t have to worry about making school lunches.
I don’t but I did make lunches and dinners for my family to have while I’m on the show. It’s all packed up and in the fridge and freezer!

It’s one thing to try out, but it’s another to be on the set. What has the experience been like so far?
I’m impressed with every part of the process. The staff is wonderful and the people who work here are wonderful. The whole experience was a little overwhelming, but it’s exciting. I can’t wait to get going.

Do you view being from the Toronto area as a strength for you in the competition because of the diversity of ingredients that you have access to?
I enjoy all cultures of cooking. I have a good understanding of a number of cultures and basic ingredients from those cultures. I have fun blending them. I like taking an aromatic ingredient from one cuisine and mixing it with another and bringing them all together. I have the confidence to dabble in world cuisine.

What was the inspiration for your audition dish, pork tenderloin with fennel, mushroom and sourdough stuffing?
Home cooking. I am a mom of two and I believe firmly in cooking from scratch and sharing the experience with my kids and getting them involved. It’s a midweek meal that is stick-to-your-ribs and good for the soul.

What’s your cooking style?
I cook from my heart and my knowledge. I’m not so much about going into recipes and taking from other people. I think it’s wonderful and if you’re baking you should do that, but when it comes to my cooking I do it from my own recipes. My research comes from learning where my ingredients come from, the farming practices and things like that.

Is there a weakness you have in the kitchen?
Timing. Depending on the dish, you want to make sure you have enough time to complete all of the steps. In this type of environment, timing is everything.

Travis Petersen, manager in the oil and gas industry
Seeing one of your competitors be eliminated earlier today was tough to watch.
Some people aren’t taking this seriously. This contest is all about the food, but they want people who take it seriously. If they want a cool experience, a getaway and the chance to get on TV … there are 39 other people who want this.

What made you audition?
I’ve watched every season of the American version and the Canadian version. I’ve wanted to do it in the past and it took a friend of mine to tell me that I’m passionate about food and should go for it. Seeing John compete last year convinced me that I could do it. I’m glad I got that little push because I might have stayed content with what I was doing in life.

What’s your strength in the kitchen?
My strength is seafood. I’m in Calgary now, but I’m from Vancouver and have lived abroad twice. When I was 18, I left for Australia and my mom gave me a recipe book that was empty. She said, ‘Instead of writing a journal, why don’t you collect recipes?’ I wasn’t even a foodie yet. I took it, and anyone that I met I took a recipe from. It’s probably one of the most valuable things that I have now after all of the traveling that I’ve done.

What is your audition dish?
Brazilian Moqueca. It’s a white fish and prawn, coconut stew on top of basmati rice. It has beautiful colours and a great taste to it. It’s a good summer dish.

What has the experience been like so far?
We’re all so different but two nights ago a few of us sat together and talking about cooking for an hour and a half. I’ve got friends who are foodies, but I’ve never in my life sat with two guys in a room and talking cooking techniques. I said, ‘This is really cool.’ I’m so excited to see where this journey can go.

MasterChef Canada returns Sunday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.