MasterChef Canada hears the call of the wild

East Kootenay resident Danielle Cardozo continues in the Top 12 home cooks.

Raised in the Elk Valley

Raised in the Elk Valley

Danielle Cardozo was in her element when the mystery box revealed a meat grinder as the mystery ‘ingredient’ for the home cooks to prepare burgers for their three judges.

A herd of game choices filled the chopping blocks: bison, wild boar, musk ox, lamb, pork shoulder, turkey, kangaroo and duck; everything but beef.

I was a little excited to see that (meat) grinder. I have never worked with one before. Add the fact that I do not have the most muscular upper body I think getting enough meat ground for one burger was probably the most challenging part.

I chose to blend a mixture of lamb and bison. I stuffed it with feta, sundried tomatoes, and herbs. Like Alvin Leung, I am not much of a carbs girl; so I placed it open face on a grilled pita, and served it with a cucumber slaw. My healthy choice, according to the judges, just wasn’t enticing enough. It wasn’t bad, just not that big greasy mess of a burger that makes you want to dig right in.”

Kaila Klassen, a Realtor from West Kelowna, won the burger challenge giving her immunity and the opportunity to choose apples and beer as the key ingredients for the second challenge.

I could have killed Kaila when I heard she picked beer and apples. Give me rum, bourbon, vodka, and of course wine, I can incorporate it into about anything. But beer? No thank you.”

Cardozo ran to the pantry and the moment she saw pork in the fridge, one thing stuck in her head: pork chops and apple sauce.

It’s a classic, and classics are just that for a reason. They’re good.”

Cardozo has learned huge lessons in past challenges.

In the smelt challenge, I over thought things, and complicated my dish. In the burger challenge, I went against my gut to make a big juicy elk burger to try something new with the Greek lamb burger. When it was time to cook, I had pork chops and apple sauce in my mind and I made the conscious decision not to second guess myself.”

Her decision to add a little sophistication and put beer and apples in every component of the dish paid off.

The dish that won Cardozo a team leader position was a pork rib chop with Alexander Keith’s Cascade Hops glaze and apple relish. Served with dijon and apple cider new potatoes, and a crisp green apple and mache salad.

Her first thought when she completed her dish was, “Did I just make that?!”

Going into the challenge plating was not my strong point. I cook at home. It doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to taste great. To plate a dish and then have Michael Bonacini tell me that the plating was clean and the other competitors could learn a thing or two from me? Mind blown!”

It was the boost of confidence she needed as she was getting extremely discouraged.

I was starting to feel like maybe the competition was a little beyond me. I really needed that win.”

For those who are MasterChef fans, there are certain achievements that you want while you’re there regardless if you win the $100,000 and title of MasterChef Canada. One of those goals is to be a team captain. It’s a pretty big deal to have the opportunity to lead a team to victory or defeat. It tests your ability to lead.”

Cardozo likes to think she’s a leader but she knows the pressure can be too much.

As a team captain, her next worry is her teammates. Dora Cote, a plumber from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta won the apple and beer challenge, so she will get first pick.

I have to get strategic and think about who Dora is going to pick. I have gotten to know strengths and weaknesses; and I know who will respect me as a captain. I am going to have to get extremely creative.”

Working as a team in a kitchen can pose all sorts of new challenges.

Will I get the teammates I need to be a success? Will I lead us to victory, or into a pressure test? Will I dictate, or will I take a real team approach? Will my teammates respect me as a captain, or will they start making their own decisions?”

Next week the Top 12 home cooks arrive at Toronto’s historic Distillery District for a team challenge that requires the food to look as good as it tastes. The red and blue teams must make canapés to cater an exclusive art gallery event.

While we wait for next week’s team challenge, Cardozo is busy preparing for a special multi-course dinner at Funky’s Pizza in Sparwood to say thank you for all the overwhelming support she has received from the Elk Valley.

The Elk Valley is my hometown and it’s where my heart has always been. I am so grateful for the overwhelming support that I have received.”

Cardozo will be taking over the entire menu for one night. She has been working on a very personal menu for the last couple weeks that will bring together traditional food and modern technique.

I can’t imagine anywhere better to introduce it than in the Elk Valley. Expect to see local ingredients. I have been working extremely hard on improving my skills, so I am excited to bring this menu to the Valley.”

The date is to be announced with a limit of 60 seats.

To follow Cardozo on her MasterChef Canada challenge, go to