The fancies & follies of the first MasterChef Canada

MasterChef, the biggest culinary show in the world, pitting home cooks against each other, has finally come to Canada.

However, this isn’t a show to be watched exclusively by food connoisseurs or reality TV junkies. Ogling at food, both regional, national and even global cuisines, has always held my interest, and will sure hold yours too. Add heated drama in a high-stakes competition with a title and $100,000 on the line, and you’ve got some serious entertainment.

Admittedly my reasons for watching MasterChef Canada started with discovering Eric Chong, a 21-year-old engineering student, was competing against home cooks almost double his age and from all walks of life.

You’ve even got yourself a Gordon Ramsay wannabe, though my friends also liken his TV persona to American Idol’s Simon Cowell. The sometimes-awkward comments or overdramatic reactions of judge Alvin Leung, inarguably contrasts with judges Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile, and keeps the furnace of entertainment perpetually fuelled.

Cooking for big-profile groups, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, in their first team challenge definitely saw tempers flare. Mystery box challenges and pressure tests that determine the fate of competitors all prove that time is of the essence. Cooking and presentation isn’t any ordinary task. To win is to be fearless, said judge Alvin Leung.

The most recent episode pitted contestants against each other in teams of two with an enduring test of serving to Thompson Landry Art Gallery patrons in Toronto’s Distillery District.

Each contestant exudes a certain confidence and persona - it’s almost like they were chosen for their many quirks.

Here are a few interesting contenders to watch for this season:

Underdog Kaila Klassen, the leggy blonde with the long locks and towering heels, is always one for defying expectations. In the most recent episode, she saved the team with her quick-thinking decision to swap out the overly salty prosciutto for purple potato chips. Topped with scallops and edible flowers, the dish resembled an artist’s palette, and quickly won the judges’ favour for its creativity.

Pino DiCerbo, the stay-at-home dad, knows how to make the best of a hour. During the smelt challenge, he wowed judges by deep frying the fish and placing them on a paper towel; judge Bonacini said he would serve such a dish at his restaurant.

Eric Chong, the youngest in the competition at 21, first acquainted himself with the judges with his signature duck dish. He’s since shown his strength in taking risks with a peanut butter creme brûlée and even under multiple pressure tests, he fares well in showing a repertoire of versatility.

Dale Kuda, the self-proclaimed “gay Martha Stewart of Canada”, exudes confidence, bordering on diva-like, tantrum behaviour, unfortunately, when selected by the judges to be a team captain. However, if his bright green or yellow pants don’t indicate otherwise, his flamboyant dishes compensate for his sometimes-demanding demeanour.

Dora Cote, the plumber from Alberta, spices up the mix with her off-the-cuff mannerisms that contrast with her wildly pleasing and authentic dishes.

MasterChef Canada can feel like a roller coaster; sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down, said judge Bonacini. A poor execution of one dish can cost the whole competition.

On the most recent episode, upon being asked who will win the title of MasterChef Canada, the last contestant to be eliminated, Josh Gale, who was a huge contender himself, predicts Chong will win because he's a ninja in the kitchen. How the remaining contestants fare with cooking for military officials and world-renowned cooks will all depend on their next plate.

MasterChef Canada airs every Monday at 8 p.m. EST on CTV

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