Broken stoves and spirits on MasterChef Canada

Season 4 of MasterChef Canada returned with a huge new twist in the audition process, first by having the home cooks create a rice dish at home with just 20 minutes to shop for ingredients and then challenging them to recreate it in the grand kitchen. Within the space of 44 minutes, the original 24 were trimmed to the Top 12. It was an impressive and shocking beginning to what judges Claudio Aprile and Michael Bonacini promise is a dramatic season.

Case in point? Thursday’s episode, “Home on the Range,” began with the usual Mystery Box containing ingredients from the competitors’ homes as inspiration and a chance for viewers to decide who they’d be cheering for this time around. But even that test was altered; rather than an ingredient from the cook’s hometowns, it was an actual item from their homes. In the case of Barrie, that meant his pink pig timer; a piece of wood from Aaron’s grandfather’s property; Justine’s first pastry bag; and Trevor’s pepper grinder.

Early on, I was impressed by Matt (mainly because I interviewed him outside of the Toronto auditions and is insanely prepared), Miranda and her baking skills, Justine and her energy, Jordan and his giggle, gentle giant Aaron, and that Trevor kid, who managed to break a fine German stove made by Miele. Aaron’s attention to detail impressed the judges enough to land him a spot for tasting; his chowder and fish were a hit, as was Miranda’s orange-chocolate cake and Trevor’s pan-seared chicken. As Michael said before making a decision on a winner, these home cooks are a sophisticated bunch turning out food of high quality in Episode 2.

Trevor won, giving him the advantage in the Elimination Challenge as he picked stone fruits for his competitors to use in their next recipe. Miranda was thrilled … until Trevor was handed salt shakers and sugar bowls and decided who would make savoury or sweet foods for tasting. It was a brilliant way to shake up what could have been a very staid Elimination Challenge and showed savvy behind-the-scenes planning. The final stroke of genius was allowing Trevor to save all of the men or all of the women from cooking. By choosing to save the men, Trevor made quick friends of the fellows. I’m betting the girls will have long memories.

Thea was freaking out over her sponge cake and I couldn’t help but wonder why she didn’t make a crumble with a jazzed-up ice cream or whipped cream. Trying to make a cake when you don’t know how is a bad move in my opinion. Thea managed to pull it off, causing me to wonder if some shady editing made it appear she was more flustered than she really was.

It was clear who scored top marks from the judges: Justine’s peach gazpacho and Miranda’s bison and stone fruit sauce were the taste winners and put the pair in the Top 2, and team captains next week. Thea, Mai and Alice were in the bottom thanks to overseasoning, undercooked meat and an ugly sponge cake; Alice was eliminated from the competition.

MasterChef Canada airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.