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MasterChef Canada: Tony’s not so great at leadership in first Team Challenge

Weddings can be one of the biggest events in a couple’s relationship. The clothes, flowers, venue, music and weather is, hopefully, perfect and leaves the couple and their guests with longlasting positive memories. Another huge component of a wedding is the food, which led to an incredible amount of pressure on the MasterChef Canada home cooks, who prepared a two-course meal for a Caribbean-inspired wedding. (I wonder if the pair had to audition and if the show’s production company helped pay for any part of the wedding?)

Tony, who has impressed judges Claudio, Michael and Alvin with his Italian dishes, served as the Red Team leader. Opposite him was Chanelle, leading the Blue Team. The location of the wedding? Madsen’s Greenhouse in Newmarket, Ont., where Chloe and Jeremy were set to say their “I do’s” in front of 121 family and friends. The Team Challenge? To make an appetizer and main for everyone. At first blush, the team with Andre—and his Caribbean expertise—on it appeared to have an advantage. That meant Tony’s team, which also included Jenny, Alyssa and Cryssi. Chanelle may have had the second pick on people, choosing Jennifer, Roz, Colin and Josh, but she was given the first choice at protein, getting shellfish and chicken and leaving fish and beef for Tony et al.

Tony’s team got off quickly, leaning on Andre’s plan of fried fish with ackee followed by stewed beef and dumplings. Tony’s soccer coach knowledge came into play early as he jumped from person to person, checking that everyone was on task. But then the stress of frying fish threatened to derail the appetizer, with a lot of yelling between Tony and Cryssi happening until Andre stepped in to help Alyssa. But Tony kept at it with Cryssi, and then Andre, and it definitely hurt team morale.

Chanelle’s group was more of a team effort with everyone weighing in until seafood soup with coconut and jerk chicken with beans and salsa. Chenelle’s squad was in a bit of disarray, and without Andre to help them, a little out to sea. Josh’s jerk chicken marinade seemed to be too heavy on the Scotch bonnet peppers but his teammates seemed to like it.

The happy couple and their guests were served appetizers and it appeared as though blue’s soup was a little too bland compared to red’s fish. And, to make things worse, Roz ran out of the soup, a major planning gaffe. They quickly thinned out the remaining soup they had with shrimp stock but received thumbs down from guests.

With just an hour left to prep, cook and serve the main dish, things went awry when Josh dropped a pan of jerk chicken on the floor. (Was it just me or did Chef Claudio seem to take great delight in that?) The five-second rule does not apply in the MasterChef Canada kitchen, but luckily Josh has prepared extra meat so they weren’t going to run short.

Chloe wasn’t impressed with the red team’s beef stew, saying it lacked a lot of flavour, while she loved the blue team’s chicken. In the end, Team Red won by just three votes. So while Andre was a help in his team’s success, Tony’s leadership style and losing track of time caused what might have been a landslide victory much closer. Chanelle and her team lost but I hope held their heads high. The red team was saved from the Pressure Test and elimination.

Back in the kitchen, Chenelle, Jennifer, Roz, Colin and Josh were fighting to stay in the competition, but not before they were allowed to pick one home cook to be saved from elimination. They chose, rightly, Josh. He owned the jerk chicken from start to finish and the guests liked it. In the Pressure Test, Chenelle, Jennifer, Roz and Colin were tasked with creating one sweet and one savoury cheesecake in 80 minutes. (If anyone is interested, I would have gone with a brownie swirl cheesecake for my sweet and made a buffalo chicken blue cheese for my savoury.)

With time running out, Colin’s watery strawberry cheesecake filling seemed destined to send him home before it got into the oven. As for Chanelle, hers came out of the oven intact but collapsed during plating. Incredibly, each cheesecake was completed and, overall, looked amazing. Jennifer’s everything bagel was enjoyed by Chef Michael and Chef Claudio deemed her chocolate attempt to be great; Chef Alvin didn’t enjoy Colin’s scallop lemon offering but Micheal loved his sweet strawberry concoction; Alvin liked the light taste of Chanelle’s goat cheese creation and, while Michael did like the flavour of her sweet matcha cheesecake, he pointed out its horrible collapse; Michael enjoyed Rozin’s Stilton cheesecake but opined it was a little heavy-handed, and Alvin refused to comment (on camera at least) about his tahini-themed plate.

