Full Recap Of My Experience Appearing On Masterchef Canada!

Bucket list item achieved and I can finally share it with the world! It's been 7 long months since keeping this secret from everyone, but I am so excited to share with you all that I was extremely fortunate last November to have had the experience of a life time. Myself and along with 29 other Toronto foodies were asked to be part of Masterchef Canada (S5E11). The episode was apparently going to revolve around us...someone pinch me! This can't be real, right?!

Now I have been a long time fan of the Masterchef franchise. Even before it came to Canada I was addicted to watching the U.S. version of Masterchef with Gordon Ramsay. Week after week seeing home cooks showcase their craft and put out restaurant quality dishes in the matter of 60 minutes was just incredible and inspiring to watch. When Canada finally got the opportunity to showcase our own talent five years ago with our own version of the show I was beyond excited. There's not a single episode from the start of the first season that I've not watched, so when I got an email asking if I was interested in being a part of the show this season I almost fell out of my chair. OF COURSE I DO!

I'll be lying though if this idea of bringing on foodies/social media influencers to the show never crossed my mind before. In fact I remember on several occasions telling my friends that I was surprised they never explored this yet in the past 5 seasons (and even in the U.S. version it's never happened before). Every other week on Masterchef Canada there is a team episode where the remaining competitors are normally split up into two groups to go head-to-head in a cooking challenge and put out the best food to feed a certain group of individuals. They've cooked for people like life guards, dog owners, construction workers, the Canadian Forces, acrobats, and even for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but never to foodies... until now. So whichever TV producer read my mind out there 5 years later.... thank you for including us!

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The day started back in November where we were instructed to drive to their secret studio location in Mississauga, Ontario to do the filming. At this point in time we had no idea which episode we were going to be part of, and since the fifth season hasn't actually aired yet we didn't know any of the remaining chefs that would be cooking for us. We were advised to not wear any logos or tightly-patterned clothing and also undershirts was recommended as it would help apparently being mic-ed up! My initial thought was that they would not allow us to bring our cameras with us during the filming of the episode, but to my surprise they actually encouraged us to do so. This episode was going to be them filming us in our natural element for the entire country to see, so my motto of "The Camera Eats First. Always" will be depicted front and centre.

As we checked into the studio that afternoon one-by-one there was a producer who looked at our outfits to see what we wore. If it was too wrinkly they asked us to take it off where they would iron it out for us on site. Wardrobe was serious business. One-by-one we each got mic-ed up and signed a non-disclosure agreement. As all of this was happening the producers came out to introduce themselves and provide an overview for the day. We learned that we would be part of the second last episode of the fifth season where the top three remaining home cooks remained which include Andy Hay (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia), Beccy Stables (Sherwood Park, Alberta), and Michael Griffiths (Richmond Hill, Ontario). The top three would each launch their own pop-up restaurant in the studio, and the thirty of us would be divided into three groups to dine at each of their restaurants.

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Here is the point in the day where completely at my own fault started my filming process on the wrong foot. Right before we headed downstairs to start the filming, there was a white board in the front of the room with a seating chart. All thirty of us had a designated table and chair to sit at that corresponded with the specific cook's pop-up restaurant. I went up to look at it. I thought I memorized it. I thought I knew exactly where my seat was. I will soon realize on national television that I didn't!

The moment came where we were told to go downstairs as the home cooks were just about finished making their dish for us, and we were about to make our grand entrance into the famous Masterchef Kitchen. The few moments while we were all gathered and waiting to step on stage, we were inside the Masterchef Pantry that I saw so many times on TV. What a surreal experience that was already to just be inside that room!

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The time was now. We were just told we were about to walk into the Masterchef Kitchen and to stay in a single file line. The moment we step into the Masterchef Kitchen the cameras would be on us and capturing our every move and sound. I was filled with excitement and nervousness at this point mostly because I didn't want to make a fool of myself on National television, but little did I know I was going to do just that. Remember when I said there was a seating chart and we should have all memorized it. Well apparently I didn't. Maybe it was the camera lights. Maybe it was the nervousness. But when I walked out I must have blanked out and completely forgot where I was supposed to sit, and which table I was supposed to be at.

