Everything about Masterchef Canada, eh?

MasterChef Canada: Tessa Virtue helps crown the Top 2

With the MasterChef Canada season finale airing next week, Monday’s episode featured the Top 3—Jennifer, Andre and Josh—battling it out for a chef’s jacket and the chance to pocket $100,000. To help out, Olympic Ice Dancer Tessa Virtue was on hand as a special guest (catch she and Scott Moir as guest judges on Battle of the Blades this fall).

Here’s what happened.

In the final Mystery Box challenge of the season, the cube was lifted on a MasterChef logo shrouded by fog. The theme of the challenge was Fire and Ice, meaning the concept had to be applied to Josh, Andre and Jennifer’s recipes. Chefs Alvin, Michael and Claudio and Tessa were looking for a wow factor in look and taste. Tessa was also interested in the story behind each dish.

Jennifer’s first thought was of her father and his favourite birthday food, bacon-wrapped scallops, which became the base of a recipe that included a rum and cola glaze and dulce ice cream pearls. Josh went for a duck plate augmented with a smoking puck and frozen vinaigrette for his salad. Andre aimed for something we’ve never seen from him on the show: a Japanese grill platter utilizing a fire pit, and exploding leaves.

A woman stands, with a shocked look on her face.Andre’s steak by the fire was simply spectacular to look at, with glowing embers the highlight of the plate. Michael and Alvin, and Tessa were all impressed by the look at taste. At first glance, Jennifer’s plate looked cluttered and messy, a hodgepodge of things and ideas. But the flavours were there; Claudio was particularly impressed by the dulce pearls. And Josh’s smoked duck and salad wowed Michael, Tessa and Claudio. I felt like Andre had a slight edge on Jennifer and Josh; the judges agreed and he was crowned the winner.,

Andre didn’t score a fast track to the finale—that would have been too easy—but he did land a major advantage in the Elimination Challenge, choosing who would create a tasting menu with which Canadian cheese. The problem? Andre is lactose intolerant. Oops. The choices were ash-ripened goat cheese from Quebec, cloth-bound cheddar from Prince Edward Island and blue cheese from British Columbia. Andre picked the goat cheese for himself and assigned the cheddar to Jennifer and blue to Josh. His plot was sound: give Jennifer an easy cheese she might overthink and hand Josh a cheese too strong to handle.

A man stands at an oven, cooking.Jennifer aimed for French cheese puffs, updated broccoli and cheese, and a tarte Tatin. Josh opted for a blue cheese dip that he turned into a soup, butternut squash and blue cheese ravioli, and blue cheese cheesecake. Andre decided on a mushroom macaroni and cheese, Brussel sprout and goat cheese salad, and pear and goat cheese mousseline. The judges were worried Josh would run out of time but it was Andre who missed putting puff pastry on his dessert.

Alvin enjoyed Jennifer’s broccoli and cheese recipe, Michael loved her apple tart, but Claudio thought she missed the mark with her puffs. Alvin liked Andre’s mac and cheese, Michael thought the Brussels sprouts could have been charred more, but Claudio thought the goat cheese was missing from the pears. Michael thought Josh’s soup was a little thin but flavourful, Claudio liked the pasta but it was a tad short on cheese flavour, and Alvin thought the cheesecake was very, very good.

The result? Jennifer was the first home cook earmarked for the season finale. Going head-to-head with her is Andre. Josh put up one heck of a fight and showed consistent growth as the weeks went by during Season 6. He should be proud of what he accomplished.

Who do you pick to be this season’s MasterChef Canada winner? Let me know in the comments below.

The MasterChef Canada season finale goes next Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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MasterChef Canada: The home cooks welcome family but say goodbye to two

MasterChef Canada had a special treat for fans on Monday night, as CTV broadcast back-to-back episodes. Of course, the double-dose did have a dark side: we said goodbye to two home cooks.

In the first episode of the night, the Top 5 were surprised by some very special guests: a Mystery Box full of family. Josh’s wife, Cryssi’s sister, Jennifer’s boyfriend, Chanelle’s husband and Andre’s aunt was on-hand not just to cheer on their loved ones—which was what I expected—but to do the cooking instead. It was clear from the shocked looks the home cooks and guests weren’t prepared for the twist. Able to coach, cheer on and participate for a mere 18 of 60 minutes, the competitors could only look on as their beloved recreated a fried chicken dish with biscuits, gravy and coleslaw.

Josh opted to clock in almost right away, butchering the chicken and getting it marinating and prompting his wife to move faster. Jennifer jumped in next, working on the biscuits for her sweetheart’s plate. Andre tended to his biscuits, leaving his aunt to prepare the chicken and coleslaw. Chanelle stayed out as long as she could but buzzed in to help her husband and make sure he was making good use of his time. With 30 minutes to go, Cryssi (according to the episode’s edit) still hadn’t clocked into her sister’s aid, a clear indication of their closeness and confidence in each other.