In the episode’s closing moments, Alvin, Claudio and Michael awarded Jennifer top marks for her cheesecakes. Rozin overreached in his ambition but was saved from elimination. That left Colin and Chanelle, with Colin being shown the door. It wasn’t entirely unexpected—Colin was middle of the road in last week’s two-hour debut—but I was sad to see him go and thought his East Coast-inspired recipes would have been neat to see evolve.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Jann: Zoie Palmer on Max and Jann’s “very cool sister dynamic”

Zoie Palmer has well over 100,000 Twitter followers that she interacts with on a regular basis, but back in 2015, she picked up one particular follower who wanted to cast her on a TV show she was developing: Jann Arden.

“Yeah, we met on Twitter of all places, and she talked about me being on the show,” Palmer says. “She’s funny as heck, and she’d been watching a show I did, and I’ve been watching her career forever. We just got on like a house on fire, it was just a natural thing.”

Their online friendship led to Palmer being cast as Max, the fictional sister of fictional Jann Arden, in the CTV comedy Jann. As the series begins, Max finds out she’s pregnant with her fourth child—despite her husband Dave’s (Patrick Gilmore) recent vasectomy—and is well over being the responsible sister who cares for their mum Nora (Deborah Grover) while Jann freely pursues her music career.

But even though Palmer says the siblings “may not know each other” if they weren’t related, she also says that they need each other.

“They bring a lot to each other,” says Palmer. “And because they’re so different, the comedy of that is endless.”

Max and Jann’s complicated, hilarious, and ultimately loving relationship is on full display in Wednesday’s new episode, “Major Party Foul,” as Jann takes over planning Nora’s 75th birthday party from Max.

We spoke to Palmer, who will also be appearing in the upcoming second season of Pure, during a visit to Jann‘s set last fall to learn more about Max and her experience working on the show.

Jann is quite a change of pace from your recent work on Dark Matter, Pure and Wynonna Earp.  Have you found it fun to work on a comedy?
Zoie Palmer: I love it. You know, Dark Matter was amazing, I loved it, it was a great three years. But then when things are over as an artist, the best thing that can happen is that you do something that is nothing like the thing you just did. That’s how I want to make my career, to go from totally unrelated thing to totally unrelated thing.

You play Jann’s sister Max on the show. They seem very different from each other. 
ZP: Jann has no kids and a music career, and Max has three kids and is pregnant, so their lives are very different from one another. And I don’t know if these two people would know each other if they weren’t sisters, you know what I mean? They’re really different. But it’s incredibly complementary and they kind of lean on each other in a weird way. Like, Jann brings to the table what Max doesn’t and Max absolutely brings to the table what Jann needs a lot of the time. So it’s a very cool sister dynamic. I think a lot of siblings have this thing where they think, ‘I don’t know if I’d know my sister or brother if we weren’t actually growing up in the same household,’ and I think it’s the case for these two, but it’s very cool that they are. They bring a lot to each other, and because they’re so different, the comedy of that is endless.

Jann has mentioned how nervous she was about acting in this series. Have you been helping her out at all on set?
ZP: There are technical things, like jargon on set where she might ask, ‘What does it mean when they say this or that?’ But overall really, because she presents such an honesty in her life, she really is an authentic person. The Jann that you saw [during the set visit], the Jann that we see on set is the same Jann that is in the kitchen making coffee. That’s her. I think the reason why that lends itself so well to acting is that she’s able to very easily tap into a real moment, which you need so much as an actor. So she kind of comes by that side of acting quite naturally. She’s pretty real, and she doesn’t have many moments that are not real.

Besides Jann herself, what do you think viewers will enjoy most about the show?
ZP: I think people are going to see their own family on TV in a lot of ways. Because this show presents all of those dynamics: the disagreements, the uncomfortable moments, the love. You know, I have one sister, and my mother used to say, ‘You have to be there for each other. You only have each other.’ I heard it over and over. It was a mantra in our house. So, I think it will be relatable.

