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.

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5 Foods Roger Mooking Always Cooks in Batches

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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.

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Meet Chopped Canada Teens’ Four Finalists

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It’s no surprise that Chopped Canada Teens’ top contestants can cook. But when we asked our four finalists about their kitchen heroes, culinary ambitions and the ingredients they’d put in a mystery basket, their answers gave us hope for the future of Canadian cuisine. Keep your eye on these talented kids, because we expect delicious things from them in years to come.

Yohannes Asres Chopped Canada Teen Tournament

Yohannes Asres
Seventeen-year-old Yohannes Asres, from Toronto, ON, credits the culinary program at Thistletown Collegiate, run by Chopped Canada Season 2 champion, Keith Hoare, for keeping him steady during a somewhat turbulent adolescence. The competitive streak Yohannes developed playing football translates to his kitchen skills, and he’s already placed high in several culinary contests. Thanks to his mom, Yohannes has a flair for Ethiopian cuisine; he hopes to use the winnings to send her to Israel.

Top tip Yohannes learned on Chopped Canada TeensDon’t use Boston bib lettuce as a plate. In the first round, Yohannes used Boston bib lettuce as a vessel. “It kind of just wilted,” he admits. “[The judges] told me I should have chiffonaded it and sprinkled it on top.”
The skill Yohannes wants to master: Cooking meat. Temperature and timing are essential, says Yohannes. He wants to know he can ace them in a stressful kitchen environment.
The chef Yohannes looks up to: Marcus Samuelsson. “He’s Ethiopian,” says Yohannes. “I can relate to the food he makes and how he is.”
Where you’ll see Yohannes in 10 years: At his restaurant. “Ten years from now I am hoping to be opening my own restaurant,” says the budding chef.
What’s in Yohannes’ mystery basket: Chicken, licorice, injera and potato.

Irelyn daCosta Chopped Canada Teen Tournament

Irelyn daCosta
The 13-year-old Mississauga, ON native credits her mom, who runs a café, for inspiring her to cook and bake. One of five kids, Irelyn says family support helps her compete; she hopes her creative flair for cakes and baking will take her far in the tournament. Irelyn plans to use the prize money to pay for schooling and to purchase supplies for her neighbourhood baking business.

The best thing Irelyn got from a Chopped Canada Teens judge: A job offer. “Susur Lee said when I’m old enough, I can come and work in his restaurant with him,” says Irelyn. “That’s pretty cool.”
The technique Irelyn wants to learn: Making ice cream. “I want to learn how to make ice cream with an ice cream machine,” she says.
The food pro Irelyn admires: Buddy Valastro. “[He] isn’t really a chef but he cooks, and I look up to him,” says Irelyn. “He has a bunch of kids and that’s what I want when I’m older. He’s also really popular on TLC — he has his own cake decorating show and he’s really, really successful. That would be really, really cool if I could be like him when I’m older.”
Where you’ll see Irelyn in 10 years: On Food Network Canada. “Ten years from now I want to be running my own restaurant and have my own show on Food Network,” says the teen cook.
What’s in Irelyn’s mystery basket: Lamb, edible flowers, sweet or purple potatoes and raspberry jam.

Justice Chea Chopped Canada Teen Tournament

Justice Chea
The Toronto, ON native grew up in the kitchen of her family’s Cambodian restaurant. Currently enrolled at Thistletown Collegiate, with Chopped Canada winner Keith Hoare, 17-year old Justice has travelled to Spain and France learning cultural dishes. Justice, who presently works at a steakhouse, hopes her well-rounded skills and interests will help her win the grand prize and pay for schooling for her and her younger siblings.

What Justice learned on Chopped Canada TeensAppreciating food is the secret ingredient to success. “There are a lot of things that I remember from the [first round] that I wish that I could change,” admits Justice. “It keeps me up at night thinking that what I did, I could have done better. After the show I learned to appreciate food even more. I loved cooking and being on the show was a great experience but after the show, it just opened my eyes up to something even better. I wanted to learn more and how to cook better, to better myself.”
The skill Justice wants to improve: Meat prep. “I think something I could get better at would be butchering,” she says.
The chef Justice looks up to: Gordon Ramsay. “I just adore him,” she says, “He’s my favourite chef. I always watch him on TV and on YouTube. He’s so inspiring — the way he travels around the world and tries different foods and honestly isn’t afraid of anything.”
Where you’ll see Justice in 10 years: The world is her oyster. “I’m still trying to figure that out,” says Justice.
What’s in Justice’s mystery basket: Cotton candy, sausages, chocolate ice cream and chickpeas.

