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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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Entertainment One and Brad Peyton announce Albedo starring Evangeline Lilly for Bell Media and Vudu

From a media release:

Entertainment One (eOne), together with Brad Peyton and Bell Media, today announced an eight-episode series order for a mystery drama titled ALBEDO for Bell Media in Canada, in partnership with Vudu in the US. The show marks a return to television for Golden Globe®-nominated actress Evangeline Lilly who will star and executive produce. Writing duo Max and Adam Reid serve as series creators and executive producers. Brad Peyton is also set to direct and executive produce the straight-to-series project that will be internationally distributed by eOne.

One-hundred-fifty years in the future, detective Vivien Coleman is dispatched to the edge of our solar system to investigate a scientist’s mysterious death on board an isolated space station. She soon finds herself trapped and cut-off from Earth, along with the station’s small crew of brilliant scientists – all murder suspects – all harboring their own secrets… What begins as a classic murder mystery evolves into a fight for survival that may threaten the future of our species.

Evangeline Lilly won a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2006 and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2007 for her role in LOST. She most recently reprised her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with box office record-shattering AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Lilly’s extensive roster of work also includes the upcoming film DREAMLAND and past films such as LITTLE EVIL, THE HOBBIT and THE HURT LOCKER.

Max and Adam Reid are best known for most recently producing and writing Amazon Prime Video series, SNEAKY PETE, and the eOne pilot for YouTube Premium, DARK CARGO, executive produced by Ben Stiller and Nicky Weinstock.

Brad Peyton’s work includes films such as RAMPAGE and  the Netflix and Discovery Canada series FRONTIER. 

In development at Bell Media since 2016 and expected to begin pre-production in May, ALBEDO is the latest international original drama from Canada’s leading content creation company. The series will be presented exclusively in Canada on Bell Media platforms.

Vudu is an ad-supported, Internet-based home entertainment service that provides access to a library of movies, images, television shows, artwork, and/or other episodic content. Its services can be accessed through computers, mobile devices, and Internet-capable televisions, as well as proprietary devices manufactured by the company and third-party devices. Vudu Inc. is a subsidiary of Walmart.

ALBEDO is produced by eOne in association with Bell Media, and the participation of the Canada Media Fund, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and the Province of British Columbia Production Services Tax Credit.

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Production begins on Season 2 of Bravo original series Carter

From a media release:

Bravo announced today that production is underway for Season 2 of its lighthearted mystery-crime drama CARTER, starring Jerry O’Connell. Shot in North Bay, ON, the sophomore season is set to debut later this year, exclusively on Bravo. Season 1 of CARTER is currently streaming only on Crave.

The 10-episode, one-hour series also sees the return of co-stars  Sydney Poitier Heartsong (Homecoming) as Sam Shaw and Kristian Bruun (Orphan Black) as Dave Leigh, as well as Brenda Kamino (The Glass Castle) as Dot Yasuda.

Canadian and CSA-winning actor Lyriq Bent (THE AFFAIR) joins the cast in Season 2 as Joyce Warwick Boyle, the new Interim Police Chief at Bishop PD. Described as a man with both swagger and edge, Boyle quickly establishes himself as a stern law man impressed with Sam and her abilities, while being equally unimpressed with Harley and his antics. As his admiration for Sam turns romantic, Harley and Dave discover Boyle is hiding an alarming and mysterious past.

CARTER revolves around Harley Carter (O’Connell), the star of a hit detective series who decides to take a break from Hollywood. Upon returning to his northern hometown, Harley discovers that his years of playing a fictional detective come in handy when he finds himself immersed in real-life mysteries, including the unsolved disappearance of his mother which culminated in the Season 1 finale.

In Season 2, Harley plants deeper roots as a celebrity P.I., using disguises to go undercover and doubling-down on his fame in a world where life continues to imitate TV. As Harley dives deeper into solving mysteries, he discovers that the toughest cases to solve are personal ones, as he finds himself embroiled in a love triangle with his best friend, Sam Shaw (Poitier Heartsong), and her new boss.

