Catch up with MasterChef Canada’s Holiday Special

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MasterChef Canada is back with a MasterChef first as it reunites four fan favourites from the inaugural season for one very big, holiday-themed cook off. We checked in with chefs Dora Cote, Marida Mohammed, Pino DiCerbo and Tammara Behl to find out what they’ve been up to since their last round of Mystery Boxes — and what it was like bringing their families to the MasterChef Canada kitchen as they dove in once again to raise money for charity and show the judges how far they’ve come.

Team Dora

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Charity:

I chose the Canadian Diabetes Association. Diabetes is very heavily in my family. My mother is a diabetic, Type 1, my grandfather—her father—died from diabetic complications. Our family’s been horribly affected by diabetes and a lot of my friends. So it’s very, very close to my heart.

What she’s been up to:

I’m on Kickstarter right now. Got my Kickstarter project up and live for Dora’s Rocky Mountain Road House and we’re looking at raising $20,000. We need to raise this money to make it a reality. I’ve got the restaurant, the renos are almost complete but we need the last little bit of money to secure a bit more of the equipment and then to buy our initial inventory and then literally we’re open. So it’s really frustrating to be stuck in this spot. I’ve extended my Kickstarter for December 24th. It’s my Christmas miracle bid and I’m just hoping that the fans back me. They watch me on the show and get reminded of how funny and lovely that my family is and that I’d really like to feed them very well and keep them in the house.

Now I’m doing just private, in-house catering. But I did work in a diner as soon as I got home from MasterChef Canada last year. I had never worked one day in a restaurant in my whole entire life, so I was like, I’d better see if this is actually something I want to do. I loved it.

Biggest competition:

Definitely Pino because I know he’s going to bring his momma and if you know anything about anything, everything that Pino learned, he learned from his mom. If you ever watch any Italian woman of any certain age in the kitchen—yeah. Oh yeah. That’s my fear right there.

On cooking with family:

This was fantastic it. It was the most surreal, crazy and what a wonderful way to have a holiday memory now that [my son and I] will never forget for the rest of our lives—and on film. So to have him with me was awesome because he got to see what I went through. He said “Mom, it was awesome to be here but that was no fun.” You gotta work. It’s not just sitting down and having a cup of coffee and waiting to see some judges. We busted our buns.

When you hear me swearing at my family, this is an honest representation of the holidays. But we do love each other. There were a few times I thought they were trying to sabotage me, I swear, but I still love them and I’ve forgiven them all. A couple of the teams were keeping it pretty clean. I was too busy cooking my buns off to filter anything, so yeah that’s a pretty accurate representation.

Advice for Season 2:

Cook, cook, cook, cook. Don’t cook normal things. Think outside the box. Don’t make beef cheek stew with red potatoes. Don’t do it. And have fun. In the end I had a great time, but when I look back on it—hindsight 20/20—I could have really not stressed myself out as much as I did. In the end, look what it did for me. Can’t complain too much.

Team Marida

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Charity:

[The Daily Bread Food Bank] is a fantastic organization. We obviously are foodies and we come from a very strong food family where food not only is something we feed our bodies but to us it’s love, it’s what we celebrate over, how we make up after arguments and it’s how we get through our days. And growing up with not a lot of money, the one thing we always had on the table was a fantastic meal and I can’t even imagine—we come from a small country and we move to this fantastic country with a great city and here in our community there’s hunger and people without meals. People struggle every day and we don’t actually need to know why they struggle because everybody has a story, everybody has a bad day. All we need to know is that it’s happening right here and what we can do to help out. I hope that my sister and I, we could just make some small change that would lead to an even bigger change.

What she’s been up to:

It’s just [my sister and I]. We’re just trying to get our food a little bit more out there [with Twice De Spice]. We’ve done a few pop up restaurants with a few great chefs. One an actual, real MasterChef and another chef here in the city, a young aspiring chef who works a lot, Joe Friday. We’ve worked with them and we’ve had incredible experiences to get our food out there and we actually get a lot of requests for small, private events. We’re just working on getting ourselves out there and getting people more acquainted with our food and what we have to offer.

Biggest competition:

You know, probably—I would have to say Tammara because she was the next closest one to me moving towards the end in the first season. Knowing that we were so close together on the show and moving towards the end, I would have to say it was her.

On cooking with family:

Having my daughter there was really special because I got to bring her to work with me. Before I left for MasterChef Season 1, she was still young but I definitely used to prepare her and say Mommy’s going to work and I’m not going to be back for a while. And so this time she got a chance to go but Mommy was definitely coming back. Mommy was there, she was there, she shared in the experience and it was really nice for her to be part of it.

