Meet the 4 "MasterChef Canada" Season 3 home cooks from Calgary
DH Calgary StaffFeb 10, 2016 11:25 am
The third season of TV’s MasterChef Canada is prepping to dish up an exciting new roster of home cooks all eager to claim the coveted title and prize.
With a sweet start date of February 14, MasterChef Canada will to serve fans a super-sized new batch competitors from coast to coast. Viewers will have their first taste of the competition as they meet the Top 40 finalists selected by the stellar judging panel of acclaimed Canadian chefs Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung, and Claudio Aprile.
Among those hungry 40 are four Calgarians: April Lee Baker, Domingo Lumanog, Travis Petersen, and Jose Torres. Calgary Buzz had the chance to chat via phone with each of them about their experience in the MasterChef Canada kitchen, the Calgary food scene, and what it means to cook and eat in Canada.
Chef Alvin tastes April Lee Baker’s dish (Photo courtesy Bell Media)
An eclectic homemaker from Mundare, Alberta, this Calgarian dreams of owning a restaurant with its own garden and livestock.
Audition Dish: Crispy Skin Duck Breast topped with Sweet Heat Alberta Honey and Kobacha purée
Who got her to try out: “My husband’s encouragement really prompted me to try out for the show. He really wanted to see me put myself out there and challenge myself.”
How she prepped for her audition: “I prepared by finding the best prices on duck breast, cooked it for family and friends day in and day out, calling new people to come over, getting feedback.”
Did she get sick of duck? “I was for a bit. I have a bunch of duck in the freezer.”
By the way, she lives on a working farm: “I’m a really rustic kind of chef. I love to use nose-to-tail. Utilizing all of the animal is so important to me. It’s such an honour and a sacrifice that these animals give their lives for our food. My farm is a hobby farm with hens–egg layers now, and meat birds this spring, and meat rabbits. Fans are already reaching out their farm stories with me!”
What is Canadian food? I come from an Ukranian background, and my family really brought that food culture with them. Getting to meet the 39 other home cooks showed me they all had a family story. This is modern-day Canada: We’ve blended eastern Europe, the middle east, brought them all together, and used our own awesome ingredients. I think it’s going to grow more and more.”
On Calgary’s food scene: “It’s a really exciting time right now. For many years Calgary was overlooked in the food scene, but there are some amazing chefs in the city. We definitely do farm to table and nose to tail well. The restaurants are really connecting to farmers and gardeners in the area.
A Brand Manager and Calgary native, Lumanog says his dream is to write a cookbook and dedicate it to his mom.
Audition Dish: Ahi Tuna on a bed of Raw Beet with Wasabi-Infused Goat Cheese and Mint
Time to change: “I was in the fashion industry, and I needed some change, and I thought [being on MasterChef Canada] would be a great opportunity to lead me to a different route. And it’s about following my passion–just another avenue to keep my creative side alive.”
On his culinary influences: “I always say i’m a fake Italian–Italian food can not do wrong in my eyes. I love fresh ingredients, farm to fork. I’m from the Philippines, so having that access to fresh ingredients is also where I get inspiration.”
Senses and sensibility: “I always remind everyone there are five senses. If it looks good, it probably tastes good. In terms of the visual, I think the biggest part of it for me going into MasterChef is that I could bring a little bit of flair, colour, and chic-ness.”
From behind the scenes to on camera: “For Fashion Week, I’m the person who would organize things–not the reason why things are being organized. It was a different spectrum being on the other side of the lens–hair, makeup, being fed. It was a different world…and a great experience.”
Biggest lesson learned? Patience. Things take time. I was really honing my culinary experience within myself, but it’s not an overnight process. It changed me–now I’m a little more patient.”
Yay, Calgary! “Living in Calgary is great. The city has a lot to offer–you always have the foundations, like the Italian restaurants and steakhouses. Because of the economy restaurants are coming in and out, and food trucks also became popular in Calgary. It’s a happening city, and I’m proud to be a Calgarian.”
Petersen represented Calgary during MasterChef Canada since he had been living and working in Alberta for several years in the oil and gas industry. The Vancouver native has since moved back to B.C.
Audition Dish: Brazilian Moqueca
Timing is everything: “I was laid off in December, so I’m making a career change and starting up my own thing. I’m doing some private catering, small events, and dinner parties. I’m following my dream, and chasing my passion.”
How MasterChef Canada affected him: “It changed my life one hundred percent. It has given me the push to go now and really chase my dream. Cooking was never meant to be something more than what I love to do.”
What it’s like being in the MCC Kitchen: “Kind of surreal. It’s as crazy as it looks. It’s really fast-paced, and I loved every minute of it.”
What did he learn from his fellow home cooks? “I got to be around people from all walks of life, who all share this love and passion for food … I made great solid amazing friendships. It opened the box a little more. I have friends who are foodies, but we never sit down and just talk about food for a couple of hours. Four or five guys sitting down talking cooking techniques? I thought: This is never going to happen again.”
How Canadian food inspires him: “We’re such a diversified country. Our food is so fusion, it’s so mixed. I love seafood–I grew up in Vancouver–but I have a huge aAsian inspiration in the way I cook. I think we are inspired by what’s around us. We live in this beautiful country. It’s a melting pot for greatness.”
Chef Michael tastes Jose Torres’ dish (Photo courtesy Bell Media)
Born in El Salvador, Torres lives in Calgary and works as a flight attendant. He hopes to open a Creole-El Salvadorian restaurant or food truck.
Audition Dish: Achiote and Aguardiente Chicken with El Salvadorian-style Guacamole Lettuce Bites
Thank the Mrs.: “My decision to be on the show was made for me by my wife. She’s my cheerleader, the one trying to push me. She really loves the food that I cook for her, and I wanted to put a little of myself, represent who I was and my heritage.
What does food mean to him: “Food is everything. It’s memories, and it nurtures you. When you’re being nurtured by food, it’s everything when you think about it. Food is a great vehicle for bringing people together.”
Did being on set live up to his expectations? “It surpassed them. It was exhilarating. It’s almost like you’re in a dream, it’s not real, and you want to pinch yourself. It’s an out of body experience.”
Lesson learned: “For me it was about trying to take in as much information as I could. I understand food better, I appreciate food at a higher level.”
What’s great about Calgary: “It’s cow town here! Beef is the way to go. It’s fantastic. The product here is great, as is the produce at the farmers’ markets. Alberta has so much to offer.”
What is Canadian food? “Canadian food can only be what you make to be. We are so diverse–my wife is from Thunder Bay, Ontario, and a staple in her family is Cabbage Rolls. That’s so Canadian to me. But we are such a diverse country now. It’s beautiful.”
MasterChef Canada Season 3 debuts Sunday, February 14 at 7 p.m. ET/PT