Calling all Albertans — it’s time to sit back and tune in for Season 3 of MasterChef Canada where 10 of our own home cooks will be slicing, dicing and whisking their way to try and earn the title of Canada’s next MasterChef.
Alberta has certainly taken a main stage on Season 3 of MasterChef Canada premiering on CTV this Valentine’s Day (Sunday, Feb.14)! Of the Top 40 finalists, 10 are from Alberta; 13 from Ontario; eight from Quebec; five from B.C.; one from New Brunswick; one from Nova Scotia; one from Manitoba and one from Saskatchewan.
[Editor’s note: For more information on the Alberta contestants, skip to the end of this article for feature profiles.]
They will all compete for a chance to make it into the Top 14 and the $100,000 cash prize, along with the title of Canada’s next MasterChef.
This season undoubtedly marks the highest number of Albertans to be on the show since its inception in 2014. Among them is a flight attendant from Calgary, a graphic designer from Edmonton, a high school teacher from Sturgeon County and a brand manager from Calgary.
“I’m so proud to come from Alberta and to be an Albertan,” said contestant April Lee Baker who runs a hobby farm just outside of Calgary. “We bring a lot of different styles to the kitchen and I felt so proud to see so many of us make it to the Top 40.”
Baker is just one of the Albertans to appear on the Season 3 debut where the home cooks prepare their signature dish for judges Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung, and Claudio Aprile. This year, the home cooks must receive a ‘yes’ from each judge in order to receive an apron — this certainly makes it harder than ever for finalists to qualify into the Top 14.
During the second episode, airing Sunday, Feb.21, a select number of home cooks will compete in order to advance in the competition and reach the Top 14.
“I started watching the show when it first came out and was amazed at how these people were cooking,” said contestant Dave Kantor, Vice President of Operations, Telecommunications in Edmonton. “I remember saying to myself ‘I think I could do that’!”
That same feeling was shared mutually with Edmonton graphic designer Dru Davids who has wanted to be on Masterchef since she first heard about the show.
“I love the show and I think the home cooks on the show are so amazing,” said Davids who even practiced her own mystery box challenges at home. “I have always wanted to challenge myself and see if I could do it. I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped wide open when I found out I had made it.”
Calgary flight attendant Jose Torres originally thought he was being pranked when he received the phone call that he had made it through the audition rounds and was being flown to Toronto to try and become one of the Top 40 finalists.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Torres who has been cooking since he was a child. “Even when I hung up the phone, I thought ‘did that just happen?’ The most extraordinary part of this experience for me was getting to meet the 39 other contestants from coast to coast. Most of our conversations were about cooking — we could have talked about it all day long. It was both motivating and exciting.”
That common thread of a love for cooking and food is exactly what pushed Allie Romao, former staffing consultant in Edmonton, to audition for the show.
“I love talking about cooking and I love talking about food,” says Romao who didn’t start cooking until her high school years. “It was nice to meet other home cooks who were like-minded.”
Travis Petersen, former manager in the oil and gas industry based out of Edmonton, began cooking when he moved away from home for the first time at age 16.
“I continue to cook at home every day. It’s always a therapeutic hour in the day for me,” said Petersen. “Even when there were some stressful days at work, I knew that I always had that hour from 5 to 6 p.m. where I enjoy every minute.”
Edmonton PhD law student Terry Adido, comes from a family who loves to cook. He picked up cooking at a young age and continued to refine his skills as he got older. When it came time to audition for MasterChef Canada, his friends strongly encouraged him to apply.
“It’s one thing for your friends to tell you that you’re an amazing cook, but having some of the top chefs in the world telling you that you can cook is a whole other experience.,” said Adido. “To get feedback from the judges, whether it’s positive or negative, is all helpful.”
Domingo Lumanog is another contestant who was strongly encouraged by his friends to apply. He moved to Canada 10 years ago and pursued a career as a brand manager in the fashion industry in Calgary. His cooking style is based largely off his ability to cook with whatever is available — a style that was developed in his home country of the Philippines and continues to be supported by Alberta’s thriving agriculture.
