Category Archives: Chopped Canada

Meet the Celebs Competing in the Chopped Canada Kitchen

They can sing, they can dance, they can act — but can they work a kitchen as well as they can work the camera? Four homegrown stars show off their hidden culinary talents on a special episode of Chopped Canada Celebrities. Let’s meet the four celebrities vying for the title of Chopped Canada Champion.

Roz

Roz Weston: Most of us know him as an entertainment reporter for ET Canada, and the co-host of Kiss 92.5’s The Roz and Mocha Show. Roz has covered the biggest entertainment stories on the planet; he’s even crawled inside the Great Pyramid in Egypt, and stood right smack in the middle of Moscow’s Red Square.

How do you define your cooking style?
I’m not an adventurous cook at all. I don’t like dessert, I don’t like sweets. So I’m nervous about the dessert round because I’ve never made a dessert in my life.

What’s one dish you cook well?
I make really good soups! I could live my life off soups. I don’t enjoy when people in my house are sick, but I kind of do, because I get the opportunity to make soups.

What ingredient would you hate to see in a basket?
If I got a basket of just fruit, I wouldn’t know what to cook with it. I don’t know how to make a pie or a reduction. Any sort of fruit would give me a hard time.

Who’s your biggest competition?
I don’t want to see anybody go, but I would say Steven and I are on the same level. What I find intimidating is he’ll start referencing names of foods and dishes I’ve never even heard of, let alone make.

What charity are you playing for?
I’m playing for SKETCH. It’s an organization that helps underprivileged  kids by introducing them to the arts. When kids don’t have a lot, the first thing that’s usually cut in schools or at home is any sort of artistic outlet. Sketch helps kids develop an eye for art and lets them shine in a place they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to.

Keisha Chante

Keshia Chanté: A singer, actress and philanthropist, Keshia’s known internationally as a television personality having co-hosted BET’s 106 & Park for two years. Keshia has released three albums and received numerous awards including a JUNO Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.

How do you define your cooking style?
My attention span is short, so when I’m in the kitchen, my mind wanders off. I try and do as many meals at once. When I cook, I go for classic comfort foods.

What’s one dish you cook well?
A lot of people seem to love the beef stew I make. I get good feedback from that.

What ingredient would you hate to see in a basket?
I really don’t want to see a fish head. I don’t even know where to start. I’m finicky with seeing eyes of fish.

Who’s your biggest competition?
Roz makes me nervous because he cooks a lot. And I know Mary knows how to work a deep fryer, which is intimidating!

What charity are you playing for?
I’m playing for Free the Children, part of the WE Charity. They’ve made a huge impact on kids’ lives. They put kids in school and give them resources that we [take for granted].

Steven Page

Steven Page: A well-known singer/songwriter, Steven is one of the founding members of The Barenaked Ladies with whom he toured the world and sold millions of albums. On his own, Steven continues his artistic evolution with an array of solo projects.

How do you define your cooking style?
I love to go to the farmers’ markets and buy fresh ingredients to cook with. I like to cook comfort foods but I lighten them up with fresh, healthy ingredients.

What’s one dish you cook well?
I make really good homemade vegan pâté. I don’t eat vegan all the time, but I like the things that are more labour intensive. It’s fun when you try and challenge yourself to create something flavourful that’s not full of fat.

What ingredient would you hate to see in a basket?
Durian. It’s an Asian fruit that smells like a dumpster. But they wouldn’t do that to us, would they?!

Who’s your biggest competition?
Roz is my biggest competition. He’s someone who really knows his way around the kitchen. But that doesn’t always mean it’s a recipe for winning.

What charity are you playing for?
I’m playing for the The Steven Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. They work with community level organizations in Africa to give grandmothers all the help they need to raise their children.

Mary

Mary Walsh: Creator and star of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, CBC’s wildly popular take on current affairs, Mary is also the recipient of the Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award in the Performing Arts.

What’s one dish you cook well?
I make a great roast. At home I make a roast and three-veg, salt meat and cabbage. It’s quite massive!

What ingredient would you hate to see in a basket?
I don’t want to see chickpeas. They’re not my favourite.

Who’s your biggest competition?
My biggest competition is Keisha. But I’m an old hippie. I want everyone to win and everyone’s charity to get money.

What charity are you playing for?
I’m playing for Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa. It provides all levels of healthcare for Aboriginal people. They have outreach workers looking to see who needs help round the clock. I admire them greatly.

