It’s kind of hard to believe, but we’re now down to the final four MasterChef Canada competitors. And they faced two of their toughest battles yet on Thursday night, reminding us that these wannabe chefs have come a long way from the home cooks we met at the beginning of the season.
Unfortunately, it also meant the end of the line for another competitor.
After failing to cook bison perfectly during an outdoor Canadian feast challenge, it all came down to a crazy hard pressure cooker test between Mai and Thea, while Trevor and Barrie watched from the gallery above. The task at hand? Recreating a Hawaiian mountain cloud, a complicated dessert involving cotton candy, frozen kiwi, pineapple, cookies and about a zillion other things.
In the end, it was Mai’s dish that sent her packing from the competition. We caught up with the home cook — who’s now working full-time in a kitchen to learn everything she can about the restaurant industry — to get her tips on cooking bison and how to properly make mouthwatering mashed potatoes.
What went wrong?
I was just so frazzled. There were so many components going on with the dessert that I wasn’t thinking clearly. Had I had another 10 minutes, I think I would have perfected it. There were so many components. I don’t know how I did it, watching the episode back.
Do they explain how to make a dish like that before they set you loose in the kitchen?
They definitely don’t show us at all. I’d never seen that dish before and I’m pretty sure Thea had never seen it before. I don’t even remember what it’s called! We had to look at it, figure out the base is a cookie and the main part of it is a cake with pineapple pieces embedded. It’s breaking it down to each component. Time management was the main issue — what part you would tackle first. That really determined how it turned out.
Some of the other competitors said you approach your food scientifically; is there a pro to that?
I only use the scientific method when it comes to baking, because baking is a science. I have a food science degree and I did learn these things in school — the science behind it and what happens while you’re doing it. With baking, there is no room for error. If you don’t put the right things in there it just won’t turn out. But with cooking, I cook with the heart. I never use a recipe when I make savoury foods.
You also made bison in the episode. Do you have any tips on how to cook bison meat?
You have to season it really well. You can’t really season the meat afterwards — it has to be seasoned super well before it hits the hot pan. You have to make the pan really, really hot. Get a good sear on it, then transfer it to the oven where it can slowly cook. Don’t cook it quickly!
Those truffled mashed potatoes looked amazing and the judges agreed — what’s your secret?
Use a ricer. It’s a lot easier than just mashing. You know you’re going to get a very smooth product in the end. With mashing, you may miss a few lumps.
Does that work with other starchy vegetables?
It would work with turnips and sweet potatoes as well, but the thing with sweet potatoes is that there’s not that much of a starch content so you can actually just put them in a blender and then through a sieve after. That would probably work best. It’s just with regular potatoes, they do have a high starch content, so when you put them through a blender they’ll turn into a paste.
You used real truffles, which can be hard to get your hands on. Is there a good substitute?
Truffle oil works — you can actually get truffle oil with real truffles in it and that makes a huge difference. There are some truffle oils that are basically perfume, but you’ll still get truffle flavour through a good oil if there are pieces at the bottom. That’s probably best.