Cryssi and her sister’s platter looked the tastiest and won rave reviews from Chefs Michael, Claudio and Alvin, but it was Andre and his aunt who was awarded the win. It landed Andre a much-coveted boost in the Elimination Challenge, which had the Top 5 spinning a wheel to determine the tropical fruit at the centre of their next concoction. Andre had his pick of the wheel and chose to make a savoury dish with passionfruit. Cryssi spun and landed on a sweet sugar apple recipe, Josh savoury tamarind, Chanelle sweet using soursop, and Jennifer a savoury coconut.

A group of people cheering.Andre was the only one that didn’t have trouble with their main ingredient—the sugar apple was full of seeds and Chanelle had no clue what soursop was—though Jennifer had a great game plan, opting to use coconut as the base of a seafood curry.

At the tasting, Andre’s passionfruit glazed scallop fritter was enjoyed by Alvin and Michael, Chanelle’s soursop filled crepes weren’t very flavourful, Jennifer’s curry en papillote was overcooked, Cryssi’s sugar apple tart was “Wow,” and Josh’s tamarind beef tostadas were disappointing because he failed to cut the meat all the way through and his tostadas weren’t hand made. The top home cook was Andre, and Chanelle, sadly, was shown the door.

In the second episode, the Top 4 travelled to Peterborough, Ont., to visit the Canadian Canoe Museum for an Indigenous ingredient-themed Team Challenge. There, they were greeted by Chefs Alvin, Michael and Claudio alongside Anishinaabe chef Johl Whiteduck Ringuette of NishDish in Toronto. The task? To create a three-course tasting menu utilizing one of the Three Sisters—corn, squash and beans—for First Nations guests. Chef Johl also came with a gift: white corn.

Andre, who was tops in the Elimination Challenge picked both teams. Andre picked Jennifer to be on his Red Team and facing Josh and Cryssi on the Blue Team.

Two men cook food on a stove top.Jennifer and Andre opted for pemmican inspired bison steaks with corn, partridge with sour cherries and beans, and squash cake while Cryssi and Josh chose to make corn chowder with corn fritters, venison with warm butter basted bean salad, and bannock and squash pudding.

When it came to the best dishes of the night, the Red Team triumphed, whisking Jennifer and Andre into the Top 3 and leaving Josh and Cryssi to fight in the Pressure Test. They were given 70 minutes to replicate a tempered chocolate sphere containing a pistachio sponge cake and bruléed figs.

Josh, who admits baking isn’t his strong suit, was in tough against baking pro Cryssi. And yet, he was the first to land his chocolate sphere in the fridge while she struggled to get hers to work. In order to make it work, Cryssi ditched the mould for a balloon. Incredibly, they both completed the task, though Josh’s creation looked a little better and nailed the replication aspect.

Cryssi’s flavours were dead-on, but would they trump Josh’s dead-on replication? No, and Josh moved into the Top 3.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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MasterChef Canada: History is made during Restaurant Takeover

It may have been a holiday in the rest of the country, but MasterChef Canada didn’t take the day off.

In the biggest test of the season—of every season, really, aside from the finale—the home cooks participated in the daunting Restaurant Takeover, as they served guests at Chef Michael Bonacini’s Leña Restaurante. Rozin, who earned his way back into the competition, joined the Top 5 as they prepared two appetizers and two main dishes for a select group of lunch diners, media and Bell Media guests. (Make no mistake, these folks weren’t paying customers and Chef Michael’s cred was not on the line. That doesn’t take away from the rigours of the test, I just want you to know.)

Cryssi and Josh, who hadn’t been team captains yet, were handed the blue and red aprons and picked their teammates. Josh chose Jennifer and Chanelle to be on Team Red, while Cryssi opted for Rozin and Andre. Andre (and I) was shocked he was picked last, especially because of his experiences with spice, something I assumed would come into play in a restaurant featuring South American flavours. The cool thing that struck me about this Restaurant Takeover—and it may have happened before—was the home cooks were making actual items from Leña’s menu. The broken avocado salad, clams and chorizo, Atlantic salmon and roasted lamb sirloin are available to order or have been, which made the challenge have real stakes. Cryssi, who grew up in a Portuguese household, was excited at the chance to make the plates. Josh was struggling to keep up.

