Tag Archives: Michael Bonacini

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.


Comments and queries for the week of July 6

On Monday, July 2, Michael made a stuffed dessert with filo dough and he made them in half moon shape. I did not get the name but would like the recipe. Thanks. —Virginia

Hi Virginia. Here’s the link to the sweet half-moon pastries recipe Michael Bonacini made on a recent episode of Bonacini’s Italy. Enjoy!

I am a 76-year-old living in northern Canada. I have been watching Daily Planet since cable arrived at my residence many years ago and watching it at midnight as a “cool down” to the day. I am extremely disappointed that the show has been cancelled. I suspect not much in the way of financing has been provided to the show as of late. I thought that Bell and other TV providers were supposed to bring a percentage of Canadian perspective to channels. So what is to replace it to provide that? Enough of U.S. reality shows. Unfortunately, all my telecommunications are provided by Bell subsidiaries and difficult to abandon. —Richard

I agree with ALL! Bell has been nothing but a pain in my rear and this show was the perfect relaxing thing my family of six had at the PERFECT time of the evening. Great job Daily Planet cast, and—sarcastically—great job Bell and broadcasters. —Justin

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.


Preview: Bonacini’s Italy brings the tastes of 15 food regions to Gusto

Did you catch Michael Bonacini’s Gusto special, Christmas at the Farm? If not, you missed a fantastic hour packed with tasty recipes and Bonacini’s charm.

Luckily, the folks at Bell Media were smart enough to sign on the restaurateur and resident MasterChef Canada judge for a whole new series of 15 instalments. This one, Bonacini’s Italy—debuting Monday at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT on Gusto, which is in a free preview until June 26—picks up with Bonacini as he cooks his way through 15 Italian regions, exploring the flavours and textures that make each unique through an entire meal, from antipasto, soup, or salad, to primo, secondo and dolce.

On Monday, Bonacini transports viewers to Tuscany for a menu jam-packed with peasant food. Gone is the sprawling, snowy farm from this holiday special, swapped out for the clean lines of a what looks like a condo kitchen complete with a sun-coloured bike hanging askew on the wall. Simplicity and freshness are the rules of the day in Tuscan cooking according to Bonacini, as he roughly dices perfect heirloom tomatoes, preps crusty bread, cores and chops cucumber, slices red onion, tears basil and pours out red wine vinegar and olive oil to create a bread salad. Gnudi with ricotta and spinach are equally tantalizing, followed by a Tuscan beef stew with just seven ingredients and a shockingly simple baked fish and potatoes.

Aside from the charm I mentioned when previewing Bonacini’s holiday special, he brings an air of supreme calm to Italy. Bonacini delivers his lines softly and succinctly, exuding the same confidence and surety that has made him a successful restaurateur and MasterChef Canada judge and coach. By the end of Episode 1 of Bonacini’s Italy, not only was I hungry but I had the confidence to try out the recipes for myself.

Bonacini’s Italy airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT on Gusto. Gusto is in a free preview until June 26.

Image courtesy of Bell Media.


Gusto premieres new original series Bonacini’s Italy

From a media release:

Gusto continues to pack its schedule with premium lifestyle programs featuring the most sought-after personalities with the premiere of all-new cooking series NIGELLA: AT MY TABLE and Gusto Worldwide Media’s BONACINI’S ITALY, beginning June 4.

Culinary superstar Nigella Lawson shares the food she cooks for family and friends in her latest, six-part series NIGELLA: AT MY TABLE, airing Mondays at 8 p.m. ET. A companion to her latest best-selling cookbook of the same name, the series celebrates home cooking and the food that makes people feel happy and welcome as they sit around a home cook’s table. Whether offering up her fresh take on familiar classics, or creating new dishes inspired by different cuisines, Nigella ensures that everyday eating is always pleasurable, with a minimum of fuss. Recipes include Parmesan French Toast, Herbed Leg of Lamb, and Beef and Aubergine Fatteh.

Following AT MY TABLE, viewers venture to Italy with MASTERCHEF CANADA’s Michael Bonacini as he showcases the country’s diverse and sumptuous fare in the premiere of Gusto’s latest original series, BONACINI’S ITALY. Airing Mondays at8:30 p.m. ET, the 15-episode, half-hour series features Bonacini preparing unique and sophisticated dishes from specific regions across Italy including Seafood Couscous (Sicily), Mint Fava Bean Soup (Lazio), and Chickpea Flatbread (Liguria).

BONACINI’S ITALY – Premieres Monday, June 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET – Gusto Original Series
BONACINI’S ITALY is a new sophisticated food series featuring celebrity Chef Michael Bonacini as he cooks up diverse Italian cuisine. Set in a contemporary kitchen, Bonacini explores different regions of Italy by preparing dishes unique to each local tradition. In the premiere episode, Bonacini explores the region of Tuscany, creating delectable Tuscan dishes including Panzanella (tomato and bread salad), Gnudi con Ricotta e Spinaci (spinach ricotta gnudi), Peposo con Fagioli all’Ucelletto (peppered beef stew and beans in the style of small birds), and Pesce al Forno con Patate (baked sea bass with potatoes).

BONACINI’S ITALY is created by Chris Knight, President and CEO, Gusto Worldwide Media. Bell Media Production Executive is Danielle Pearson. Corrie Coe is Senior Vice-President, Original Programming, Bell Media. Pat DiVittorio is Vice-President, Programming, Bell Media. Mike Cosentino is Senior Vice-President, Content and Programming, Bell Media. Randy Lennox is President, Bell Media.




