MasterChef Canada returned to Canadian airwaves this week, showing the best that Canada’s amateur cooks have to offer. Soon after we were introduced to the Top 40, the judges revealed a change to the show’s format. To earn a spot in the Top 14, cooks had to earn a unanimous yes from all three judges; if they received even a single no, they would be given the chance to cook one more time to earn a coveted spot.
The TV Junkies had the opportunity to speak with two of the show’s judges, Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile, about the show’s third season. With the biggest buzz about the new season revolving around the Top 14 twist, we had to ask about their feelings on it.
“The exciting part is that some of the home cooks that have potential, but maybe didn’t do so well in the initial audition, they have that second chance and everyone loves a second chance,” says Aprile. “We all love that comeback story.”
Whether that second chance is fulfilled is all up to the contestants, and Bonacini rightly points out that not every story is a comeback story.
“I thought it was a great way to engage everybody again,” he says. “Is that a gift, or is that just another trip through purgatory?”
A sneak peek into what Season 3 has in store
As you’d expect from a show like MasterChef Canada, the talent just gets better every year. Part of honing that talent is to present challenges that force the cooks out of their comfort zone. Bonacini says fans should expect challenges that will offer unexpected twists and both raise the bar for the contestants and offer some genuine head-scratching moments. The increased talent means the judges have to step up their game as well.
“Every season they get better, they get sharper, they get faster, they get more knowledgeable, they hone their skills. It forces us to react and respond to that,” says Aprile. “The hope is that we all evolve together and we all improve together.”
One season highlight for Aprile was the appearance of retired astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, a Canadian icon in his own right. “He brought a real energy to the set that we hadn’t seen before,” he says. “Just the way he carried himself and the way he carried the room, I found that was really exciting to have him on.”
Without giving away too many details about what the contestants will be cooking with this season, the judges promise that fans will see many familiar Canadian ingredients that give the show its Canadian flare. However, Aprile points out that a diverse number of culturally-inspired dishes is what makes this reality show truly Canadian.
“One of the wonderful things that immigrants bring to [Canada] is food. It’s the one thing that connects us all,” Aprile says. “We embrace all cultures, we dive deep into them, we celebrate the fact that we have one of the best China Town’s in the world, we have one of the best Little India’s in the world. It’s such a rich food culture we have in this country, and I think we’ve been ahead of the curve for decades; the rest of the world is starting to catch on… it’s a great time to be a chef in this country.”
The personal stories that shape MasterChef Canada
The soul of MasterChef Canada will always be the food, but it’s the personal stories of the home cooks that give the show its heart. The tears were already flowing in the first episode as cooks shared their motivations for cooking and fulfilling their dreams, and the judges promise there’s more emotion to come.
“I think the best part of the story is that they’re there, on MasterChef Canada, trying out, doing what a lot of others are thinking that they would love to do, sitting on their couch, watching the show,” says Bonacini, explaining that contestants are essentially putting their lives on hold, potentially losing a job and missing out on big family moments. “That’s a big sacrifice, and kudos to anyone that does that because it is a great opportunity to fulfill ones dreams.”
“The drive and the passion that these home cooks have is infectious, it inoculates the entire set,” says Aprile. “Everyone feels it when you walk in, there’s a real magic to the set.”
So what separates a talented home cook from a MasterChef Canada winner? Aprile shares one of the most important pieces of advice he can give a contestant. “I tell the cooks not to waste any moments, really take advantage of every second and not to hold back dishes or ideas for the next challenge. Really bring it every single challenge as they’re presented,” he says. “I look for a cook that wants to be there for the right reasons.
At the end of the day, of course, a moving backstory and personal motivation does not necessarily create a guaranteed recipe for success.
“Those are great stories, but it all comes down to how well they cook,” says Bonacini.
What are you most looking forward to seeing this season on MasterChef Canada? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.