Turn in to this exciting episode of Chopped Canada Celebrities, airing Saturday, December 17th at 9 E/P.

Chopped Canada Host Brad Smith

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Brad Smith

You may already know Brad Smith as a CFL star and a Bachelor, but the host of Chopped Canada is also a food lover who enjoys haute cuisine, fast food, and everything in between. We chatted with the Montreal native to talk about his palate – and his heart.

Chopped Canada Host Brad Smith

Here’s what we learned:

1. He wants to open a restaurant with Lynn Crawford
During a recent Facebook Live Q&A, Brad was asked which chef he’d love to team up with to open a restaurant. Brad says that hands down, he’d love to work with Chef Lynn Crawford and he’d name their restaurant Goofballs. “We’d specialize in rice balls or something like that!”

2. He loves Brunch in Toronto
Like many of us, Brad is a sucker for a good weekend brunch. He especially loves the indulgent offerings at Toronto restaurant Lisa Marie. “They do s’mores pancakes there,” he says, adding that Nutella is cooked inside the pancake and marshmallow fluff is toasted, and top with maple syrup. Brad recently appeared in an episode of Neighbourhood Eats and, of course, he stopped by Lisa Marie.

3. He loves cooking
Before he ever stepped foot on a Food Network Canada set, Brad was already a good cook. Still, working alongside Canada’s top chefs hasn’t hurt his kitchen skills. “It increased my ability to go from a pretty decent cook to actually being pretty proficient at it,” he says.

4. He puckers up before every meal
When Chopped Canada judge Susur Lee told contestants they all needed more acid in their dishes, the host listened. “My girlfriend will tell you this– she hates me for it—everywhere I go, no matter what I’m eating, I’ll always ask for a lime or lemon wedge just because Susur Lee said for everybody to add more acid. On everything! I learned that enough salt and enough acid makes anything good. So I literally squeeze lemon on everything.”

5. He’ll do anything for a good burger
After watching Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Brad needed to try the American chain’s burgers. It took him 16 hours to drive to Maryland but it was worth it.

6. He loves cooking for his parents
Cue the awwws: If Brad could cook for anyone, ever, he’d choose his mom and dad. “I think I just get the biggest enjoyment from when I go home and cook for my parents,” he says. “They’re the ones who’ve appreciated it the most in my entire life. They always look forward to when I’m back and I’m going to make food.”

7. He shares his stomach with Eden Grinshpan . . .
“Eden eats everything,” says Brad of Toronto-born Chopped Canada judge Eden Grinshpan. “Eden would eat out of a garbage can. She’s like my food sister. We have the exact same food taste.”

8. . . And his heart with Lynn Crawford
“She’s the nicest woman ever,” says Brad of Chopped Canada judge Lynn Crawford. “She has the most beautiful heart you’ll ever meet. She treats every single person like they’re the most important person at that time to her.”

9. He loves haute cuisine, but he’s not a food snob
Get Brad talking about food and he’ll rave about his favourite gnocchi, Montreal’s amazing food scene, Susur Lee’s famous slaw and his favourite dish . . . a Big Mac from McDonald’s.

10. The weirdest thing he’s ever eaten was . . .
You’ll have to stay tuned to Chopped Canada for this one. “I can’t say it until the show comes out because it’s in one of the episodes,” he reveals. “Roger [Mooking] threw up and Mark McEwan said it was the most disgusting thing he’s ever put in his mouth. It tasted like . . . it was disgusting.”

Chopped Canada returns with brand new specials starting with Chopped Canada Junior on Sunday, October 16 at 8 E/P. See schedule information here.

Emma Chopped Canada

How Chopped Canada Champions Spent Their Winnings

We’ve had a talented batch of Canadian chefs competing on this season of Chopped Canada. From executive chefs on the west coast to sous chefs out east, all 76 competitors brought their A-game to the kitchen.

We couldn’t be prouder of the talent in our country, so we caught up with four notable winners to see what’s been cooking for them since they were on the show — and how they’ve spent their winnings.

You may recall Emma Beqaj in the episode “Sauce on the Side,” where she impressed the judges with her scrumptious Rotisserie Chicken Waffles with Chermoula Maple Syrup, and her mouthwatering Ground Cherry Crumble with Coffee Bean Caramel.

Winning has its perks and Emma can thank her family for that.

