Finally, we can tell you what the food was like when MasterChef Canada home cooks came out of the kitchen to celebrate German culture with homemade sausages and beer.
Jacqueline Clark was not on the winning team when MasterChef Canada took the home cook and her fellow competitors out of the kitchen for a sausage cook-off on Sunday’s episode of the TV cooking show, but she survived to compete in the pressure test where the fresh-from-scratch ricotta and handmade ravioli and knudi pasta dishes became her undoing.
The second part of the April 17 episode of the show took place in a studio without an audience but the first part was a live challenge outside with regular folks like me as taste testers.
Renowned chefs and restauranteurs Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung, and Claudio Aprile, stars of MasterChef Canada, judged three teams who competed in the Oktoberfest Feast gourmet sausage challenge under tents in a lot beside the German cultural centre, Hansa Haus, in Mississauga (the city that President Obama couldn’t pronounce), about 35 km west of Toronto, Ontario. Each tent was stacked with spices, herbs, fresh vegetables and the meat for the sausages.
Despite the cold, the audience of about 250 people filed past hoisted film cameras, on metal cranes that looked like they belonged on a major motion picture set, to occupy picnic benches in the open and lunch tables under a wide white canopy.
First stop, the beer counter. I didn’t have much to eat and I didn’t want the alcohol to go to my head in the middle of the afternoon. I also didn’t want to risk embarrassing a member of the crew who had invited me even if the beer was free. Surprisingly, Erdinger makes a pretty decent alcohol-free brew that accentuates the flavours in the sausage. The ladies who were on their way to work also appreciated the alternative.
We were treated to live German folk music, busty maidens in traditional dress, and mature men in lederhosen, all of whom were very friendly, as were the star chefs. The contestants didn’t have time to mingle with the guests due to the fact that they were hard at work grilling, mashing, slicing and dicing the entire time.
What was the food like on MasterChef?
Is it really as good as the star chefs say it is? Well, I have no other qualifications other than I love food; I’ve eaten a lot of it and in many places. Yes, I’ve had beef, pork and lamb, which were on the menu for the three teams of three home cooks who survived to be part of the top nine in this cooking competition. They were all amazing even though one sausage was a little dry; my favourite was layered with sautéed onions. The side dishes were great too. The vinegary Asian Slaw pairs well with sausage. And I could have had a few more of the hand-sliced chips.
RED TEAM MENU
Shawn Karls, a doctor from Montreal, won the previous elimination challenge and got to pick pork for his team to prepare. Their dish was a Japanese-inspired Umami Pork Sausage with Asian Slaw, Teriyaki Onion and Spicy Ginger Mayo. The umami, as a culinary student in line explained, is savory to the senses as opposed to sweet or sour. On the show, Leung said that he could taste the soy sauce and miso and that it was well-seasoned.
BLUE TEAM MENU
Insurance broker Mary Berg, who headed the Blue Team, prepared Lamb Sausage with a smoky Onion Jam, salty Homemade Potato Chips and Herb Mayonnaise Dip. Lawyer Veronica Cham said on the show that she used to volunteer in a soup kitchen and therefore was familiar with the pace and scope of cooking for large numbers.
GREEN TEAM MENU
PhD law student Terry Adido’s Green Team served a traditional Spicy Beef Beer Sausage with Dijonnaise Dressing and Corn Salad. We later learned that they had a secret weapon in the form of the pink-haired homemaker April Lee Baker. It was a welcome surprise to Terry when he found out that she came from a family of sausage makers and had been making sausages for 15 years. On the show April Lee could be heard shouting; “I’m the sausage queen.”
Jacqueline kept over-stuffing the sausages. Matthew Astorga, with his Boy George hat, spent a lot of time on the onions but it was worth it because it was the best topping and sausage, despite the fact it wasn’t the winner.
Terry’s grill caught fire – but we didn’t even notice, just a plume of smoke rising from the Green Team’s grill. Mary served raw meat to a guest but we were left wondering why Chef Bonacini walked swiftly over to their booth with a guest’s plate in his hand until Sunday’s episode aired. We didn’t even notice that she had burnt her hand and had to have it bandaged up – all this drama and we were clued out. Up close we could see the high tension peeking through their friendly smiles.
It was hard to ignore when Terry and Veronica were yelling for diners to come and get more food and even brought the sausages over to the tables but each person only had two tickets to spend. Green Team won the challenge, and although the other teams made great dishes, the winner was the team that sold the most.
I kept quiet about which contestants were at the MasterChef Oktoberfest Feast event until now, a whole six months, photos and all.
On Sundays’ show one member on each of the two remaining teams was saved. The others participated in a one-hour pressure test that sent account Jacqueline packing because of her runny ricotta. The ravioli resembled a bed-sheet rather than a pillow, Chef Aprile was to say on air. It didn’t have enough cheese, unlike Shawn’s, which had too much.
Judge Bonacini said, “I can tell that this was made by someone who doesn’t like cheeses.” It was true. Shawn confessed. Despite that, Matthew’s Mushroom-Ricotta Ravioli and Mary’s Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli with Lemon Brown Butter Sauce, Olive Oil and Tomato were good enough to keep them in the competition this week as part of the top eight with Jennifer Baglione, a salon manager from Maple, Ontario and Jeremy Senaris, a building plan examiner from Winnipeg, Manitoba.