What do I do? I decide to literally just sit at the first table and chair that I see hoping that it would all work out. A few seconds after I took a seat I got a tap on my shoulder indicating that I was sitting in her chair. Shit! I got up out of the chair and still confused as ever to where my seat was (lets not forget that I'm currently being filmed), I decide to walk across to the complete opposite end of the room as I saw an empty table and chair. Just as I was about to take a seat I see two people walking towards me looking confused as ever to see this intruder taking over their table. I could sense from the look in their eye that they were telling me to MOVE, so of course not wanting to be that asshole to ruin everyone else's experience I had to get up and find my seat for the second time in like the span of 30 seconds. By this time most people already found their tables and were already seated so locating my spot for the third time was much easier. Just find the chair that wasn't taken yet! And of course it was all the way back on the opposite side of the room. It was like taking the walk of shame back to your seat and by this time there wasn't anything I could do but laugh at the whole situation.

UPDATE: After watching the episode now, the amazing Masterchef Canada editors didn't show that part on the episode so thank you for hiding my cluelessness to the country!

Finally at my designated table I find myself at Michael G's Pop-Up restaurant. At the time I had no idea who he was, but since watching this season so far I've been rooting for him to win ever since. Right behind me was the Masterchef Stage where the three judges Claudio Aprile, Alvin Leung, and Michael Bonacini were in the middle of filming themselves and encouraging the home cooks to put the final touches to their dishes in the remaining few minutes.

Michael G's dish gets served at our table and it's a beautiful "Pistachio Crusted Lamb Rack." By this time everyone had their cameras and phones out taking pictures of the food including me, and as we slowly started to dive into the food the producers and judges all came around to most of our tables and get our feedback of the dish. The producer was the first to approach our table and when that happens you also have a camera crew surrounding you from all sides. She would ask what we were eating, which home cook prepared it, and our thoughts of it. Sometimes she would ask us to repeat something, or to say it slower, but nothing was ever faked or manipulated in a way to get a certain reaction out of us. 

  Pistachio crusted rack of lamb  -  butternut squash confit, cheesy polenta with roasted bursting garlic tomatoes, bacon jam, parmesan tuile, split pea and tarragon sauce

Pistachio crusted rack of lamb - butternut squash confit, cheesy polenta with roasted bursting
garlic tomatoes, bacon jam, parmesan tuile, split pea and tarragon sauce

Close to the end of the filming, Chef Alvin came to our table of three and asked us one by one what our thoughts of Michael G's dish was. I personally absolutely loved it. It was a perfect medium rare with a beautiful green crust of pistachios that made it that much more Instagrammable. Cooked to perfection I think Michael G knocked it out of the park which is what I tried to re-iterate to Alvin on TV. Michael G absolutely crushed this challenge and I have no doubt that he is going to advance to the final two (at this point in time writing this, I do not know who makes it to the final two and who will ultimately win the season).

SPOILER: Contrary to what I thought, Michael G did in fact leave the competition after losing another cooking challenge after this when he cooked head-to-head against Andy Hay. Beccy Stables won the Pop-Up Restaurant challenge and advanced straight to the final two.

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This was by far my favourite experience I ever had in my foodie career over the past four and a half years. It was a dream come true to be part of one of my favourite shows on television. A HUGE thank you to Masterchef Canada, Propeller Television, CTV, and Bell Media for inviting me to be part of such a memorable experience. I will never forget it even if I did make a fool of myself on national television. It was worth it!

By the time I post this blog post up the entire episode should be up online now, so be sure to watch my episode which is Masterchef Canada Season 5 - Episode 11 "Pop-Up Star." Below you can find the trailer of the episode as well!

UPDATE: Watch the full episode of Masterchef Canada - S5E11 HERE.

Not Vanilla Pop-Up Presented By Ottawa Tourism

Canada Day is less than a month away now and our nation's capital just has one thing on its mind. Ottawa is sick and tired of being called vanilla! How are they going to change this view point that so many people seem to have? Well of course the only way possible. To offer some of the most crave worthy and delicious ice cream flavours possible.... for FREE!

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This past weekend Ottawa Tourism partnered with an Ottawa artisan ice cream shop to launch "Not Vanilla" - an ice cream brand that shows just how exciting Ottawa can be. With literally no strings attached, anyone in Toronto from June 2nd to June 3rd was able to stop by Queen and Peter to grab a bunch of free ice cream with flavours that were inspired by all of Ottawa's cultural gems.

A simple white cube was all that was needed to capture the city's attention, but the stand out for me were those colourful boxes that the ice cream were served in. Whoever designed them deserves a promotion. Those boxes were certainly #NotVanilla.