“I used to go to the market with my mother in the morning and we would cook with whatever we found that day,” said Lumanog. “I continue to cook with everything that is fresh and accessible. It’s really about making use of what I can find.”
The Alberta Connection
Aside from the contestants all having an instant bond over being Albertan, there’s another common quality that exists among them all — their respect and appreciation for the diversity in Alberta food.
“Living in Alberta gives us the benefit of different proteins and produce that we have here,” said Kantor, who values food for its ability to bring people together. “We’re close enough to pretty well everywhere else that we can still get fresh seafood if we want and we have access to some of the best chocolate in the world, right here locally. We have a lot of resources at our disposal.”
Ramao talks highly of the food quality within Alberta and says she hopes that viewers of the show see all that Albertans have to offer.
“I think it’s really cool that there’s so many of us from Alberta,” said Ramao. “I hope we opened up the country’s eyes to seeing that there is a lot of good food and good restaurants in our province.”
Nicole Olthuis, a stay-at-home-mom in Cardston, speaks fondly of her fellow contestants and the friendships that developed.
“You make these bonds that are kind of hard to describe,” said Olthuis. “You’re in this situation with people who love food as much as you do. There’s a lot to talk about and it never gets old.”
Carrla Cowley is a high school teacher in Sturgeon County who comes from a family of talented and passionate home cooks. She says that thinking about the friendships she made from the show still gives her goosebumps.
“These are my lifetime Alberta friends. We all come from different backgrounds but we are all Albertans,” said Cowley. “In this province we have such resourceful farmers that take pride in the work that they do and they want to share that with other Albertans – we are such a family province with family roots. I’m very fortunate to be an Albertan and to call myself an Albertan.”
Tune in and cheer on our Albertan contestants as they compete in one of the biggest cooking competitions in Canada. MasterChef Canada Season 3 premieres Sunday, Feb. 14 on CTV (check CTV.ca for local broadcast times).
April Lee grew up in Mundare, AB where her family owned a sausage house. She remembers being captivated at a young age by watching her grandmother’s passion for cooking. While juggling between running a hobby farm and caring for her family, April Lee enjoys hosting dinner parties for her family and friends because nothing brings families together like food, she says. Her ultimate food dream is to own her own restaurant where she produces her own vegetables and livestock. Her advice to home cooks is to, “Follow your passion.” When asked to describe her MasterChef Canada experience in one word she said: “Elevated.”
Allie Romao, Staffing Consultant, Edmonton
Allie began cooking when she moved in with her father at the age of 16. It was her first crack at experimenting with all different types of foods and flavours on her own. As time went on, Allie began refining her culinary skills by cooking appetizers for more than 200 people at her local choir fundraisers. Her food dream is to teach others how to love and appreciate food through her own cooking school. Her advice to other home cooks is, “Always have your eyes open to learn.” When asked to describe her MasterChef Canada experience in one word she said: “Fan-freaking-tastic!”
Carrla Cowley, High School Teacher, Sturgeon County
Cooking has always been the light in Carrla’s life. Surrounded by incredible cooks, Carrla was introduced to food and cooking at a young age learning from both her grandmother’s and her mother. She has fond memories of always being in the kitchen and always eating at home. Her favourite part of cooking is its ability to bring people together and show them how much she loves them through her food. Her food dream is to own a small specialty food shop and café in her hometown. Carrla’s advice to other home cooks is to try new things without fear. “Be brave. Make mistakes and learn from them and move on and know that if you’ve got that burning fire to cook inside of you… just set it free.” When asked to describe her MasterChef experience in one word she said: “Inspirational.”
Dave Kantor, VP of Operations, Telecommunications, Edmonton
Dave’s love of cooking all began with his Ukrainian grandmother. Dave recalls his grandmother always being busy in the kitchen and “cooking up a storm” for visitors. Eventually, he began spending time with his grandmother by cooking in the kitchen and learning her techniques. As he grew older, Dave found his passion for cooking and food in its ability to bring people together and share quality time. His culinary dream is to own a bakery and café. Dave’s advice to other home cooks is to never give up on the dream. “Keep the dream alive and keep it moving. Good things come to those that persevere.” When asked to describe his MasterChef Canada experience in one word he said: “Surreal.”