Emilia Augello Chopped Canada Teen Tournament

Emilia Augello
Unlike many kids her age, Emilia would rather spend her time and money collecting knives and gadgets than clothes and accessories. A perfectionist in the kitchen, Emilia hopes her Italian heritage and love of Asian flavours will be advantages in the competition. Emilia will split her prize money between buying a new gas stove and funding her education.

The best advice Emilia got from Chopped Canada Teens’ judges: Everything. “I liked all [the judges] and everything that they told me I could do better [in the first round] just encouraged me to try harder in the second round and salt my food more and taste more,” she says.
The skill Emilia wants to master: Baking. “I’m more of a savoury chef,” she admits. “Baking is harder for me.”
The chef Emilia admires: Alex Guarnaschelli. “She has a very sophisticated palate like me,” says Emilia. “It has to be perfect. I just like her attitude and her personality. Her style of food intrigues me a lot.”
Where you’ll see Emilia in 10 years: Cooking in Italy or Spain. “My dream would be to open my own restaurant or catering business,” she says. “I know that I would like to open my own restaurant and travel and try to go to cook in Spain and in Italy.”
What’s in Emilia’s mystery basket: Jumbo shrimp, coconut milk, rainbow carrots and a curry base. “It’s my signature dish,” says Emilia.

CC Teen Tournament Judges at Finale

Watch the Chopped Canada Teen Tournament Finale on Saturday at 9 E/P. Catch the action again in the Teen Tournament marathon on December 26th at 5pm ET.

 

Introducing Chopped Canada’s New Host

Time starts now for Brad Smith!  The CFL veteran, food lover, entertainment reporter and the star of the premiere season of The Bachelor Canada has been announced as the new host of Chopped Canada.

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Brad shared these words about joining the Chopped Canada team: “I’m beyond thrilled to be joining Chopped Canada and to work alongside such an esteemed roster of celebrity chefs. I’m an avid viewer of Food Network and I’m excited to take my career to new heights on the network’s [number] one series. I’m competitive by nature and I can’t wait to see what these chefs will cook up to compete, while tackling challenges along the way.”

Production on the third season began earlier this week. Brad shared a photo on Instagram from his dressing room on the set of the hit series — without disclosing where he was exactly. Very sneaky, Brad! Now that the beans are spilled, we can’t wait to see more behind-the-scenes shots from Brad. Please, keep them coming.

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Brad captioned this photo: First day on set of the new gig… I’m thinking by tomorrow I will be fired 😉 #nervous can I have a job where they don’t paint my eyebrows on!??? #ManCardProblems

Brad won’t be the only new face on Chopped Canada. Mark McEwan will be joining the roster of celebrity chef judges that dish out who gets chopped and who wins. Mark is no stranger to tough culinary competition; he was the head judge on Top Chef Canada for all four seasons. Find out more about this talented culinary titan and his favourite foods!

Mark-McEwan

The third season of Chopped Canada will be its most thrilling yet. Thirty-one episodes will hit the air next season including redemption episodes with past season chefs looking for a second chance and a very special Teen Tournament.

Only two more episodes left in this season! The last episodes air June 27th and July 4th at 9 E/P. To catch up on episodes online and get behind-the-scenes exclusive interviews and  photos, visit choppedcanada.ca.

How to Throw Your Own Chopped Canada Dinner Party

Everyone – yes, everyone – who watches Chopped Canada looks at the four ingredients inside the mystery baskets and wonders (for at least a split second) what they would do if they were in the chefs’ shoes. While most of us may not have the chance to whip up seemingly random ingredients into a pleasing dish on national television, that doesn’t mean we’re consigned to the couch to dream of culinary glory.

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We imagine that opening the mystery ingredient basket feels like the most thrilling and most terrifying gift unwrapping ever.

