Tag Archives: Alvin Leung

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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MasterChef Canada returns with a shocking Episode 1 twist

After four seasons of a reality competition program, it’s easy to grow accustomed to the format. MasterChef Canada is, after all, about home cooks competing against each other (and themselves) for the chance to impress judges Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile and Alvin Leung on the road to winning $100,000. How different can that be going into Season 4? Very.

Returning on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, MasterChef Canada launches out of the gate with one heck of a twist to the audition process: 24 finalists receive a box of rice in the mail and have just 20 minutes to figure out what they’ll create. That happens before the contestants even set foot in the MasterChef kitchen. Once they get there the stress level only increases; this may just be the most dramatic and challenging season.

Here’s what Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile had to say about Season 4 of the show.

I was literally on the edge of my seat watching the first challenge.
Michael Bonacini: It was a great twist and it’s been fun unravelling these twists before the home cooks’ eyes and seeing the sheer shock on this faces and the vibe that you pick up from being in that kitchen in the moment. It is priceless.

Claudio Aprile: It really set the tone for the next 11 episodes because it was very intense, unpredictable … no one had any idea what was happening until it happened.

I loved the curveball in Episode 1 because, at this point, in the franchise’s history, contestants think they know what’s going to happen.
Michael Bonacini: It’s exactly that. Even you, as a viewer, think you know the rhythm and the routine. Every once in a while we’ll throw in a humdinger that turns it on its head and reinvents it, and leaves you gasping for breath.

What keeps you coming back as judges every season? You all have restaurants to manage, so why do it?
Claudio Aprile: I really enjoy it. I’m aware that it’s really rare to be on a show like this and when you arrive on set you realize just how special it is. I get to work with an amazing crew and have been a big fan of Michael and Alvin forever. We have a lot of fun. Sometimes we just pinch ourselves that we’re on this aspirational show which, I know it sounds cliché, has changed people’s lives.

Michael Bonacini: It’s a real joy to be a part of. I was scared to death the first time I showed up on set and saw the magnitude of the set and the number of cameras and the crew. I felt so small and insignificant. It put the fear of God into me. You push yourself to do a better job each time every time to do a tasting or visit a cook’s station. You really want to be able to communicate how things taste and the technique they’ve used and hope viewers latch on to that as well. It’s not just the road of excitement of the show but what is going on in the mind of the cook. It’s truly a joy to be a part of this and to hang out with a couple of dudes like Alvin and Claudio is a bonus.

Are you still looking for the same high bar from these home cooks? Has that changed in Season 4?
Claudio Aprile: For me, it always boils down to one thing and that is making food that is delicious. Nothing else matters to me. When I’m at that podium and the home cook presents their dish, all I’m looking for is deliciousness. Presentation and creativity is important but if it doesn’t taste good, the presentation and creativity become irrelevant.

Michael Bonacini: I think, as the seasons progress, there is this for me, the next group of home cooks to be that much better than the season before and so on. That’s tough to acquire and find and part of getting to that spot is part of our responsibility in terms of critiquing, the comments and the challenges. But there are definitely moments within every episode, every season, where home cooks exceed those expectations. There are disappointments, but when someone exceeds your expectations it just blows your mind.

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

Image courtesy of Bell Media.

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Who will win Season 3 of MasterChef Canada?

MasterChef Canada‘s Season 3 return date has been announced, and that means I can let you in on a secret: I know who’s going to win. Mary Berg, the insurance broker who nabbed a spot during the show’s auditions in Toronto last summer, is taking home the title and $100,000.

OK, yes, I am biased. I don’t have an inside track or suspect MasterChef Canada is fixed; I’m just rooting for the energetic redhead because I followed her through the audition process up until the point she earned a place in the Top 40. Bell Media offered journalists two options during the summer event: bring something for the judges to taste or trail behind someone trying out. I opted for the latter—I love to cook but would have been too stressed out having Alvin Leung, Claudio Aprile and Michael Bonacini judge me—preferring to watch another go through experience.

It didn’t take me long to be convinced Berg has what it takes to follow in David Jorge and Eric Chong’s footsteps. She oozes confidence and a girl-next-door quality that will connect with viewers, she has an inspirational back story that will tug the heartstrings and she can make damn fine food. The fact she’s a vegetarian won’t derail her plot to become Season 3 champion.

“I have no issue with meat,” she said in July. “I love cooking it so much. It smells good, it caramelizes, and when I was a kid I ate only bacon. I’d go to the breakfast buffet and eat four plates of bacon.”

Berg advanced to the Top 40 in the strength of her deconstructed lemon meringue pie, a stunning plate that impressed Aprile when he swung by to chat with her. The pie is a twist on a recipe passed down through Berg’s family

“My nana was Miss Canada during the Second World War, so I called it Miss Canada’s Lemon Meringue Pie,” Berg said. “My grandfather ran one of the oldest public houses in Canada in St. Catharines and on Friday nights she would make homemade mac and cheese and lemon meringue pie for him. I wanted to pay homage to her with this pie.”

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

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