Kitchen doors are opening

Danielle Cardozo was one of the top 14 home cook chefs who were tasked with cooking lunch for the hockey players of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Danielle Cardozo.

Danielle Cardozo.

In the last episode, Danielle Cardozo was one of the top 14 home cook chefs who were grouped into two teams and then tasked with cooking lunch for the hockey players of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Cooking for the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre was one of the most exciting meals Cardozo has ever cooked.

“MasterChef Canada really put together a great challenge,” said Cardozo. “I was honoured to cook for hockey greats such as Wendel Clark and Darryl Sittler and I am not going to complain that the handsome Colton Orr liked my halibut!”

Tensions ran high as the cooks dealt with team dynamics that cropped up under the pressure.

“I did not want to be on Dale’s team. He’s a dramatic individual. He’s not exactly a team player, and that is not who you want as a captain!

“I was picked last. In this case it’s not about when you are picked, it’s about the team you end up on and   I was very happy to be on Pino’s team! I knew we’d all work well together, and that Pino would put trust in us to execute a dish. It also made it clear to me that they underestimate my abilities. In this competition, it’s okay to be underestimated to stay off your competitor’s radar.

“Pino gave me complete autonomy over the halibut and I couldn’t be happier. (Judge/chef) Claudio Aprile asked me if I was worried about overcrowding the fish. It was definitely a concern, as I had to cook fifty fillets. Four trays and two convection oven slots isn’t exactly ideal conditions. However, if you’ve cooked halibut as much as I have, you know how to compensate with time and temperature. I was poaching the halibut in a homemade lemonade oil, so uneven cooking due to crowding wasn’t a great concern. As well, poaching it allows you a little forgiveness if there’s any wait time between oven and serving.

“Overall, our whole team was extremely happy about how we cooked.  Our team worked like a well oiled machine. That was the first time anyone on our team had cooked in a professional kitchen; it was a whole new world.”

Cardozo’s team won the challenge by popular vote by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“It’s really nice to have a team challenge win under our belt. Though I am not letting it make me comfortable. I was not envious of those who had to make the stuffed ravioli. It’s not an easy dish by any means. It took me a long time to get ravioli down, so I was extremely impressed by what the other cooks produced.

“This experience so far has been amazing. It has brought so much more to my life. It opened up my passion for cooking more than I ever knew existed. I always thought that MasterChef Canada was the ultimate goal for a home cook. It’s still surreal that I am a part of this amazing experience. I’m starting to realize that MasterChef Canada has a real impact on its viewers, and it has opened up a number of doors for me.”

Cardozo will be teaming up with Cranbrook’s Genex Marketing to start a project together; more details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Cardozo is also thrilled to be teaming up with Executive Chef Dave Bohati, of Market Restaurant in Calgary whose restaurant was just voted number one Best New Restaurant by CBC food critic John Gilchrist. They met at his restaurant a couple months ago and have been in touch ever since.

“We will be collaborating on a multiple course dinner at Market on March 23. I will spend a couple days at his restaurant learning how to prepare for and execute a multiple course dinner. Dave is a part of an initiative called The Syndicate. It’s a group of extremely talented chefs across Canada who have dedicated themselves to mentoring young chefs. I have been blessed to have him to turn to for culinary advise. I am honoured that he’d invite me into his kitchen.”

As opportunity knocks for Cardozo, the MasterChef Canada competition intensity is rising as each of the remaining 13 home cooks are determined to win the first MasterChef Canada title and $100,000.

Cardozo grew up in the Elk Valley and currently lives in Cranbrook, B.C.