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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.

At Home With Dr. Oetker's Ristorante Cioccolato Pizza

As a guy who grew up eating frozen pizzas all throughout my life, there is finally one where my sweet tooth can now also be satisfied in a mere fifteen minutes! You just can't beat the convenience of popping in a frozen pizza in your oven and then having an entire meal ready at your fingertips in about the same amount of time it takes to just boil a pot of pasta! The industry of frozen pizzas has been pretty much the same over the decades with the slight variations of the frozen pepperoni, vegetarian, and cheese pizzas. Thanks now to Dr. Oetker, they are about to shake up the entire industry and give us something we've all been yearning for in our dreams, in our chocolate dreams! Adding to their lineup of frozen pizzas, Dr. Oetker is introducing the Ristorante Cioccolato Pizza, an indulgent chocolate dessert pizza that will surely make everyone's chocolate dreams come true! It sure did mine.

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We as a society have been trained to eat pizzas only as a savoury option for lunch or dinner. But why limit ourselves? With something so incredibly delicious and addictive as pizza, there's no rhyme or reason why we can't have it all the time! Marry pizza with chocolate and Dr. Oetker's Ristorante Cioccolato Pizza becomes truly a unique new SKU in the frozen pizza meal category that has never been done before.

It's made with a Ristorante chocolate crust and topped with chocolate sauce, dark chocolate chips, milk chocolate shavings, and white chocolate chunks. With literally no preparation needed, this chocolate pizza is the perfect dessert to add at the end of your home cooked meal that is pain and stress-free to make for all your family and friends.

Just like how an authentic restaurant in Italy would be like, I'm going to be enjoying my Ristorante Cioccolato Pizza after a plate of homemade pasta for dinner. And of course you can't forget that glass of red wine to go with it! A truly refined and sophisticated dining experience all in the comfort of my own home. Exactly how I like it!

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Ristorante Cioccolato Pizzas are now out in store shelves at a grocery store near you! Make sure you stock up on some in your freezer for those lazy yet sophisticated nights you may have when your sweet tooth cravings come calling. You'll thank yourself later one night when you find this pizza at home just waiting to be devoured one decadent chocolate slice at a time.

Disclosure: I was paid by Dr. Oetker to review the product. However opinions are of my own.

Dr. Oetker's Cioccolato's Ristorante - World's First Chocolate Pizzeria!

With the most romantic time of the year, Dr. Oetker is adding to their line of frozen pizzas just in time for Valentine's Day! This new pizza of theirs is called the "Ristorante Cioccolato Pizza," an indulgent chocolate dessert pizza that will surely make all your chocolate dreams come true!

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To support this launch, Dr. Oetker will open the world's very first chocolate pizzeria in Toronto from February 9th to February 14th, 3PM to 9PM at 1056 Queen Street West. Once you take a step inside this chocolate pizzeria will transport you into a real, romantic Italian restaurant. Fitting to its theme, it is literally chocolate EVERYTHING inside. For example you'll find some showstopping pieces such as a low-hanging chocolate chandelier, chocolate pizza oven, chocolate covered walls, chairs, plates, tables, cups, utensils, and even Ristorante's diamond ring made from a chocolate pizza - Di Cioccolato Diamond! And yes the diamond ring is indeed real! You'll even find a security guard carefully manning the station to ensure the diamond ring is safe and sound.

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This pop-up is completely free to the public where you'll be served complimentary slices of Ristorante Cioccolato's chocolate pizza before it becomes available in grocery stores. If free pizza doesn't entice you to come on by, they will also be serving complimentary glasses of prosecco to go with it! Got your attention now right?

To check out their official event page, click here to be directed to their Facebook page and let them know you're going! This is a limited time event for six days only so make sure you don't miss out before it's too late! There is literally two things in the world that people crave the most. Chocolate and pizza. And to combine them together into one is pure genius! You have a home run here Dr. Oetker!

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Disclosure: I was paid by Dr. Oetker to attend and review the product. However opinions are of my own.

Hero Certified Burgers - Taste The Hero Difference

If you're anything like me I am always craving for a big, juicy burger to devour. I'm a carnivore through and through. Years ago when I was still working downtown in the Financial District in Toronto I was first introduced to Hero Certified Burgers on my lunch breaks. Being a huge Leafs fan, Hero Certified Burgers ran a campaign where they were selling collective Leaf cups and a special Leafs burger where the Leafs logo was grilled onto the bun itself. I admit, back then I had no idea what Hero Certified Burgers was all about and I just wanted my collectible cups (in fact I still have them on my work desk to this day), but life has a funny way sometimes of bringing things full circle and now as a food blogger I've been able to experience and appreciate Hero Certified Burgers in a whole new way!

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Proudly Canadian, Hero Certified Burgers is a restaurant chain franchise that serves real, wholesome food that is sustainably raised. That means that they only ever use all-natural, fully traceable 100% Canadian Angus beef from local farmers raised range-fed without hormones or antibiotics. Not only does this taste better in flavour and texture, but it's better for you - with no added chemicals.

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One of my first impressions of Hero Certified Burgers years ago was that I loved how customizable the burgers are. They probably offer the most options for toppings and sauces out of any fast-food chain for your burger so be rest assured you can create your dream burger every time you go. From crispy onions to fire roasted peppers, fried egg, guacamole, mango and cranberry sauce, an array of 30 different topping and sauce choices to choose from will turn your fast-food burger into gourmet!

With such a vast menu I did have to take some time to figure out exactly how I wanted to construct my burger, but here is what I decided to get and let me tell ya... it was glorious! A side of poutine and crispy chicken strips tied the meal perfectly together.

  Egg Burger  - 4 oz Burger, Fried Egg, Bacon, Tomato with my personalized toppings of guacamole, sauteed onions, and cranberry sauce.

Egg Burger - 4 oz Burger, Fried Egg, Bacon, Tomato with my personalized toppings of guacamole, sauteed onions, and cranberry sauce.

  Heavy Hitter  - 2x 4oz Burgers, Cheddar, Relish, Tomato, Onion, Hero Sauce with my personalized toppings of fire roasted peppers, guacamole, and mango sauce.

Heavy Hitter - 2x 4oz Burgers, Cheddar, Relish, Tomato, Onion, Hero Sauce with my personalized toppings of fire roasted peppers, guacamole, and mango sauce.

If these pictures are not enticing enough for you yet to visit your local Hero Certified Burgers, I have one more surprise up my sleeve! When you go up to order your next burger here, say the promo code "FRYDAY" to get yourself a FREE order of fries with the purchase of a burger (excluding the Junior burger). So make sure you come taste the Hero Difference where fast food can be high quality and delicious! No matter what you order here, know that it will be REAL GOOD.

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