A man and a woman stand in a kitchen.On the Red Team, Josh tackled the clams and Chanelle took on the salad with Jennifer helping where needed. Cryssi, meanwhile, handled the seafood for the Red Team, with Andre doing the salad and Rozin aiding when called upon. The small kitchen and constant orders coming in soon caused the expected trouble for both squads. In particular, the clams were being stubborn, causing Cryssi to sweat; I could feel the frustration and dismay in her voice. And Chef Michael made it known he wasn’t pleased either. The judges gave the plates a try and deemed it pretty much a draw.

Next up were the mains. Josh chose to prepare the lamb, Jennifer the salmon and Chanelle roving. Cryssi picked the salmon, Rozin on the lamb and Andre plating. The Red Team stumbled at first, with rare lamb and salmon slowing them down and Josh neglecting his duties as team captain. It was chaos. Things weren’t any better on the blue side, as lamb orders piled up and Rozin floundered in the weeds. Chef Michael had this to say when he was told it would be eight minutes until the lamb was ready.

“Eight minutes?! You’re killing me!” And perhaps blue’s chances at a win, especially when Michael called chef de cuisine Julie Marteleira in to help them. With one Red Team table waiting 90 minutes for their food, they weren’t vying for the win either, so Chef Michael got his hands dirty with them. All three judges agreed, upon tasting, that the entrees weren’t up to par.

Three men stand at a table, tasting food.The result? Neither team was safe and all six home cooks were headed to the Pressure Test, prepping breakfast for Alvin, Michael and Claudio. But before that, Cryssi and Josh were given the opportunity to save an MVP from their squad. Andre and Jennifer were picked and headed up to the gallery.

Three different breakfasts—full English for Michael, congee for Alvin and bizcocho for Claudio—just 65 minutes and a replication challenge seemed impossible for Rozin, Cryssi, Chanelle and Josh. I would have sat down on the floor and cried. The home cooks soldiered on and were in pretty good spirits. Rozin could only smile as he uncovered his blood sausage and discovered it had burst into a grey paté, and Josh’s congee turned into a soupy mess.

Chef Michael tasted the bizcocho first, enjoying Cryssi’s, marking Josh’s as dry, Rozin’s dry and overcooked, and Chanelle’s just wrong. Chef Alvin was up next tasting the congee, deeming Cryssi’s spot-on, Josh’s thin and bland, Rozin’s good but unbalanced, and Chanelle’s a good effort. Finally, it was time for Chef Michael’s English breakfast. Cryssi’s was tasty but her eggs were undone, Josh’s well executed, Rozin’s well done, and Chanelle’s eggs a little overdone.

With many little mistakes made, it was going to be a tough call but the judges made it: Cryssi was tops and Rozin was cut from the competition for a second time.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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MasterChef Canada: Jenny and Alyssa (and two others) fight to stay in the competition

Last week on MasterChef Canada, Chef Alvin Leung lived up his “Demon Chef” nickname by throwing a devilish Elimination Challenge at the remaining home cooks. By the time the flour had settled, Jenny and Alyssa were asked to remove their aprons.

But rather than just being shown the door, MasterChef Canada‘s producers threw them (and us) yet another twist: the two would battle it out to see who got to stay in the competition. This test isn’t new for MasterChef Canada, but it’s been done as a digital extra and the winner has just shown up on the television show. Having the test occur as an episode was much more effective, especially with Jenny and Alyssa.

Three men stand on a stage.And true to a season of great drama, Jenny and Alyssa weren’t competing alone: Rozin and Tony walked into the kitchen to fight for the lone apron too. I was of two minds about this. While I appreciate giving someone that has been cut a shot at returning, where do you draw the line at who is given it? Alyssa and Jenny had just been eliminated but having Tony and Rozin, dropped in past weeks, fight for a spot didn’t seem fair.

Regardless of my thoughts, “Knife Fight” was underway in a trio of Pressure Tests. After each, one home cook would be leaving. For good, I assumed. In Round 1, the chef’s knife was the star of the show and used to recreate a rice noodle salad with intricately cut matchstick vegetables. With just 15 minutes on the clock, Tony was convinced he had no chance. And though Chefs Michael, Claudio and Alvin agreed that julienning the veggies should come first, Alyssa opted to make her Asian dressing. Nicking herself was another step in the wrong direction for Alyssa and with five minutes left it didn’t look good, especially since she missed elements and her vegetables were tossed into the bowl. Sadly, MasterChef Canada said a final goodbye to Alyssa.

In Round 2, the filleting knife took centre stage, to be used to create Sole meunière, a French recipe using Dover sole, flour, brown butter, parsley and lemon. And, with just eight minutes to prepare it, it seemed impossible. Even with his impeccable knife skills, Rozin was having trouble with the sole. As for Jenny … the poor fish was being mangled. But Jenny nailed the sauce by allowing the butter to brown first; that gave the sauce a nutty flavour. Rozin neglected to do that, and Tony’s gaffe came when he added lemon juice to the pan instead of the plate. With no perfect results, Claudio, Alvin and Michael said so long to Jenny.