“The day [I auditioned] my brother and sister were there to give me the biggest pep talk, which I think helped me secure a spot,” she says.

As chef and owner of Emma’s Eatery Catering, the Chopped Canada champion used her $10,000 prize to secure her own commercial kitchen. “I was very happy to put the money towards exactly what I told the judges it would be for.”

Josh Karbelnik had a heartwarming reason for auditioning and ultimately winning in the episode “Cooking With Courage.”

“My mom needed a wheelchair ramp and I thought if I go on this show and win, I would buy it for her. She encouraged me to sign up because she watches the show and believes in me,” he says.

The 26-year-old chef de partie at Truffles Fine Foods in New Westminster, B.C. brought a well-honed fine dining background to the competition, delivering a creative menu that impressed judges Anne Yarymowich, Antonio Park and Lynn Crawford.

Since winning, Josh was able to help his mother and is currently living in Toronto, Ont. where he is planning his wedding in the new year.

Pam Fanjoy, the winner of the episode “Shell Shocked,” initially planned to spend her prize money on a trip to Thailand, but, as she explains, her business took priority.

“I took the money and put it towards a new restaurant,” she says, adding the $10,000 helped with a down payment on a new location for The Friendly Chef Adventures in Erin, Ont.

“We’re going from a little, tiny 14-seat cafe inside a boutique to a 40-seat restaurant with a full-service store attached to it. We open May 29th!”

Once her episode aired, Pam says her restaurant has never been busier. “We have a lot more customers coming in for lunch and understanding we also have a retail store. Prior to the show, a lot of people didn’t know the caliber of our food.  We’ve really become a destination restaurant as tourists come in on the weekends specifically to come here and eat.”

Sebastien Laframboise first appeared in the second season’s episode “In a Pig’s Ear” and got chopped for second-guessing a temperature setting. Fortunately for him, he returned to the kitchen for the ultimate vindication in “Redemption: Road to Victory,” where, alas, he cooked his way to $10,000.  With the money, the executive chef at Auberge La Goéliche in Québec City went on a well-deserved vacation.

“I went to Finland with one of my chefs. I really like Nordic cuisine. In Québec, we have exactly the same weather and products but they use it differently. It was interesting to see what they do over on their continent,” he says. “I had fun. That’s the main thing.”

Catch the season finale of Chopped Canada Saturday, May 14th at 9 E/P.

7 Reasons to Love Chopped Canada Season 3

Chopped Canada Season 3 is so good we added an extra 6 episodes, but we still can’t get enough! Here are the reasons why this season takes the cake.

Face Value

Our judges are great chefs, but food isn’t the only medium they transform. Their very own faces serve as canvases for some of the most artful reactions we’ve ever seen on television. We’ve compiled them all here so you can revisit all the sulks, stink-eyes and moments of utter shock.

Family Matters

Brotherly love turned to sibling rivalry when brothers Dany and Pete Sok competed against Bijou and Imrun Texeira, and they all competed against each other. Don’t worry if you missed the epic Bro-Down Showdown – you can watch it here.

Sweet Redemption

It’s not easy getting chopped in the dessert round, but this season offered four returning chefs a shot at sweet, sweet redemption.

A Whole Host of Awesomeness

Sure, he was a good CFL star and a great Bachelor, but new host Brad Smith truly found his calling when he joined Chopped Canada. The Montreal native has charmed us all with his calm in the kitchen, judge impressions and megawatt smile.

Life’s Great Mysteries

The producers outdid themselves this season, turning familiar ingredients like flaky roll dough into huge challenges when they were paired with side stripe prawns, finger limes and a candy necklace!

Mic Drops

Contestants had better be upfront, especially when Roger Mooking’s in the house, as one competitor memorably learned when he called his scrambled eggs a ‘freeform frittata.’ And re-visit Chef Lynn Crawford’s disapproval when one contestant dared to “play it safe.”

Good Hair Days

“Judging by your hairstyle and your knife skills, I can see that you’re very precise,” is the comment that proved Mark McEwan considers the full package when he’s assessing a dish.

If you can stand the heat in the kitchen, apply to be a contestant! Application deadline is April 11, 2016.  Catch new episodes of Chopped Canada Saturdays at 9 E/P.

Chopped Canada: Signs Things Are Going Awry in the Kitchen

It’s one thing to cook from the comfort of your own restaurant kitchen, but finding yourself on the set of Chopped Canada means two things: you’re good enough to compete on national television and the heat is on.