Bring the competition into your home by throwing a Chopped Canadastyle party. Even the judges on the show do it! Anne Yarymowich and her husband hosted their own Chopped Canada dinner party, inviting two other couples to join them. She and her husband put together a dessert basket for their friends that included a tin of Pillsbury crescent rolls, a jar of Nutella, fresh apricots, and soft goat cheese. With those ingredients their friends were tasked with making a dessert pizza; rolling out the crescent roll dough as a crust, layered with crumbled goat cheese, fresh rosemary, grilled apricots dusted with brown sugar, a warm Nutella drizzle and chopped almonds.

Yes, it sounds wonderful and Anne confirmed that it was absolutely delicious.  She and her husband received a ‘Wild West’ entrée basket that included a wild moose shoulder roast, wild boar ribs, fiddleheads and wild asparagus. Good thing Anne is a professional chef — the basket seems daunting! With the ingredients, Anne and her husband made dry-rubbed BBQ boar ribs, moose steaks (cut and flattened from the large roast), a sauté of fiddleheads, asparagus and portobello mushrooms, and simple smashed potatoes.

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On the left: Anne Yarymowich happy. On the right: Anne Yarymowich not impressed. Whether your guests are happy with their food or seriously unimpressed depends on the below tips.

Taking Anne’s lead on how to throw a Chopped Canada dinner party, here are our top six tips you need to know.  Anne wasn’t afraid to bend the rules a bit and you shouldn’t be either.

1. Organize details ahead of time.
Decide how many courses you’ll  have — you don’t need to do all three, two would suffice — and  pick who will take care of which mystery ingredient baskets: appetizer, entrée and dessert. If your friends are worried about cooking solo, team them up to make a dish.

2. Prep the pantry.
Make sure the pantry is stocked well enough for the cooks to have enough basic ingredients to supplement the food in the basket. If you cook regularly, you probably don’t need to get much. Here’s a quick list of things to keep on hand for your cooking friends: fresh herbs, onions, garlic, spices, cooking oils, stocks, vinegars, baking dry goods, and a selection of dairy (butter, cream, cheeses).

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The Chopped Canada pantry is awe-inspiring. Your pantry won’t have all of this but just making sure you have key staple ingredients on hand will make sure your chefs are set up to cook an amazing dish.

3. Prep the cooking area.
Not everyone knows how your kitchen is organized. Pull out basic tools like cutting boards, knives, measuring cups and spoons, whisks, and spatulas and organize them for easy access. Show them ahead of time where the pots, pans, and bakeware is stored. Your friends will appreciate not aimlessly rummaging around your kitchen!

4. Be considerate when putting together the mystery basket ingredients.
This is the most important tip. You want everyone to have fun and enjoy eating the finished dishes, right? If your guests aren’t fond of sardines, then don’t make them cook them or eat them. The cooking skills of your guests is important to consider, too. If they’re more accomplished, put together a complex combination of ingredients or give them more uncommon ingredients they can use to show off their skills. If they have more basic skills, keep it easy with ingredients they know how to work with (i.e. skip the rack of lamb and go with chicken breasts). Don’t know their comfort level? Find out. It’s not going to be fun for anyone if a dish or expensive ingredient ends up in the bin.

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The chef on the left looks pretty scared with his mystery ingredient! Try to get your guests looking forward to what they have to work with  — like the chef on the right. 

5. You don’t have to stick to just four ingredients in your basket.
If you’re nervous about having enough pantry ingredients to complement the mystery ingredient baskets, add a few more ingredients to round out the offering. For instance, in the entrée basket, you could add some ingredients like rice, pasta, or root vegetables to create a side dish.

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This is just some of fresh ingredients available to the Chopped Canada chefs!

6. Add time to the clock if you need it.
Anne did this at home with her entrée round because the ribs would have taken more time to cook — and no one wants to eat undercooked ribs. The goal of the dinner party  is to have a delicious dish and if you need a bit more time to do that, we say it’s OK.

Time starts now Chopped Canada fans! We want to see your Chopped Canadastyle dinner party. Tweet photos to @foodnetworkca or post on our Facebook and Instagram and include the hashtag #ChoppedCanada.

Want to find out more about Anne? Visit the Chopped Canada bios page here and follow Anne on Instagram here.

Congratulations to Canada’s New Culinary Champion

What does it take to be Canada’s best? A cross-Canada collection of top chefs who had already won bragging rights as local winners during provincial culinary competitions over the past year, gathered in Kelowna this past weekend for the Canadian Culinary Championship finals. After months of work, anticipation and jitters, it all comes down to this: two days, three events, a delicious Olympic fundraiser (to date the annual competition has raised almost $10 million for Canadian Olympic athletes) and bragging rights as Canada’s top chef.

