They say no good deed goes unpunished, and it seems like that was true for one competitor in the MasterChef Canada kitchen. Alice Luo probably thought she was doing the right thing when she lent her oven out to Trevor Connie after he smashed his with a cast iron pan on Thursday’s episode, but the move came back to bite her in the end.
That’s because Trevor not only went on to win the Mystery Box challenge, but as his reward he got to decide which of his fellow competitors were exempt from cooking this week (the guys or the girls) and who would make a sweet or savoury dish out of a box of stone fruit. And not only did he make Alice cook in the actual challenge, but he gave her savoury when she clearly wanted sweet.
In the end it came down to Alice, Mai Nguyen and Thea VanHerwaarden, as they had what the judges deemed the worst dishes of the challenge. But it was Alice who went home for her overly complicated and extremely seasoned plate involving fish and a peach ratatouille that judge Michael Bonacini deemed less than “refined.”
The next day, we asked the home cook what she should have made instead, what refining a dish actually means and who we should all really fear in the kitchen.
What was the biggest thing you learned from the show?
Really how to cook even better. Because of how high the bar was raised, you had to be able to cook at an elevated level that I’ve never cooked at. And on a personal level I’ve actually gained a lot more foodie friends – I don’t think I actually would have ever been able to find them.
Chef Michael said you needed to learn how to refine your plate, what did that mean to you?
It’s hard to explain because when you’re in the kitchen, everything happens so quickly, but it’s knowing what kind of protein to put with what kind of garnish, how to plate it… typically at home I would just slap everything on the plate, but on the show you have to think about how you’re going to present it and what goes well with what. Those are all things you have to learn pretty quickly.
If you were to redo your dish how would you have “refined” it?
I would have tried to highlight the peach more, just like the judges said. The spices and all those herbs masked the peach. I would have done a peach sauce or succotash as opposed to the ratatouille.
What protein would you have paired it with and which spices would you have used?
I still would have paired it with a cod because I really like that protein. It’s very nice and light and it would help with elevating that peach… or any stone fruit actually. I would have eliminated the ratatouille and all the vegetables altogether to just focus on the peach or plum. Then I would have kept the cod itself simple with not as many herbs!
Have you cooked with stone fruits since?
I’ve eaten them! I haven’t really cooked with them, but maybe because they weren’t really in season.
Do you regret sharing your oven with Trevor?
I have no regrets. I wanted to walk into the competition being me as Alice, and it’s not in my nature to really sabotage someone. It’s just very unfortunate that it was also something that sent me home, I guess.
How has being connected to foodie friends inspired your dishes since the show?
All the friends I’ve made have become my inspiration for dishes. For instance, when I’m making French food I would think of Justine (Joyal) and Aaron (Polsky) and text them to ask if something (I had in mind) would work. Or when it comes to Vietnamese food, I’d ask Mai about pairings. My cooking has become broader in terms of cuisine because I have them there to support me.
Are you still pursuing a PhD or are you looking to do something in food now?
I would like to finish my PhD because I don’t like starting something and not finishing it, like a cliffhanger. At the same time, I’d like to pursue food dreams. I might even start off a program or a blog called Cooking for Positive Thinking. I’ll be working on both at the same time. You know, multitasking.
Important question for you: which judge is the most intimidating?
I would say Alvin. He is somebody who is very hard to impress, so if you actually do impress him, you know you’ve done something right. But he’s a wonderful guy — they all are. They’re there to help you and to teach you how to become a better home cook, but also I find they help you become a better person. If food reflects who you are as a person and you’re improving your food, then you’re also improving yourself.
Who are you rooting for to win?
If I could, I would want all of them to win, but I guess that’s not possible. Right now I’m tied between Aaron and Barrie (McConachie) because they’re both phenomenal and talented home cooks. They know so much about food — and wine! I have a theory that wine runs in their veins, not blood. But they’re definitely contenders to look out for this season.