Claudia Bianchi can tell when a contestant is in over their head. The Chopped Canada culinary producer shares the warning signs that a contestant is headed for trouble.

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They’re frantic in the pantry.
“Sometimes they have a missing ingredient, where they’re looking and searching,” says Bianchi. “One time a chef yelled out, ‘Any red onion?’ and another competitor replied, ‘I’m a Canadian and I’m happy to share.’” That chef was lucky, says Bianchi, as a missing ingredient means switching plans in the middle of a round, which can throw off a chef’s concentration — and their final dish.

They’re scrambling.
It’s normal for chefs to break a sweat during Chopped Canada’s timed challenges, but there’s a difference between hustling and struggling, and you can see it on the plates, says Bianchi. “Not having enough time to plate the dish and scrambling with not enough time for presentation at the end,” are clear indications of trouble.

They’re bleeding.
“Most competitors come to the Chopped Canada kitchen with confidence in their cooking and knife skills — these are almost a given because it’s what they do everyday,” says Bianchi. “But nerves can get the best of some of the competitors, and we see nicks and cuts on their fingers.” Some chefs recover quickly from these uncharacteristic cuts, while others start to unravel.

They’ve got pots on every burner.
If you can’t multitask, you can’t run a restaurant kitchen, and you certainly can’t compete on Chopped Canada. But it is possible to have too many things on the go at once, says Bianchi. “Sometimes the whole stove is full, then they’re running to the deep fryer. And things are burning and bubbling over. We see burns.”

Watch Chopped Canada on Saturdays at 9 E/P.

roger-mooking-batch-cooking

5 Foods Roger Mooking Always Cooks in Batches

Roger-Mooking-Chopped-Canada

Think you know everything when it comes to batch cooking?

When it comes to the art of cooking in bulk, Chopped Canada judge Roger Mooking has it down pat. As the father of four kids, he makes it a weekly priority.

“During the week, we’re busy running kids to and from activities, so I tend to spend Sundays cooking and freezing a bunch of stuff that we can build meals from easily,” Rogers says.

From easy sauces to breakfasts-on-the-go, here are 5 things that Roger batch cooks for his family.

Hummus
“I add it to sandwiches instead of mayo, or to soups to thicken and make heartier.”

Stock
“I reserve all the bones from roasted meats and freeze them until I have enough to make a decent pot of stock. Then I freeze it into smaller batches and use it as needed.”

Herb Purées
“I add it to sandwiches, stews, meat marinades, veggie marinades and mixed into mayo for potato salads.”

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
“I like to slow roast a bunch of tomatoes and serve it in salads, to quinoa dishes and reheated into side dishes for steak or chicken. I also like to purée it into soups and for vinaigrettes.”

Simple Breakfasts
“I make batches of biscuits, pancakes and waffles for freezing. I just thaw and reheat for a quick breakfast or snack.”

Looking for family-friendly recipes? Check out our Cooking for Kids guide. And tune-in on Saturdays at 9 E/P to catch Roger Mooking on Chopped Canada.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Brad Smith’s Dinner Date Dos and Don’ts

As a former Bachelor star, current Chopped Canada host Brad Smith knows a thing or two about dating. We caught up with Smith to learn some of his best tips for a deliciously simple and romantic date night, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Brad Smith

Don’t Wait for V-Day
Valentine’s Day is just another day of the week,” says Brad. If your romance needs rekindling, celebrate it, but otherwise being thoughtful and caring with every date is the best approach.

Forget the Dark Corners — Love Needs Light
“Do go somewhere where you can hear [your date],” says Smith, preferably a spot that’s not too dark. And if you can, sit next to each other. “I always order a four person table and then tell them it’s only two people. That way we can both sit in the booth or both sit on the chairs.” This proximity helps establish a closer connection, Smith suggests.

Turn it Off to Turn Them On
Brad Smith reveals another advantage of sitting close is that’s it’s harder to reach for the date-killer lurking in your pocket — your phone.

Mac and Cheese

“Whether you make mac and cheese or fine dining, the important part is trying,” says Smith.

Trying is Sexy
If you want to impress your boo — on Valentine’s Day or any other — it’s all about effort. “You can make me macaroni and cheese and hot dogs and I’d like it as much as if you made me some fine dining,” explains Smith. “There’s nothing like coming home to the thought of someone doing something for you, regardless of what it is.”