Outside of Canada, the series was commissioned by Sony Pictures Television (SPT) for AXN, returning for Season 2 in Spain, Latin America, Brazil, Japan, Central Europe, and Russia.  CARTER will also return to WGN America in the U.S. The series is distributed by SPT worldwide, excluding Canada. CARTER is produced by Amaze Film + Television and executive produced by the company’s founders Teza Lawrence and Michael Souther (Call Me Fitz, Saint Ralph) as well as series creator Garry Campbell, O’Connell, and Season 2 showrunner and EP Andy Berman.

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MasterChef Canada: Blue Team fails school challenge

I still remember the high school lunches I enjoyed in the cafeteria. Plates of fries soaked in gravy AND ketchup. Ham and cheese on a kaiser roll, wrapped in plastic and set into a steam table so one half was dried out while the other was soggy. Fish and chips covered in gravy. Tasty? Yes. Healthy? Heck no. And none of it was to the standard the food the kids received on Monday’s new episode of MasterChef Canada.

Last week, we said goodbye to Tony and crowned Jennifer and Andre the leaders in the Team Challenge. And, to put their performance in academic terms: the teams overall got a B. Arriving in Rotherglen Elementary School in Oakville, Ont., the teams were informed that over 160 kids from Grades 2 to 5 would be descending on them and eager for lunch consisting of a main, vegetable and dessert. (My first instinct? Mac and cheese, caramelized carrots with maple syrup and chocolate chip cookies.)

Jennifer planned to make sure everything was covered and nothing overlooked while her Red Team of Josh, Alyssa and Chanelle cooked. Andre viewed this as the perfect experience for his plan of running a catering company; he chose Jenny, Rozin and Cryssi for his Blue Team. It didn’t take long for the Red Team to settle on square pizza with square pepperoni, brownies and veggies and dip, while Blue clearly overheard me and went with macaroni and cheese with a bread crumb crust, chocolate pudding and raw veggies with dip.

Jennifer’s Red Team got down to work, splitting up the brownie and pizza prep. They were moving quickly, efficiently, quietly and confidently. The same was true for the Blue Team and it looked like everything would run smoothly. Wrong. Chef Claudio’s math quickly revealed a shocking fact: there was not enough time for Rozin to cook 161 portions of mac and cheese. More burners were needed. Over on the Red Team, grating cheese for the pizza was taking up valuable time too. They decided not to cut up the pepperoni into squares and dropped a vegetable from their veggies and dip. The Blue Team, after tasting the pasta, opted not to include beef (how much time did Rozin waste cooking it?) or finishing it in the oven.

After a frenzied service, it came down to the judging: Jennifer’s Red Team topped Andre’s Blue Team by 37 points, sending Blue back the MasterChef Canada kitchen for the Pressure Test.

Talk about pressure; the four home cooks had just 20 minutes to create a Catalan fish stew in a replication challenge. I Googled the recipe and read a variety of cooking times, from 20 to 75 minutes so, technically, it could be done. I’d like to know how the home cooks knew they had to toast the noodles for the dish. Did one of the chefs tell them that? I can only assume the answer to that is yes because the home cooks had never heard of the stew before, let alone that the noodles should be toasted. Jenny cut herself and required a medic. Undaunted, she continued to work one-handed.

The plates were completed on time, but Rozin’s dish held far less seafood than his competitors. He was hoping the taste was enough to save him and Chef Michael was impressed with the flavouring. Sadly, Rozin’s squid tentacles were undercooked. It was going to take a miracle to save him. Cryssi’s seafood and her plating wowed Chef Claudio. According to Chef Michael, Jenny’s mussels weren’t presented in the half shell and her pasta lacked a little flavour. Andre’s plate appeared to be the best of the bunch in looks and taste, opined Chefs Alvin and Michael.

It was no surprise, then, that Andre was awarded best dish. And, because it was a replication test and Rozin failed it, he was eliminated from the competition. I’m going to miss Rozin’s passion, enthusiasm and the baseball caps.

What would you have made for the school lunch test? Had you ever heard of that seafood stew before? 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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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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