Amateur cooks sharpen their knives on MasterChef Canada premiere

The inaugural season of MasterChef Canada kicks off tonight (January 20) at 8 p.m. on CTV, but don’t expect B.C. to be well-represented in the competition. Of the 50 amateur cooks chosen as finalists, only five hail from the province. Like most TV shows shot in Toronto, the majority of competitors—a whopping 33—come from Ontario.

MasterChef Canada is based on a reality TV cooking competition that originated in the U.K. and is now produced in over 40 countries. The U.S. version, which has Gordon Ramsay as a judge, recently completed its fourth season. The series has spawned additional shows like MasterChef Junior, where eight to 13 year olds are given fire and knives and encouraged to battle in a similar competition.

The premise of MasterChef is to find the best home cook in the country. In Canada, the winner receives $100,000 and a trophy. Competitors cannot have culinary training or previous experience working in a restaurant kitchen. After being selected at the provincial level, cooks are asked to create a dish and audition in front of producers.

MasterChef Canada judges Claudio Aprile, Michael Bonacini, and Alvin Leung.

Once flown to Toronto as a top-50 finalist, the home cooks have one chance to impress the judges with a signature dish. To many Canadians, the three judges selected for MasterChef Canada may be relatively unknown. Michael Bonacini is a chef and co-founder of the Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, which operates 11 restaurants in Ontario. He has previous TV experience as the host of Food Network Canada’s Cook like a Chef. Claudio Aprile also presides over a brand of Ontario-based restaurants: the Orderfire Restaurant Group, which owns Toronto’s Origin restaurant. While this is Aprile’s first stint on TV, he has over 30 years of kitchen experience under his belt. Finally, Alvin Leung is perhaps MasterChef Canada’s answer to Gordon Ramsay. The self-described “Demon Chef” is best known for his Michelin-starred restaurant Bo Innovation in Hong Kong. Trained as an engineer, Leung claims to be a self-taught chef has previous TV experience on The Maverick Chef, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, and Top Chef Masters.

On the first episode, viewers will see about half the competitors vie for a spot on the show. In the one-hour program, few cooks are interviewed on camera, including Vancouver’s Carly Tennant. The clothing-store owner who credits her mother for entering her into the competition makes turkey meatballs with parsnip purée and crispy kale for the judges, and while she does come across a bit frazzled in the five minutes given to finish and plate her dish, Tennant seems to want a spot on the show really badly.

Other finalists appearing in the first episode include Calgary’s Tammara Behl, who makes vegan samosas with two sauces; identical twins from Toronto Narida Mohammed and Natalie Mascia; young chemical engineer Eric Chong, who must stand up to disapproving Asian parents to fulfill his dream of cooking; wheelchair-bound homemaker Carmela Campolargo; and Alberta single-mother Dora Cote, whose pastry skills impress the judges.

Competitors who are ultimately selected to compete on the show will need to survive weekly culinary challenges and eliminations.

Comments (25) Add New Comment
Cathy Andrew
I was looking forward to watchimg master chef Canada...but after a half hr of watching the show I am turned off...I know someone needs to be the bully on the show...but Chef Alvin is more than a bully ..he's a jerk n I'm not going to waste my time watching him brutalize the contestants!! He's made me a none watcher...I'm switching channels!!
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Rating: +7
Linda
Alvin is too serious, mean or abrupt to be a judge. There is a way to talk to people who know they are competing, without being nasty or arrogant. Not the best choice for a judge. Jody Claman would of been a better choice and having a female would of been nice too!
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Rating: -9
Niki
Where can we get the recipes from contestant winners. Will they be posted?
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Rating: +3
Bonnie Sheppard
After watching both Masterchef from The UK and Masterchef Australia for several years, I looked forward to Canadian Masterchef. It is terrible. Confrontational, non-supportive and so little about food and developing talent that it is embarrassing. It sinks to the lowest common denominator and though I will continue to watch MC/UK and MC/Aus', I refuse to watch this "americanized" travesty of the franchise. You've sunk well below the standard.
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Rating: +4
Gayle
Who are the top 50?
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Rating: -9
Lisa
I looked forward to the show but decided I have better things to do than watch judge Alvin Leung be an obnoxious bully treating people like garbage. That is not good television. Too bad , seemed like the show had a lot of potential.
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Rating: +5
Bonnie Lake
I wouldn't care to be a contestant, but Judge Alvin does make the show interesting. Isn't that what t.v. is all about?
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Rating: +10
Linda
I too had looked forward to watching Masterchef Canada as I had loved Masterchef USA. Alvin Leung is a stone-faced bully and moron. He has no business being a judge. Really, who does he think he is? Never even heard of him before and glad I hadn't.
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Rating: -9
Dave
I have a feeling some of these comments are written by the exact same person using a different name with each post.
Alvin was not that bad. I know we're dealing with amateur home cooks, but some of them need a bit of a reality check and if that means that a judge is brutally honest with them, then so be it.
I personally really liked it. They've taken a winning strategy (from the US version) and added a little Canadiana to it. I think I will certainly keep watching.
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Rating: -1
Niki
Will the recipes of the winners be posted online
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Rating: +5
Domenica
Great show. Don't change a thing. The anticipation of the comments from the judges is most welcoming. They are not rude but offer concrete criticism while still encouraging the contestants to continue their dream and cooking skills.
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Rating: -11
Mary
show was pretty good, way to may commericals , I'd say close to 50 % of the hour
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Rating: -8
Michelle da Silva
Niki, not sure if all recipes by contestants will be posted online, but I see that at least one recipe has been posted under the "In the Kitchen" section of CTV's official MasterChef Canada website.

Gayle, you can see the full list of top-50 contestants on CTV's MasterChef Canada website. Thanks
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Rating: -4
Craig
I watched last night and was totally impressed by the look and feel of the show. I half-expected it to be a yawn (which it sounds like would make Cathy, Linda, Bonnie and Lisa ecstatic - seriously? You don't like TV? Then why watch it?) but it was charming, cruel, inspirational, unfair, and completely entertaining. Well done, Canada, you've managed to stop boring the schnitzel out of me with your "reality."
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Rating: -4
King John
Masterchef originated in the UK in 1990 not Australia.

The Canadian/Americanised version was horrible. Why must north American producers treat the audience like idiots with 2min attention spans. I don't need the drama to keep me interested, just the food

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Rating: -12
Sylvie
The most boring cooking show on television!
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Rating: -18
Michelle da Silva
King John, thanks for that catch. I've updated the copy.
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Rating: 0
DJ
I was very impressed with the show and will continue to watch it. I liked all the judges. It's a pity my Jamaican compadre was not picked. Good luck to all!
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Rating: -2
Craig
King John says "I don't need the drama to keep me interested, just the food" ha ha.

He should sell his TV and open up his fridge and stare at that all night instead. Hilarious.
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Rating: -4
HellSlayerAndy
Is it even a fair comparison between Masterchef (UK/AU/Netherlands/Ireland/etc) and the US/Can version.

It's like two different types of shows only connected through name.

The difference in talent, tone, tasks...?

Take UK's Masterchef: The Professionals series? Compared to what? Not US Masterchef

It's closer to Top Chef Masters?
But even that franchise, a rip-off of the Masterchef thing, is Big Brother with some folks having fun cooking in friendly competitions...whereas The Professionals is a mind-snappily grueling and complex culinary competition.

Two different markets...two very different 'food competition' products.

Chopped Canada is ok, though ;-)
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Rating: -10

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