Five people stand in a line.For Round 3, Rozin and Tony put the boning knife to use to recreate a Frenched rack of lamb in 22 minutes. Tony cut himself early on, putting pressure on his already tight schedule. Rozin, meanwhile, sped through cutting the rib bones free of fat and membrane and it looked like he’d be getting that apron. When Tony cut himself a second time, he seemed destined to depart. But timing is the great equalizer, and Rozin neglected to pre-heat his pan; waiting for it to come to temperature allowed Tony to catch up. It was anyone’s game.

During the tasting, Chef Claudio pointed out that Tony’s lamb was underseasoned and Michael noted it was slightly underdone. As for Rozin’s, his meat was dead-on cook-wise, but an errant bone and under seasoning was noted by Claudio. In the end, it was Rozin who grabbed the apron and is back in the competition. Do I wish Jenny or Alyssa was in his place? Yes. But having Rozin in the mix again means some serious competition for the remaining home cooks.

Who do you think will win this season of MasterChef Canada? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Asian influences highlight MasterChef Canada

Last week, the remaining MasterChef Canada home cooks were schooled when they made lunches for over 100 hungry kids and Rozin was eliminated from the competition.

This week, Chef Alvin took centre stage during the Elimination Challenge when he uncovered Asian treats for the participants to tackle.

But before all of that, there was the latest Mystery Box to get through. The seven home cooks lifted the lids to reveal two smaller boxes. One was clear, showing all of the ingredients. The other was black, hiding its contents. Which box each chose would go a long way to presenting their personalities. Were these home cooks risk takers or not? Josh and Andre—the last two guys in the competition, it should be noted—opted for the clear boxes and 45 minutes of cooking time while the gals went for it. The secret boxes held exotic ingredients like black cod, escarole and passion fruit. Six seasons in, I continue to be impressed with the challenges the producers are coming up with and Monday’s Mystery Box was just the latest.

While Chef Michael admitted he would have chosen the “safe” box, Alvin and Claudio said they’d have gone for the secret box to test their skills. Chanelle decided on a Thai inspired cod dish for her recipe, Alyssa with fish tacos, Jennifer with fish cakes, Jenny a po’ boy sandwich and Cryssi a pan-fried cod with vinaigrette and fingerling potatoes. Andre and Josh had 15 minutes to plot and plan their recipes, the former with dry-rubbed glazed pork and the latter a pan-seared pork chop with potatoes and butternut squash puree.

The judges chose to taste Chanelle’s plate (“The flavours were fresh and clean,” opined Michael), Josh (“Very nicely done,” Alvin said) and Cryssi (“Great flavours, good technique,” said Michael). From the glowing reviews she got, it was no surprise that Cryssi won the Mystery Box challenge but it was still great to see. And though she wasn’t safe and would have to cook in the Elimination Challenge, Cryssi got her pick of Asian-themed ingredients like abalone, uni, ebisudai, Waygu beef, black garlic and XO sauce and then assigned her competitors the rest.

Cryssi chose the beef for herself and then aimed to cull the herd, giving Andre the uni, Alyssa the XO sauce, Chanelle the abalone, Jennifer the ebisudai fish, Josh the black garlic and Jenny the matsutake mushrooms.

Meanwhile, Cryssi planned to honour the beef as a steak and a tartare. Alyssa opted to put the XO sauce on pork belly, and Josh was stoked he got the garlic because he cooks with it all the time and planned to top his pasta with it. Jennifer aimed for a carpaccio, Jenny and mushroom egg drop soup and Andre a cauliflower steak with uni sauce. As time ran out, Alyssa discovered her pork wasn’t quite done and would have to complete it in a frying pan. Everyone was out of sorts, except for Cryssi and that was her plan.

Jenny’s mushroom egg drop soup wasn’t up to par, according to Claudio and didn’t honour the main ingredient; Alvin deemed Josh’s pasta beautiful thanks to the creamy black garlic sauce; Claudio called Jennifer’s carpaccio amazing and Alvin was honoured she served it in the fried carcass; Michael advised Alyssa her pork was just cooked through and the XO sauce didn’t come through; Alvin loved Chanelle’s fried abalone; and Alvin was disappointed Andre used so little sea urchin on his slab of cauliflower. Finally, Cryssi’s tartare and steak were a mixed bag according to Claudio.

Jennifer came out on top with the best dish of the night. On the bottom were Jenny and Alyssa, who had struggled so badly with the ingredients Cryssi gave them. And while they were asked to remove their aprons, they weren’t eliminated yet; both face off in a Redemption Challenge in next week’s episode.

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

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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