MasterChef Canada: Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile reflect on five seasons and discuss key home cooks

While the contestants change every season of MasterChef Canada, one trio has stayed the same for the past four. Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile and Alvin Leung serve not only as judges on CTV’s culinary competition but mentors as well.

They’ve taken that job seriously since Episode 1 of Season 1. Now, with the first episode of Season 5 under our belts, we spoke to Bonacini and Aprile about five seasons on the show, their responsibility as mentors thoughts on two home cooks we’ve got our eyes on.

Congratulations on five seasons on MasterChef Canada. Does it feel like it’s been that long?
Michael Bonacini: It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve loved every part of it. I still find it as exciting today as the first day that I got the phone call that said, ‘You have been chosen to be one of the judges to be on MasterChef Canada.‘ It’s a wonderful feeling and to be five years in is pure magic. The cherry on the cake, so to speak.

Claudio Aprile: Yeah, 100 per cent. Listening to Michael it reminded me of the phone call that I also received. I went into it very cautious and unsure it was what I wanted to do with my career. And then the competitive gene in me kicked in and I went from being unsure to really sure I wanted it when I did the audition. I waited a few weeks and there was no call and when the call finally did come in it was a really exhilarating phone call. What made it very interesting for me is during the audition process, Michael, Alvin and myself spent a lot of time just hanging out off-camera and it was interesting that the three of us got picked. I often thought there was another camera off somewhere just capturing our interaction because the three of us got on. I’m very mindful that this is a rare opportunity and it’s also a time-sensitive opportunity that won’t last forever. When I’m on set with Michael, Alvin, the crew, the writers … we’re really lucky to be part of this family that we’ve made. When I’m on set I’m there and in the moment, in the zone, and it just feels great.

Claudio, this is the first season the three of you hand-delivered the good news to the Top 21 home cooks. What was that experience like?
CA: First of all, you never want to sneak up on a man with a bow and arrow. I’ll never make that mistake again. Don’t ever ambush a large man from the East Coast with a bow and arrow and a bottle of moonshine. He looked at me and grabbed me like a rag doll. Note to self not to do that again. [Laughs.] For many reasons, it was very exciting to actually take MasterChef Canada on the road and deliver this incredible, exciting message to these home cooks. And for me, it really underscored that MasterChef Canada has now become a brand that people recognize. It means something to a lot of people. During my travels, people would stop me on the street and say, ‘I love the show and I love what you’re doing on the show and the Canadian spirit that you really carry so proudly.’

One of the things I have loved about MasterChef Canada is the three of you. You are always so respectful of the contestants even when something doesn’t taste or turn out the way you thought it should. You’re enthusiastic, you coach them along and focus on the positive rather than the negative. How important is it for you to be that way rather than cut the home cooks down?
MB: It is so important to be a mentor on the show. The home cooks have so much respect for each of the three judges. This is something they are putting their lives on hold for, the opportunity to have a life-changing experience for themselves and not in a negative way. Yes, there are dishes that are good and great, and there are dishes that are—to be quite honest—not so great because of bad plating, under seasoning or bad decisions. But all three judges know they have seen that over the years in our own restaurants from our own individual selves and our own employees and it’s part of the course of mentoring, growing and developing people. Long gone are the days when you could scream and shout, throw something at someone and have a tantrum. That’s no way to mentor. It’s about being honest—and I’m not afraid to be brutally honest—it is about communicating clearly and concisely about what I feel is incorrect or could be improved or should have done to the dish to make it better. I think that’s important feedback to a home cook who may or may not have the chance to cook for you again. If that was my son appearing on such a show, I would expect the mentor to act the same way.

CA: When you’re reading someone the culinary law of the land, it serves us in a very poor way if we’re degrading or condescending. It’s not a good look whether it’s a television program or real-life, the optics on that don’t look good. When you can actually control your emotions and speak to someone with dignity and respect it captures people’s attention, both the home cooks and the audience.

I have to give the folks at Proper Television some kudos. Having that twist of eliminating home cooks during their audition dish prep was dramatic. Clearly, the point being driven home is that you can’t get comfortable in this competition.
CA: The word ‘comfort’ is not a word that I would think of when I think about MasterChef Canada. There is nothing comfortable about it. It is uncomfortable, it’s pressurized, it’s unpredictable. That’s for many reasons. The show is about entertaining first. We don’t want them to figure things out. We want it to be exciting and who doesn’t love the element of surprise? The cooks that watch the show think they have us decoded. And I have to say, you thought wrong. We switch it up a lot. Collectively, we have over 100 years of culinary experience. There is nowhere to hide. We will pick things out.

Let’s discuss two home cooks that caught my eye in Episode 1. Beccy is just 19 years old and made a beautiful beef and beetroot dish. What can you say about her?
MB: Beccy is an interesting young home cook. She has very few words to say and she’s fascinating to watch. She is the youngest home cook we’ve ever had on the show and that’s what makes her interesting. She comes from England and is a tile-setters helper. It’s a pretty humble job and she loves to cook at home.

Claudio, can you comment on Reem? A lot has been made of her Muslim background already, but I was wowed by her baba ganoush.
CA: I think Reem is a very, very talented home cook. There is the religious aspect to her story, but I feel she’s going to champion a different cause. She is very strong and a very kind person. But don’t mistake her kindness for weakness. Her food is incredible, like knockout dishes.

MasterChef Canada airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.