Be Clear About Your Intentions
“In the industry I’m in, you either meet people you’ve known beforehand or you meet people at events and they’re kind of like your first date,” he says. “You don’t have to be like, ‘Oh, can we get a drink?’ because you just had a drink and talked for three hours at an event.” But in other professions, Smith admits a little candour goes a long way. Always establish that a date is a date, and not, say, a networking lunch or business coffee.

Tune-in on Saturdays at 9 E/P to catch Brad Smith on Chopped Canada.

Chopped-Canada-ostrich-egg

Lynn Crawford on How to Cook an Ostrich Egg

Chopped Canada ostrich egg episode

Ask Chef Lynn Crawford about ostrich eggs, and her enthusiasm is as obvious as a five-pound embryo. “They’re beautiful bone white, they’ve got this lovely patina to them and unbelievable thickness. And the yolk! It’s a beautiful, beautiful product,” she says.

But for the contestants who found ostrich eggs in their Chopped Canada mystery baskets, surprise trumped enthusiasm. Chef Lynn loved watching their facial expressions as they registered the enormity of the eggs before them.

“The sheer weight of them is what I find just astonishing,” she says. “They can be anywhere from three and a half to five pounds, and the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs. So right then and there, to come up with a dish to use the entire ostrich egg — would they cook it in time?”

But deciding how to cook the ostrich eggs was the contestants’ second problem — figuring out how to crack them was the first.

Chef Lynn keeps a carpenter’s hammer in her kitchen toolkit to achieve this challenging task. “You can’t expect to break that egg with a spoon or crack it over the side of a mixing bowl,” she says. “It’s extremely hard, the shell. You need either a hammer or a chisel or some sort of power tool to get into the egg.”

Chopped Canada Lynn Crawford

If you ever want to challenge yourself to cook an ostrich egg, scrambling is the simplest preparation. You can coax the liquid interior from a small hole without worrying about keeping the yolk intact. A small hole also preserves more of the shell for later use as a serving dish.

“In New York we had scrambled ostrich egg if it was for special brunch, with the addition of caviar,” says Chef Lynn. “I think caviar and lobster is delicious, and straight up parmesan cheese. But you’re not going to have a soft boiled egg on your restaurant menu because it would take an hour and a half to cook.”

Topped with haute additions, and served in its own shell, scrambled ostrich egg is easy to cook and stunning to serve. “It has a lot of wow factor and it’s a beautiful thing,” she says.

If you’re lucky you might come across the gigantic eggs at your local butchers or specialty grocers, but if you don’t see them there, ask for a special order. Better yet, find an ostrich farm in your area and visit it directly for a peek at the mammoth birds.

“Look at the size of the shell — it’s a real showstopper,” says Chef Lynn. “I think everybody should try to cook an ostrich egg at least once. And for some of those chefs that did compete, it’s probably the last time they will, too.”

Missed the episode? Watch Chopped Canada contestants battle it out using this egg-cellent ingredient online.

Chopped Canada airs Saturdays at 9PM E/P.

Roger Mooking’s Top Tips for Feeding a Family

Roger Mooking knows a thing or two about family meal planning . When he’s not judging Chopped Canada or developing creative dishes for Twist By Roger Mooking, a new restaurant at Toronto Pearson Airport, he’s a busy father to four girls. That’s right, four girls under the age of 10! That means getting all four kids to try new flavours at mealtime — not an easy feat.

We connected with the family man who shared his tips on grocery shopping, getting kids excited about food and introducing new flavours.

Roger-Mooking

On Having a Plan
“We shop once a week, usually early Saturday mornings when the grocery store is empty but well stocked for a busy day. It’s the best time to go if you can get up early on a Saturday — folks with kids are used to getting up early for the most part! Then we spot shop as needed during the week.”

On Introducing New Foods
“We always buy a new item every week that we’ve never tried before. It might be a type of cheese, a kind of cracker, a new brand of yogurt, a different pasta or noodle — anything. It’s about introducing new flavours to the kids; sometimes it’s successful sometimes it’s not.”

On Getting Kids Involved
“I always encourage the kids to go grocery shopping with me. Sometimes we all go (including my wife Leslie), sometimes it’s just one or two kids, and sometimes it’s just me. But when the kids are involved, they usually ask to buy something that piques their curiosity. I like to include them in the cooking process, too. Cooking is one of the most important life skills we can teach them”

On Saving On the Grocery Bill
“I like to peruse the specials displays to see if there is any good value there. Often you can find specials on great quality products that just might have a shorter shelf life. The grocery stores tend to mark down those items to get them off the shelves quickly before they spoil.”