Born and rasied in the Phillipines, Domingo always had access to fresh ingredients and learned how to cook based on what was available. Before moving to Canada 10 years ago, he recalls going to the market with his mother in the morning to pick out the ingredients needed for meals that day. “I really cook based off what I can find,” he says. Domingo’s culinary dream is to publish a cookbook dedicated to his mom filled with her recipes. His advice to other home cooks is keep practicing. “Unless you try it, you will never be able to make it. Just put your head down and start doing it.” When asked to describe his MasterChef Canada experience in one word he said: “Exciting.”
Dru’s culinary skills truly developed when she moved out on her own for the first time. After a lifestyle that consisted mostly of eating out, she got to a point in her life when she decided she needed a change. So, she learned how to cook. “I learned how to cook by watching food shows on TV and trying different things,” she says. She enjoys cooking for family and friends and her food dream is to own and operate a bed and breakfast in the Okanagan with her husband. Her advice to aspiring home cooks is to just go for it! “Don’t be afraid of anything. Just try your best and if you fail, that’s okay. You just have to push on and carry through.” When asked to describe her MasterChef Canada experience in one word she said: “Life-changing.”
Jose Torres, Flight Attendant, Calgary
After leaving El Salvador and moving to Canada in 1982, Jose began cooking after-school snacks to help look after his younger siblings while his parents balanced opposite work shifts. From there, Jose’s father took him under his wing showing him the ropes of cooking and how to incorporate elements of their culture into new dishes. “It really became our father-son time,” he said. His culinary dream is to open a Creole-El Salvadorian restaurant or food truck. His advice to aspiring home cooks it to always cook from the heart. “I think that’s what cooking is all about. When you cook from your heart, everything else is second.“ When asked to describe his MasterChef Canada experience in one word he said: “Exhilarant.”
Nicole Olthius, Stay At Home Mom, Cardston:
Cooking has always been a big part of Nicole’s family. She has fond memories of always being in the kitchen with her family watching them work. Although Nicole didn’t begin cooking at a young age, it became a big part of her life when she moved away from her home and took with her a handmade recipe book from her mother. “That book was my base. There’s where a lot of my skills started.” These days she cooks regularly for her family and does her best to teach her two children aged eight and nine about the importance of food and healthy eating. Her food dream is to share her passion for cooking by opening up a cooking school and restaurant. Her advice to aspiring home cooks is to go for your dreams. “Just go for it. You have to. If you want it, you have to go for it.” When asked to describe her MasterChef experience in one word she said: “Unreal.”
Terry Adidio, PhD Law Student, Edmonton:
Terry comes from a family who has a passion for cooking. Naturally, he picked up on that passion at a young age and began cooking around seven-years-old. In fact, he baked his own birthday cake for his 11th birthday! His MasterChef experience helped him gain a new respect for cooking, he says. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to explore more and get to know food more.” His culinary dream is to open his own baking studio. His advice to other home cooks is never give up your culinary dream. “Just do it. You are better than you think you are and if you love cooking, there are no limits to where your passion can take you.” When asked to describe his MasterChef experience in one word he said: “Phenomenal.
Travis’s food journey began at age 16 when he moved away from home for the first time. After quickly realizing he couldn’t live off fast food, he began to learn how to cook. Taking inspiration from his world travels to more than 21 countries, Travis cooks with all different types of ingredients and fusions. His culinary dream is to own a private dinner and catering company where he can cook for people in their homes. His advice to aspiring home cooks is “Dream big, aim for the stars, land on the moon and never limit yourself.” When asked to describe his MasterChef experience in one word he said: “Humbling.” [Editor’s Note: Travis has since moved out of Alberta and is now residing in B.C.]