You’ve been working all over Canada the last several months, shooting Pure in Halifax and filming Wynonna Earp and Jann in Calgary. Are getting homesick for Toronto at all? 
ZP: I’ve been travelling since May, but I love what I do and I love being in new places and, for me, it’s like a dream. It’s what I wanted to do since I was a kid, was this, so I love it. But, yeah, I have my things I like, my shower I like, and my park that I like to walk in. All the things you have at your house that you want.

Jann airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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MasterChef Canada gets cooking with Season 6 on CTV

With the coming of spring (finally), so too was the return of MasterChef Canada (finally). And what a return it was! A jam-packed two hours kicked off Season 6 with, once again, the goal of awarding the top home cook in this fine land and giving them $100,000.

And, in a twist to the audition process, judges Claudio Aprile, Alvin Leung and Michael Bonacini personally sifted through a pile of audition photos to choose the Top 18 finalists to do battle. It’s always interesting to see how the finalists interact with the judges—and each other—this early in the competition. Nerves almost always come into play, as do egos and large personalities. Both can get you eliminated pretty quickly.

Once the hand-delivered messages from the judges were delivered, we had our Top 18.

  • Alyssa LeBlanc, Former Public Servant, from Tusket, N.S.
  • Andre Bhagwandat, Hospital Housekeeper, from Scarborough, Ont.
  • Chanelle Saks, Entrepreneur, from Calgary
  • Cliff McArthur, IT Support Analyst, from Scarborough, Ont.
  • Colin Buckingham, Car Salesman, from St. John’s
  • Cryssi Larocque, Former Airline Agent, from Thunder Bay, Ont.
  • Jamie Mayer, Healthcare Portfolio Manager, from Toronto
  • Jennifer Crawford, Senior Policy Analyst, from Kingston, N.S.
  • Jenny Miller, Stay-at-Home Mom, from Havre Boucher, N.S.
  • Josh Miller, Youth Care Home Manager, from Regina
  • Kimberly Fitzpatrick, Writer, from Ottawa
  • Laurie Dingwall, Retired, from Lac Saguay, Qué.
  • Lena Huynh, Lash Technician, from Burnaby, B.C.
  • Marie Le Bel, Entrepreneur, from Westmount, Qué.
  • Mark Hamilton, Firefighter, from Mission, B.C.
  • Rozin Abbas, Digital Marketer, from Toronto
  • Steven Lapointe, International Figure Skater, from Acton Vale, Qué.
  • Tony La Ferrara, Soccer Coach and Retired Teacher, from Whitby, Ont.

And, as has become the custom, those finalists were tasked with preparing a signature dish in hopes of sticking around and acquiring a white apron. Each group of six—chosen by Michael, Claudio or Alvin—took a turn cooking for the judge who signed their invitation. Alvin’s group went first, with the Demon Chef serving as coach. But, in a twist, the signature dish had to be made with chicken. That threw a wrench in the plans of any home cook expecting to make their special plate. I like the shakeup in gameplay, especially when Alvin took some potshots at Michael’s expense.

Cliff’s chicken and waffles landed him an apron, and Alyssa and Josh joined him. Sadly, the other three home cooks invited by Alvin were sent home.

Up next was Chef Michael’s six, preparing something with beef as the focus. Unfortunately, Tony nicked himself during prep and was sidelined for several moments, putting his future in jeopardy. He still finished it and received an apron. Marie was the lone home cook from Michael’s team who was not handed an apron.

Finally, Chef Claudio’s six home cooks took to the floor and prepared shrimp dishes. The standouts were Jennifer’s tart, Rozin’s shrimp and grits and Andre’s curry. Cryssi received the final apron of the episode, setting up the Top 12.

There was barely a moment to celebrate before Episode 2 kicked off with the Top 12 facing their first Mystery Box and Elimination Challenges of Season 6.

Root vegetables were the name of the game for the Mystery Box, testing each home cook to reveal their own roots with an original recipe. It was interesting to see how quickly home cooks like Andre and Colin settled into plating something celebrating their upbringing or background for the second episode in a row, with the former creating a spicy Cajun purée and the latter cod with root vegetables. The judges selected Jennifer’s trout with root vegetable “scales,” Cryssi’s roasted root vegetable soup and Jenny’s vegetables five ways. Jenny won the Mystery Box a test and was safe from elimination for the week.