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The five flavours that were offered was:

  • Rideauculous (Peppercorn + Plum)
  • Roam Sweet Roam (Vegan Coffee + Date)
  • ByWard ByNight (Smoked Caramel + Bitters)
  • Urban Splash (Hops + Honey)
  • Ottawild (Apple + Elderflower Frozen Yogurt)
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These unique flavours were seriously impressive and even gives Toronto a run for its money. If ice cream is this good in Ottawa, you bet I'm packing my bags for a road trip there to see what other hidden foodie gems I can find.

Favourite Summer Menus to Explore in York Region with a Bonus Giveaway!

With summer quickly approaching the time to get out of hibernation mode and into exploration mode is upon us. This is my favourite time of the year to check out new restaurants I’ve never been to or go back to some old favourites, because lets face it, navigating through the cold and snow while wearing the heaviest of winter jackets when you’re hungry is not fun.

There’s just something about those sunny rays that reenergizes you to get out of the house and do something, and personally as a big foodie that something for me of course is to find the best restaurants and dishes that will excite my taste buds.

It can be overwhelming at first because York Region has such a large array of restaurants that you just don’t know where to start. Its diversity is evident through all the different type of cuisines you can find here, with restaurants ranging from low-key casual bars and pubs, family operated and owned, and fine dining if you choose to splurge a little bit more.

If you need a good place to start this season here are three of my favourite and highly-recommended restaurants in York Region you should definitely check out this summer. And yes all three of these restaurants have their own outdoor patio if you prefer to dine outside with Mother Nature. My personal preference!

Hungry Brew Hops

In the heart of downtown Newmarket on its revitalized Main Street, Hungry Brew Hops is York Region’s first gastropub with a mantra of “serving really good, honest food with some really good, craft beer.” Opened in 2014 this is a great place to hang out with friends and grab a beer with some of the best tasting pub food I’ve ever had. They have a draught selection of 37 taps featuring only the finest microbrews and wines (yes, even wines on tap!) from both local and abroad. Their food menu rotates seasonally offering a wide-range of items prepared in-house. This is the perfect place to cheer on your favourite sports team while downing some beers and chowing down on some great food at reasonable prices.

Top food recommendation here: Cauliflower Fritters!

  Cauliflower Fritters  – beer battered cauliflower, green onions, sweet chili, house dill sauce

Cauliflower Fritters – beer battered cauliflower, green onions, sweet chili, house dill sauce

  Signature HBH Burger  – beef patty, philly meat, beer-braised onions, sweet chili aioli, American white cheese, brioche bun

Signature HBH Burger – beef patty, philly meat, beer-braised onions, sweet chili aioli, American white cheese, brioche bun

  Skor Square  – Skor, milk, chocolate, buttered crackers

Skor Square – Skor, milk, chocolate, buttered crackers

Smash Kitchen & Bar

A staple in the Unionville community, Smash Kitchen & Bar provides an upscale casual restaurant atmosphere with southern-inspired comfort cuisine. There is something for everyone here as their menu offers a large variety of dishes from tacos, salads, ribs, pastas, pizzas, and steak. On most days of the week here they also have different dine-in promotions going on such as $28 AYCE ribs on Tuesdays, so you might want to check ahead of time before coming here to see if there is dine-in special fit for you. Weekend brunch is also most certainly a thing here! Think Chicken & Waffles, Crab Cakes Benedict, and Fully Loaded Omelets.

Top Food Recommendation: Lobster Mac & Cheese

  Baja Fish Tacos  – beer battered white fish, 2 homemade flour tortillas, citrus slaw, chipotle aioli, guacamole

Baja Fish Tacos – beer battered white fish, 2 homemade flour tortillas, citrus slaw, chipotle aioli, guacamole

  Seafood Cakes  – blue crab, tiger shrimp, arugula salad, caviar, tartar sauce

Seafood Cakes – blue crab, tiger shrimp, arugula salad, caviar, tartar sauce

  Smash Burger  – two beef patties, cheddar cheese, smash sauce, lettuce, pickles, onion chips, brioche bun with added caramelized onion, bacon, mac & cheese cake

Smash Burger – two beef patties, cheddar cheese, smash sauce, lettuce, pickles, onion chips, brioche bun with added caramelized onion, bacon, mac & cheese cake

  Lobster Mac & Cheese  – tomato cheese sauce, Atlantic lobster, pico de gallo, herb crusted

Lobster Mac & Cheese – tomato cheese sauce, Atlantic lobster, pico de gallo, herb crusted

  Chef’s Seasonal Cheesecake  – Pandan Cheesecake

Chef’s Seasonal Cheesecake – Pandan Cheesecake

Next Door Restaurant

Sister restaurant to Smash Kitchen & Bar, Next Door Restaurant is just a few minutes’ drive away nestled in the prime location of historic Main Street Unionville. Inside you’ll find a spacious dining area encased by natural light seeping through the large windows that surround it. This is a restaurant where the presentation of the dishes will blow you away as their precision and creativity in plating is what keeps me and other guests coming back for more. They also boast one of the largest outdoor patios for a restaurant in York Region, and personally one of my favourites as it sits right beside a small body of water that adds just that extra charm and elegance to the experience. Much like their sister restaurant, NextDoor also offers a killer brunch service where each dish is just as Instagrammable as the next.

