Butter basted Monkfish to elevated Nanaimo bars on MasterChef Canada

From nine home cooks to eight, Danielle Cardozo continues to advance in the MasterChef Canada (MCC) competition. In the MasterChef kitchen, nine home cooks lifted the Mystery Box to find ingredients from each of the three judging chef's kitchens. Ranging from the durian (stinky fruit), sea urchin, taro root, kimchi, squab (pigeon) and several other exotic ingredients. The judges gave the home cooks 60 minutess to prepare, create and present a dish made with these foreign luxuries they would be proud to serve in their restaurants.

The judges were so impressed with risky creations, they picked four dishes to taste rather than only three. The winner of this challenge would place them automatically in the top eight, saving them from elimination this episode and allowing them to strategically choose the next pressure test challenge.

Tammara Behl from St. Albert, Alberta, Kaila Klassen, Marida Mohammed, and Cardozo made the top four, but Cardozo won it with a perfectly brown butter basted Monkfish and a creamy sea urchin velouté, served with chanterelle mushrooms and topped with taro crisps for some crunch.

"I've never cooked with any of these ingredients due to living in such a small community. However, I've eaten sea urchin and chanterelles, as they are local B.C. ingredients. I feel like that whole episode was a real shout out to B.C.!” said Cardozo. “I chose ingredients that I knew I could respect. I chose to work with ingredients that were earthy and did not need a lot of added flavours.

I was pretty happy to win [the Mystery box challenge]! It was a big deal to me. I was clearly inspired by the Chef's ingredients; chanterelles from Michael Bonacini's pick, Monkfish from Claudio's pick, sea urchin from Alvin's pick.

I had never cooked with any of those ingredients before. But I had a vision and was inspired!”

In the pantry Cardozo was presented with three distinctly Canadian desserts: butter tarts, blueberry grunt and Nanaimo bars. The home cooks would have to bake an elevated version of the dessert of their choice. It would serve as a jumping off point for a refined high end dessert – a re-imagined and elevated version.

I am not personally a huge fan of any of the dessert options. I knew right away that I was sticking to my B.C. roots with the Nanaimo Bar, it was a complex option. I knew it would be easy to over think and forget to respect the three flavors and textures.”

Cardozo had no doubt that if she were in the position of baking, she could have easily gone home.

I feel like someone was watching over me because I probably would have gone home if I had to bake that day. I have an amazing sister who taught me how to bake, but it has never been without effort. Things can easily go wrong. Being able to bake is a major strength in this competition.”

In the pantry Cardozo voiced that she saw Mohammed and Klassen as her top competitors and was choosing a dessert in hopes to eliminate one of them.

The pressure test resulted in Tammara Behl picking up her first win as the judges thought her black and white perogies with chocolate and vanilla custard were clever and re-inventive.

Eric Chong came in second with his chocolate mousse tart with Nanaimo bar crust, even though he burnt his caramel topping not once but twice. The judges said it tasted even better than it looked and the flavour left them wanting more.

The bottom three desserts were Pino DiCerbo's unpleasantly plated and crumbling chocolate tart, Marida Mohammed's very dry truffles and Carly Tennant's drab Nanaimo cupped candies. The stress of the competition was apparent as all three looked miserable with long drawn faces as the judges called their desserts disastrous.

Tennant's Nanaimo bar cups with walnut custard and white chocolate prompted the usually generous judge Claudio Aprile to say, “It looks horrible. It looks like a bake sale gone wrong. It's just so drab, so blah; it's very dry. This is not something I would come to expect at this stage at all.”

Alvin Leung said, “If that was served in a restaurant, they would send it back and say 'what the hell is wrong?'”

The judges told Tennant she had proven herself as a supportive team member yet she would be the home cook to go home that day. Tennant's tears were flowing as her hands went up to her face. She's a beautiful smiley woman and a great team player yet it wasn't much of a surprise to see this popular lady leave the show. During several of the individual cooking challenges in the MasterChef kitchen, she has repeatedly asked for advice from the other home cooks. It's not that Tennant's cooking isn't great, it's that the level of cooking is so high in this serious competition. As Tennant left the MCC kitchen she cast her prediction to the judges that there was no question that Tammara Behl would be the one to take the first MasterChef Canada title.

Well, I wasn't successful in having Marida or Kaila go home,” said Cardozo. “I was definitely disappointed about that. However, one more person gone means one step closer to $100,000 and the title of MasterChef Canada.”

MMC is taking to the streets next week. Eric Chong from Oakville, Ontario and Tammara Behl will lead the two teams in the group challenge serving to the masses from lunch trucks by Toronto's City Hall.

Currently Cardozo is at a conference in Las Vegas.

It's the Reservation Economic Summit for Native American Economic Development. My regular job is First Nation Business Development for the St. Mary's Indian Band. Supporting First Nation community is very important to me as a Cree woman. It's something I am as passionate about as the culinary arts. Though I have to add that I'm also here to take in some amazing restaurants.”

Tickets to her upcoming five course dinner at Funky's Pizza in Sparwood on March 29 sold out in less than a week.

To catch up on all the home cooking go to


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