The season’s first Elimination Challenge featured nine different proteins for 11 cooks. Jenny’s other advantage? Saving two compatriots; she picked Cryssi and Jennifer to stick around. While some home cooks were happy to select a protein they had experience with, others chose an item they didn’t, choosing to challenge themselves. Kudos to Chanelle for taking the octopus. Meanwhile, Colin was struggling over on his station and managed to burn his salmon and had to start again. Luckily, he had more to prepare but was running out of time. Rozin wasn’t so lucky and scorched some of his lamb ragu, and Cliff discovered his duck leg wasn’t cooked enough to pull away from the bone.

The Top 2 plates were prepared by Chanelle and Tony, who are captains for next week’s team challenge. At the other end of the spectrum were Colin, Steven, Alyssa and Cliff. Alyssa and Colin were given another chance, meaning Cliff and Steven’s time in the kitchen had come to an end.

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

Image courtesy of Bell Media.

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Hudson & Rex’s Kevin Hanchard: “This guy felt different, and it felt right”

Kevin Hanchard has played a lot of authority figures, including doctors, lawyers and police officers. Many police officers, on such shows as, most recently, Orphan Black, Cardinal and Cavendish.

Hanchard can currently be seen on Hudson & Rex, Citytv’s human-canine cop drama, portraying Superintendent Donovan. But unlike the officers he has played in the past, Hanchard describes Donovan as “different.” We spoke to him to find out exactly why, and we get a sneak peek into an upcoming episode where viewers learn more about Donovan.

How did you come to be on Hudson & Rex in the first place?
Kevin Hanchard: It was providence. I was offered the role of Superintendent Donovan. We thought about it and it made sense. I’m sort of at a place in my life, where I’m a little bit older, and I play a lot of doctors, lawyers and cops. And I have played a few cops in the last few years, but this guy felt different, and it felt right. It felt like there was a maturity and gravitas and weight to this guy than other cops I’ve played. It made sense for me to do this. I had been to Newfoundland before to shoot Republic of Doyle, I think going on eight years now, and I remember having a great time out there, loving the people, loving the landscape, the vistas and the sights, the restaurants and all of that. I was thinking, this is just a great opportunity to spend some time in a part of the country I don’t know if I’m going to get a chance to visit.

I’m impressed at how much Hudson & Rex is about the team investigating these crimes. I love the interaction not just between Rex and Charlie, but the team dynamic too.
KH: I really do think it’s an ensemble. Charlie and Rex are the heart of the series, but the four of us really seem to work together as actors and the characters seem to work well together. I think that’s good and bodes well for the future of the show. It just feels right, you know? The balance is where it should be. Even though I’m the superintendent, I’m not there with an iron fist like the guy from Beverly Hills Cop going, ‘Foley!’ That’s not his nature. He’s a little more like a mentor, which allows for some comedic moments and levity in the face of, you know, a murder each week. I think those are the things that allow for the audience to care for the characters and give the show some legs. I don’t think there could be three better people for me to work with than Mayko, Johnny and Justin. They’re super-talented actors and they’re good people. We genuinely enjoy spending time together. They may tell you something different about me, but I’ll at least take the high road. [Laughs.]

How do you feel about Diesel?
KH: Diesel is the only one of us to consistently hit his mark and never forgets his lines. He’s so smart and intelligent and has such a great spirit about him. You can see it in his eyes; there is a wisdom and a depth there that allows him to be the heartbeat of the show. Even though he is a dog and most people are watching for the dog, it’s not exploitive. It’s not a dog getting dressed up in a tutu and going undercover. He’s fantastic. And, for someone who has wanted to own a dog his entire life, this is a great consolation prize.

Looking forward to the episode entitled, ‘Haunted by the Past,’ we’re going to get a bit of a peek into Donovan’s personal life.
KH: We get to find out about his family situation and the fact that he has a teenage daughter. I’m the father of a child that has just gone through his teens and another about to go into his teens and these are every dad’s worst nightmare. Is my child doing drugs or, even worse, is my child hiding something from me? Donovan is human. He isn’t just a cop who is detached from his kid and is all about the work. He truly has an interest in her well-being. All of those fears and hopes and dreams that every parent has is delivered in this guy as well. It’s a wonderful little side story in that episode.

Hudson & Rex airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Rogers Media.

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