Having big dreams in small towns can be hard. For Danielle Cardozo, a passion for cooking benefitted her friends, and family, including her three kids, but for the rest of the community, her talents were pretty much unknown.
She never dreamed she might one day be a food star, until her daughter talked her into applying to Masterchef Canada, and suddenly our local girl became a household name across Canada.
She admits it was a struggle sometimes when the judges surprised the contestants with unusual ingredients like durian fruit and squab and gave them a short time to figure out what to do with them. Exotic foreign ingredients are hard to come by in the Elk Valley. For contestants that came from the city, where there is more access to different meats and vegetables, these kinds of ingredients would be a bit more familiar and less scary.
But Danielle’s success in the show was down to determination and the willingness to experiment, combining experience and creativity to push herself out of her comfort zone and just figure out what might work.
At the same time, she drew on what she does know best… her opening dish at the first audition in Calgary featured elk, a very Kootenay ingredient and one she was comfortable with. She said she was used to family members turning up with game meat for her, following a hunting adventure. Instead of being embarrassed about being from a small town, and not having the experience of working in a fancy city restaurant like some of the other contestants, she embraced her aboriginal, small town roots and used them to her advantage.
It goes to show, accepting who you are, and drawing on your previous experience goes a long way. Being from a small town might sometimes feel like you are starting the race from behind, but it can also give you a huge advantage over your competitors. Living here, we have a different skill set to city folk. Take a moment to think about the little things we do here without even thinking about it… from driving in all conditions, to knowing how to avoid bear encounters. We might not wear the most up to date fashion, or be able to buy kimchi or mangosteens at the grocery stores, but we know how to harvest our own food and aren’t scared to go out in a blizzard if we have to.
Her time on the show is over, but I bet Danielle will go on to great things, and maybe she will end up leaving the area to follow her dreams. But I bet she will always use her cooking skills honed while living here wherever she ends up. Good luck to you Danielle!