Advice for Season 2:

I mean there is a life outside of MasterChef. MasterChef is a great, great opportunity and a fantastic stepping stone that really does put us in the direction of our passion and what we came there for, which is food and cooking. We’re all home cooks and that’s where it starts. But to really accept it as a gift and take the opportunity and just go with it. Just really not let anything else, egos or anything else cloud that. Really hold onto what it really is, and that’s a gift.

Team Pino

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Charity:

The foundation is called Brandan’s Eye Research Foundation. It’s part of the Sick Kids hospital [but] unfortunately it doesn’t receive any money from Sick Kids because eye disease is not life threatening. When [my son] Adam was two years old he developed bilateral cateracts so in a matter of three weeks he lost complete eyesight in his eyes. Through the help of Sick Kids and all the doctors there and everything, through a few surgeries he’s able to see just like everyone else he just has to wear glasses for the rest of his life, which is just absolutely minor considering that he could have been blind anywhere else in the world. So because we received so much help from Sick Kids and from the people who started the foundation, I think it’s just our time, our part to try and give back. And everything we do, is we try to give back to Brendan’s Eye Research Foundation.

What he’s been up to:

A lot has come out of this MasterChef Canada, that’s for sure. I’m still the stay-at-home dad, but I am pursuing my love of food. I teach in Loblaws’ cooking school in about 20 different locations. I do some in the day and some in the evening. I also work for the Shopping Channel right now, I’m a represent a line called Hancock Gourmet Lobster. I also sell Hancock Knives as part of this and I opened up my own catering company so I could private chef events. It’s called Pino DiCerbo’s Cucina Rustica, where I do chef events, cooking classes. But I can still do all that and be the stay-at-home dad which is great, and get the best of both worlds.

Biggest competition:

Everyone has a strong team, right? We’re all worried about different teams for different reasons. Yeah, my mom is a very good, strong cook but she’s weak in other areas. What I was really worried about was Team Marida. They have two of the Top 50 contestants on the same team and they work so well together. They were the ones I was really worried about.

On cooking with family:

We work well together and I know that during the challenges—whatever they would be—they had some strengths I could call upon and we all would understand what those would be and no one would be upset or anything like that. So I wasn’t worried at all about anyone on our team.

Advice for Season 2:

Get ready. It really is a grind. It’s a lot more than just cooking. It’s a long process and the longer it went on the weaker I got. Because you’re missing your family, you have all these expectations on you and sometimes you’re surrounded by people you don’t want to necessarily be with because they’re competing against you and some of the people aren’t that nice. The days are long and stressful so it’s a real grind. You have to be really prepared mentally to do, to go away for six weeks.

Team Tamara

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Charity:

The charity I chose was the Canadian Mental Health Association and I just wanted to bring awareness to mental health issues as we have mental health issues in our family. I just think it’s important to really promote it and support it and help out where I can. I think it’s a great charity and I think that more people in Canada have to be aware of things that are hindering people. I think it’s great.

What she’s been up to:

Since leaving MasterChef I’ve opened my own catering company. And I work for Pampered Chef Canada, so I also have been promoted to director. I have done speaking conferences across Canada for motivational speaking and I have been gracious enough to be a regular appearance on CTV Morning Live and doing cooking segments with them. I also work for Elevate Auctions. I’m auctioned off five to eight times a month and I go into people’s homes and I cook them dinner, and the proceeds go to charity.

I am definitely out there trying to obtain my own type of cooking show, either web based or network based. I think that I can definitely relate to a lot of the Canadian public, so I just think that hey, here I am. Hook me up guys, come on!

Biggest competition:

The four of us are such good friends that we really didn’t see another competition, we were just really excited to see each other and be reunited and be back in the MasterChef Canada kitchen. I don’t mean to sound arrogant but, no, I don’t think any of them are my competition! I talk to Marida on the phone just about every day. And Pino and I talk quite often as well, so it’s not—it was like family getting back together.

On cooking with family:

It’s family and stressful—it was good but they handled it as best they could. They kind of just stood there like deer in headlights for a couple of minutes. And they’re like, “Oh, right. We’re supposed to move now.” They had a new appreciation for what I did, everyday, for six weeks.

My aunt is very sassy and she is very honest. So she had some words for chef Michael for sure, and it was fun. I really appreciate the three judges and everything that they do, as well as what they do outside of MasterChef Canada. I think the Demon Chef, Chef Alvin, was of course intimidating for everybody.

Advice for Season 2:

Definitely the advice I would give people going into round two or round three would be to practice. If there is something that you don’t know prior to going into the MasterChef Canada kitchen, don’t expect them to teach you because they’re not going to. Learn it at home first. You need to practice. I think going in educated is the key to success.

 

Who are you most excited to have back? Let us know in the comments below!

The MasterChef Canada Holiday Special airs Monday Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. ET.