Top Food Recommendation: Suckling Pig

  Street Corn  – crispy polenta, corn salad, goat cheese, chipotle aioli

Street Corn – crispy polenta, corn salad, goat cheese, chipotle aioli

  Duck Wings  – Korean ketchup, green onions, sesame seeds

Duck Wings – Korean ketchup, green onions, sesame seeds

  Suckling Pig  – braised lentils, sauerkraut puree, chicharron pickled mustard seeds

Suckling Pig – braised lentils, sauerkraut puree, chicharron pickled mustard seeds

  Torched Salmon  – roasted sun chokes, charred leeks, leek puree, puffed wild rice, roasted carrots, ikura

Torched Salmon – roasted sun chokes, charred leeks, leek puree, puffed wild rice, roasted carrots, ikura

  Berries & Cream  – pavlova, vanilla custard, lavender blueberry granite, strawberry mousse, seasonal berries

Berries & Cream – pavlova, vanilla custard, lavender blueberry granite, strawberry mousse, seasonal berries

BONUS - To have a chance to try some of these dishes featured here, visit my guest blog post directly on the Experience York Region website HERE to enter in their giveaway!

At Home With The New Vitamix Explorian Series E310 - Chilled Green Pea Soup Recipe

If there's one kitchen appliance that tops the wish list for everyone year after year, most will probably say it's owning a Vitamix. It definitely was for me. The versatility of having a compact machine in your kitchen with a motor and blades powerful enough to make a wide range of recipes such as smoothies, salsas, doughs, frozen desserts, batters, and even hot soups without ever touching a stove top is a dream!

With a new year upon us comes new ideas and innovation from Vitamix. A brand new line of Vitamix blenders were being launched and I was invited to take part in a culinary journey hosted by Vitamix Canada and Chef Craig Wong of Jackpot Chicken in Toronto to see what the new Vitamix Explorian Series E310 was all about! A carefully curated menu was prepared for us where all the key ingredients of each dish was prepared by the new E310 Explorian Series Blender.

From start to finish, check out what we indulged in that night where the Vitamix E310 played an integral role in our dinner.

Flash forward a few weeks after the media launch and my grown-up, kitchen-appliance loving dreams came true! A brand new Vitamix E310 Explorian Series Blender landed on my door step and a flood of recipe possibilities through the simple act of blending came rushing through. What I love about this new series is that it perfectly fits my lifestyle and kitchen space. I don't have a huge kitchen at home, but because the Vitamix E310 is smaller than its predecessor coming in at a 48-ounce (1.4L) container it fits perfectly into my kitchen space without taking too much room on the counter. The smaller container size is also perfect to blend drinks fit for one or two people, nothing goes to waste. The smaller size also comes with a smaller price tag compared to some of the other models with a price point of CAD$400 which is what people have been asking Vitamix to come out with for a very long time. They listened!

If you're finally in the market to upgrade your smoothie game and want to get a great quality blender, but at a manageable price-point, the Vitamix Explorian Series E310 is then perfect fo r you! Here are some great features of the new Vitamix Explorian Series E310 that you'll love!

Variable Speed Control

Ten variable speeds allows you to refine every texture with culinary precision from the chunkiest salsas to the smoothest purees

Pulse Feature

Layer coarse chops over smooth purees for heartier recipes or thick vegetable soups

High-Performance Motor

The powerful 2HP motor can handle the toughest ingredients to create high-quality blends

Easy Cleaning

With just one drop of dish soap and warm water, the Vitamix E310 can clean itself in 30 to 60 seconds -  no disassembly required.

With all these great features I was able to put it all to the test at home by re-creating the exact same recipe that Chef Craig Wong made for us during the series launch at his restaurant. The "Chilled Green Pea Soup" was among one of the favourite dishes of the night and surprisingly so easy to make with the Vitamix E310 at home. You literally just need to throw in all the ingredients in the Vitamix and let it blend! All the work is done by that powerful motor and spinning blades. Before you know it a vibrant and healthy appetizer is ready to be served for a serving of 4 people. Enjoy!