On Buying Quality Food
“We tend to buy for quality over price. Quality and value can co exist though! I usually buy what looks the freshest and build meals around that.”

Looking for family-friendly recipes? Check out our Cooking for Kids guide. And tune-in on Saturdays at 9 E/P to catch Roger Mooking on Chopped Canada.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Mark McEwan

You know his face, you know his voice, you may even know the taste of his lobster poutine — but did you know that Mark McEwan adores his wife’s meatballs and Susur Lee’s jokes? Here are 10 fun facts about the newest Chopped Canada judge you’ve probably never heard before.

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1. He Can’t Get Enough of Susur Lee

Mark McEwan enjoyed meeting new colleague Antonio Park, and catching up with old friends like Lynn Crawford and Michael Smith, but Susur Lee is the chef who knows how to best season McEwan’s funny bone. “Susur, we had a hilarious time together,” he says. “I had so much fun with Susur. It was just hysterical.”

2. He Suffers for His Art

Mark McEwan is an experienced judge, but Chopped Canada presented challenges that his previous gig on Top Chef Canada didn’t. He thanks the mystery basket for that. “Well, there was a lot of bad food,” he admits, “And that’s what happens when you give chefs peculiar ingredients they don’t have the experience with. You always try to put yourself in their shoes, but at the end of the day, I judge the plate on whether it tastes good or not.”

3. It’s Possible to Stump Him with a Mystery Basket

It’s rare for McEwan to come across an unfamiliar mystery basket ingredient, but it has happened. This season mochi, the sticky Japanese rice flour dessert, appeared in contestants’ baskets, and he admits it would’ve given him trouble. “If you had the advantage of [experience], sure, you’ll figure something out. But on the fly? Very, very challenging to turn it into anything.”

4. He Worked His Way Up

All great chefs have to start somewhere, but McEwan’s first job was one of the industry’s dirtiest. “I was 16 years old and I was a dishwasher in Buffalo, New York, at Mindy’s Wine Cellar,” he explains. “I made $1.60 an hour. That was the first restaurant job I ever had.” One day the restaurant needed a cook, “so they dragged me out of the dishroom.”

5. He’s Organized, Really Organized

An early mentor taught McEwan that organization is a key component in a chef’s toolkit. “How you set your station, how you put your tools away, how you cut your chives, your shallots, how often you clean your stove, how you keep your uniform,” he says. “It creates efficiency and lack of wasted movement. All those things that make for an efficient day.”

6. He’s got a Soft Spot for Bologna Sandwiches with Mustard

“My mom used to make it all the time when I was a kid,” says McEwan of the school lunch classic. “Good, simple working class family.”

7. He Loves Junk Food

“I fly a lot, and what do I buy when I fly the most often? I’ll buy a bag of Peanut M&M’s,” he says, adding that sweets aren’t his only temptation. “Who doesn’t like potato chips? If someone puts a jar of Heluva dip in front of you, are you going to not stick some potato chips in it? I have a hard time not eating the whole jar. I love it.”

8. His Wife is His Favourite Cook

“My wife just makes the most amazing spaghetti and meatballs,” he says. “She makes a perfect tomato sauce that any nonna would love. She knows how to cook pasta; she makes perfectly tender, little veal ricotta meatballs that are to die for. Reggiano, olive oil, fresh basil… done. You put that in front of me any day and it puts a big smile on my face.”

9. Bugs Are Not the Weirdest Thing He’s Ever Eaten

“I’m not a big fan of the larvae group of bugs. Or eyeballs, or anything of that nature,” says Mark McEwan. But the weirdest food he’s ever eaten was raw chicken, in China. “Chicken sashimi I thought was really weird. I didn’t get that one at all.”

10. He’s Got a Solid Hangover Plan

“Generally I try not to have hangovers — they’re pretty difficult to handle at 58,” says McEwan. But when they do happen, he’s got a delicious cure for them. “Water and two Advil, and fatty foods,” he says. “I really like bacon. With extra bacon. And more bacon. A really wicked BLT with lots of mayonnaise on it. You get fat and salt and more fat.”

Chopped Canada returns with more high-stakes, heart-pumping competition on January 9 at 9 E/P. See schedule information here.