By BILL HARRIS
Special to The Lede
The axe fell not once, not twice, but three times in a new episode of MASTERCHEF CANADA that aired Monday on CTV.
Three home cooks - Alyssa LeBlanc, a former public servant, from Tusket, N.S.; Jenny Miller, a stay-at-home mom, from Havre Boucher, N.S.; and Tony La Ferrara, a soccer coach and retired teacher, from Whitby, Ont.- were eliminated in a series of “knife fights” that wound up being just as dangerous as the title suggests!
We quizzed Alyssa and Jenny about their exits, and also had one last question for Tony, who actually was eliminated twice this season:
Q: What was the best piece of advice you got on MASTERCHEF CANADA, and who gave it to you?
Alyssa: “The first thing that comes to mind is, USE THE MANDOLIN GUARD! This was a combined effort coming from our medic Patty, (fellow home cook) Chanelle (Saks), and Chef Claudio (Aprile). I remember going a million miles a second in the school team challenge and I wasn’t stopping for anything. I finally listened and went and got the guard. It probably saved me from losing my hand - thanks guys!”
Jenny: “The best piece of advice I received didn't present itself as advice, per say. The most surprising thing about my fellow competitors is their absolute encouragement for one another. Not only were they supportive, loving, and kind - they were also my culinary advisers. Staying up late and waking up early, there was always someone to chat with about ideas, goals, and fears. There was always a shoulder to lean on, whenever you needed it.”
Q: Was there an element of appearing on MASTERCHEF CANADA that was harder than you thought it would be, or harder than it looks on TV?
Alyssa: “It was extremely hard to see my fellow home cooks not succeed at something. We all just wanted the best for each other and didn’t want to see anyone fail. There were so many more emotions and tears than expected. I had no idea we would end up this close, but we are now one big ol’ family and it’s truly amazing.”
Jenny: “Appearing on MASTERCHEF CANADA is on the far side of normal for me. Usually I am quite contented living my very simple life, but some outside force encouraged me to fill out that application. The hardest part is allowing yourself to be so vulnerable. Every bit of you, physically and mentally, is put on display in front of an entire nation.”
Q: Looking back, Alyssa, cutting yourself early in the knife fight put you at a supreme disadvantage. Did you know you were finished as soon as you were cut? And Jenny, is there anything you could have done differently in the fillet challenge? Sometimes you just get an uncooperative piece of fish - was that the case here?
Alyssa: “I knew the cut was going to set me back, but I never give up or stop fighting! Looking back, I would have probably organized my tasks differently, but you don’t have any time to think in the MASTERCHEF CANADA Kitchen.”
Jenny: “If you look at the challenge without looking at the whole journey, I would be devastated that my fish was so poorly filleted. But allowing myself to study my growth, I am so proud of what I did manage to accomplish there. I was someone who couldn't even plug in a blender properly on Day 1, and by the seventh episode I managed to somewhat fillet a fish I had never seen before and then proceed to plate it in eight minutes!”
Q: With this experience under your belt, what's next for you in the cooking world?
Alyssa: “I hope to just keep learning and growing as a home cook. It’s so exciting to constantly be learning new things and flavours. I hope to be able to travel the world and learn more by EATING! Eventually I would like to open my own little cabin-style restaurant and serve things I hunt, fish, and grow.”
Jenny: “This experience has only encouraged me to continue pursuing my love of food. Mainly, focusing on providing my community and Nova Scotia with the highest quality vegetables I can grow. Perhaps even branching out into other models, like aquaponics and market gardening. As much as I love cooking, my real desire is giving people the raw ingredients to create beautiful meals for their own families.”
Q: And finally, for Tony, because you were saved from your first elimination, you wound up having to say goodbye twice. All things considered, would it have been easier to stay home the first time, or did you get something extra out of the brief return?
Tony: “I was excited for the second chance. I am glad I had the opportunity to showcase different skills and to regain a spot as a top-six home cook. Things didn’t work out the way I would have liked, but I have no regrets.”