Chilled Green Pea Soup

Ingredients

5 cups frozen peas
4 cups cold chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup baby spinach leaves, blanced, shocked in ice, squeezed of excess moisture
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp ground white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

Add frozen peas & stock into Vitamix
Blend on high for 3 to 5 minutes until mixture is very smooth
Add mint, spinach, salt & white pepper. Blend for another 30 seconds
Add heavy cream and blend for 10 seconds
Strain the soup and refrigerate or serve chilled immediately

Chef On The Go - For All Your Catering Needs

Catering in Toronto has recently seen a resurgence in the city over the past few years in an industry that is now as competitive as ever. Catering companies have been around for decades and for many years these companies have often been overshadowed by restaurants when it comes to finding the right venue and food to plan a large or even small social gathering. In the past parties would revolve around guests traveling to a specific brick and mortar restaurant, but now with the ever changing times convenience is everything.

One of the elite catering companies in Toronto right now is Chef On The Go. Just like how the name sounds, convenience is built right into it where their dedicated kitchen staff and Executive Chef will come directly to you to create an unforgettable experience with fresh and innovative menu options for you and your guests in the Greater Toronto Area. Owner and Executive Chef, Roni Prizant started Chef On The Go back in 2011 and it's now become one of Toronto's fastest growing "boutique" catering companies. They have also just been recently awarded "Toronto's Choice Awards" by EventSource which recognizes the top 5% professional catering service providers in the city!

Roni has always had a passion for food and cooking, and from a young age he found great joy in serving his latest culinary creations to his friends and family. His heart was always in the kitchen and now with his own catering company he is able to spread his passion for food to each of his clients, ensuring a personalized hands-on service with a customized menu designed for their event and needs.

With a new year and season upon us, Chef On The Go hosted their very first Open House at their home base in North York to showcase their boutique services and new seasonal items available this year on their catering menu. With four types of catering options (private, corporate, wedding, and drop-off), their array of menu options will make any event a delicious and memorable one. Their one-of-a-kind mobile kitchen was also on site, which are perfect for event spaces that may not have a kitchen available. To get a taste of what type of food to expect from a catered event from them, you'll just have to scroll down and see!

  Candy Stripped Beet Lollipops with Walnut Crust

Candy Stripped Beet Lollipops with Walnut Crust

  Fully Loaded Cheese & Charcuterie Board

Fully Loaded Cheese & Charcuterie Board

  Mini Root Beer Float (2oz white shooter glass) & Wild Boar Sliders with Sundried Tomato Jam, Smoked Ocra & Arugula

Mini Root Beer Float (2oz white shooter glass) & Wild Boar Sliders with Sundried Tomato Jam, Smoked Ocra & Arugula

  Torched Tuna Tartar on top of Pan Fried Sushi Rice Cake w. Pickled Ginger and Chives

Torched Tuna Tartar on top of Pan Fried Sushi Rice Cake w. Pickled Ginger and Chives

  Sharp Cheddar Profiteroles filled with a Garlic Shrimp

Sharp Cheddar Profiteroles filled with a Garlic Shrimp

  Mini lobster Taco’s with a Kewpie & Heirloom Carrot Slaw

Mini lobster Taco’s with a Kewpie & Heirloom Carrot Slaw

  Scallion Cake with Seared Duck and a Mango Slaw with Ginger Laced Crispy Shallots & Hoisin

Scallion Cake with Seared Duck and a Mango Slaw with Ginger Laced Crispy Shallots & Hoisin

  Banana Mousse Cake

Banana Mousse Cake

  Chocolate Ganache Tart

Chocolate Ganache Tart

If you're in the midst of planning an event, big or small, make sure you reach out to Chef On The Go for all your entertaining needs. They even offer turnkey solutions for every occasion where they will handle every single detail for you from the floral arrangements, music, decor, bar services, dishware and tableware rentals, venue consultation, and staffing. Of course above all else you're going to get the highest quality catered food in the city for all your guests with any of the food options shown here (and that's only a small sample of what they offer!). The last thing you or anyone else for that matter is to be stuck inside a kitchen preparing the food where instead you should be out socializing and entertaining your guests.

  Mobile Kitchen Trailer

Mobile Kitchen Trailer

To inquire about planning your next catered party with Chef On The Go, visit HERE to get in touch with them and get that first conversation flowing! Start visualizing now the event of your dreams and let Chef On The Go turn that dream into a reality.