Things are heating up across Canada as the third season of TV’s MasterChef Canada preps to dish up an exciting new roster of competitors.
With a sweet start date of February 14, MasterChef Canada plans to serve fans a super-sized new batch of home cooks vying for the coveted title and prize. 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.
New for this season is an even harder process to take those final 40 down to the final 14; in order to move forward, the home cooks need a “yes” vote from all three judges to make the cut.
Among those 40 prospective finalists are five cooks who call Metro Vancouver home: Matthew Astorga, Jacqueline Clark, Danae Daniels, Julia Mark, and Jasseep Sra. We got the chance to talk to each of them by phone to find out what it was really like in the iconic MasterChef Canada kitchen, who and what inspire them, and what we might see this season.
A Digital Design Consultant, Astorga was born in Scarborough, Ontario, but now calls Pitt Meadows, B.C. home. He had previously auditioned for the first seasons of the show.
- Audition Dish: Jasmine Smoked Salmon in a Miso Dashi Broth, with Grilled Green Onion, Edamame, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Seaweed Chips
- How season 3’s try-outs were different: “This time around I considered myself a veteran, with nothing to lose. I was a lot more confident, not only in my food but in myself.”
- How confidence helps him cook: “Being able to connect with your food, and even yourself –once you’re confident with yourself and with the kind of food you cook, that’s when the magic happens.”
- His culinary influences: I didn’t have a lot of chances to travel in my lifetime, so I studied a lot of cookbooks. Being of Filipino heritage, being around Asian foods, those are the things that influence me. I love going to farmers markets; I live by one here, and I’m always in the farmers’ market. I don’t have a plan, I let the ingredients guide me.”
- How food is like art: “I’m like an artist, I see ingredients like paint in a way, trying to build a perfect plating as far as what I see in the grocery store.”
Originally from Brandon, Manitoba, Clark is an accountant who resides in Abbotsford, B.C. Her dream is to own a small farm and grow amazing produce, raise pork, and supply fantastic local restaurants.
- Audition Dish: Coriander Chicken with Carrots and Blackberries
- What she loves about cooking and eating in B.C.: “There’s so much more restaurant culture and ingredients–and the availability [of ingredients] has really changed me. I didn’t get access to fresh seafood in Manitoba. I didn’t even like salmon until I moved out here, then I fell in love with it. I eat everything now–every kind of shellfish and fish I can get my hands on.”
- How she describes her cooking style: “My style is rustic, farm cooking, homesetyle cooking. I do like to play around with Asian flavours. A lot of my dishes tend to be based around having a meat, a starch, and a vegetable–but I have to make it look prettier.”
- On being on-camera: I tried out for the second season, but didn’t make it. For the third season audition, I just calmed down in front of the camera more–but I was still really nervous. I’m a little bit of an awkward person–I don’t seek out cameras.”
- Still, she says, don’t be afraid to audition: “Even if you’re afraid, it’s worth doing. It’s an experience of a lifetime. Just go for it. I loved everything about it.”
Daniels, a former model, was born in Port Coquitlam, and up until recently called Vancouver home.
- Audition dish: Basted Lamb with Spicy Curry Cauliflower “Rice,” Tomato and Mint with Cucumber Garlic Yogurt
- What really goes on with the cooks behind the scenes: “You would think that in this situation that there would be a lot more rivalry, but everybody is there sharing the same passion–we were all very close. It was a crazy experience for us, and the audience may not understand the bonds we formed.”
- How the competition changed her life: “Throughout the whole process I found myself. I definitely found the last part of myself that I was looking for, the thing that made sense in my life. After that evertying in life has fallen into place.”
- Where is she now: Living in Las Vegas, engaged to be married and eager to help her husband-to-be with his private chef and healthy meal plan business.
- On MasterChef Season 2 winner David Jorge of Surrey, B.C.: “In my audition process I met David. He did a little speech, calmed our nerves, and reminded us to have fun, let your talent come out.”
- What the world needs to know about Canadian cuisine: “I think because we’re so multicultural that Canadian cuisine is really fusion, the flavours, spices–to other people Canadian food is poutine and maple syrup. We’re more than poutine!
Richmond-born, Mark now lives in Burnaby and is a makeup artist.
- Audition Dish: Crispy Chicken Leg with a Lemon Butter Sage and Pan-Fried Gnocchi Peas and Pancetta.
- Why the third season is a charm: “I’ve been trying [out] since the first season. It’s always been my dream. Every time I tried, it made me stronger, and I don’t think I would have stopped trying.”
- Biggest lesson learned: “Time management. You have to execute each part [of the dish] and have it look and taste amazing. When you’re at home, you take your time.”
- Advice for anyone thinking of trying out: “Just do it. Take the dive.”
- What she looking forward to about the third season: “I’m excited for the viewers to see how much talent season 3 is bringing. This season is going to blow their socks off.”
Sra was the youngest cook in the kitchen this season: He was 19 during filming, and just turned the big 2-0. He works as a carpenter, and lives in his hometown of Surrey, B.C.
- Audition Dish: Tandoori Salmon Steak and Shrimp with Butter Chicken Gravy
- Who inspired him to try out? “I was at home recovering from an injury. I wasn’t working or going to the gym. My girlfriend saw on TV they were taking applications. She said: ‘Do something productive. Dude, you cook all the time, from sandwiches to stirfrys, so whay not give it a shot?'”
- His culinary role models: I grew up watching my mom and dad cook; my dad would BBQ on the weekend with friends over. But my uncle is one of the main reasons I cook. Even the smallest things, like the salmon steak in my audition, are inspired by him. When my uncle was cooking salmon, he’d take such good care of it, I wanted to do something with that. From Tandoori chicken to noodles, he did things carefully. Those are the kinds of things you pick up as a kid.
- What makes cooking in B.C. so great: “We’re so fortunate to live by the sea. It’s so easy for us to get fish. We’ve gotta enjoy it while we have it, and not take advantage.”
- And living in Surrey? “Just living in Surrey, and going out to eat Indian food that even your mom doesn’t make at home, really brings you to your roots, where you are from.”
- What it was like being the youngest one: “It was very pressure-filled. You look around at the people in their 30s and 20s, and they’ve been through a lot more. But it never affected me, just made me stronger. It was such an awesome experience at such a young age.”
MasterChef Canada season 3 premieres Sunday, February 14 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.