Here’s how the winner is chosen.

Competition 1: Mystery Wine Pairing

Chefs are given a mystery bottle of wine (wrapped in tinfoil, no less) and must create a dish using ingredients that best compliment the mysterious wine. With $600 and a set time to shop locally and cook for 500 guests, this is the opening night event for the competition, where guests are served these on-the-fly composed plates during a chic cocktail reception at the Delta Grand Okanagan hotel. This — the ‘People’s Choice Award’ for the best wine and food pairing — goes towards one-third of the competitors’ overall score. Dishes ran from blood sausage to elk tartar, braised short ribs to a beet salad, beautiful and innovate composed dishes that all paired quite well with what turned out to be a meaty, smoky B.C. Pinotage.

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Competition 2: The Black Box

This competition takes place in the Culinary Arts Department of Okanagan College, where every 10 minutes a new chef (of the 11 competing) is presented with a box of 10 identical ingredients from which they must use at least six. This competition also accounts for one-third of the overall score. The box included quinoa, lavender, a whole duck, lobsters, yams, and other not-too-threatening ingredients. Decidedly not a Chopped-style cook-off a la “make canned spaghetti and beef jerky into a delicious dessert”, this box was truly meant to showcase the chefs’ abilities and creativity using quality ingredients. The competitors had an hour to plate 13 identical dishes for the sequestered panel of judges while the rest of us were there to watch the chefs sweat it out in the kitchen. Pretty exciting stuff, though unfortunately creativity wasn’t at the forefront for most chefs in this round.

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Competition 3: The Grand Finale

On the final night of competition, the chefs created their best dish for guests to sample, paired with a great wine from their regional winery partner. This competition accounted for the final third of the overall score. Many chefs recreated the dish that won them their regional titles, from tree syrup-glazed beef to roasted quail. By the evening’s end, after more wine-ing and dining, followed by a fundraising auction and awesome live music by Spirit of the West front men John Mann and Geoffrey Kelly alongside Barney Bentall, the crowning of the Gold, Silver and Bronze medalist chefs were announced.

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Say hello and congratulations to your new Canadian Culinary Champions!

Gold: Chef Ryan O’Flynn of the Westin Edmonton. His winning dish was a beautiful terrine of pine-smoked Alberta sturgeon and cured Quebec foie gras with wild North West Territory morels, Okanagan apples, and toasted Brioche.

Silver: Chef Antonio Park of Park Restaurant in Montreal. His dish was a super-creative take on Korean bibimbap in the form of a sushi-like roulade of julienne veggies, braised shitake and cauliflower, spinach, chicken, boudin blanc, gochujang sheet, soft-boiled quail egg and crunchy mixed rice topper.

Bronze: Chef Kristian Eligh of Hawksworth Restaurant in Vancouver. His winning dish was a deconstructed chowder composed of silky sablefish and lobster covered with a dome of crispy lacy bread.

Inspired by the Canadian chefs’ dishes, I asked Chef Ross Derrick of the new local restaurant, The Table Café, for a West Coast inspired dish we can all make at home. Now it’s your turn to be the culinary champ in your family.

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Chef Ross Derrick’s White Fish, Prawn and Vegetable Green Curry with Coconut rice

Serves 4-6

During the competition, most chefs sourced their fish and seafood at Codfathers Seafood Market, an amazing family-run Kelowna shop with a huge range of bivalves, top catches and bottom dwellers, where everything is beautifully fresh and gloriously sustainable. This dish was one of the first dishes Chef Ross Derrick came up with when opening his new restaurant, The Table Café at Codfathers. He says the white fish can really be any mild white-fleshed fish, such as halibut, haddock, cod, or even snapper.

Green Curry Sauce Ingredients:
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 ½- inch ginger, grated
1 Thai red chili, seeded and chopped
3 small green peppers, cored and diced
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2-400 ml cans coconut milk

Directions

  1. Place cumin and coriander seeds in a frying pan and gently heat for a few minutes until they start to darken and smell fragrant.
  2. Place seeds into a grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until fine.
  3. Saute onions, garlic, lemon grass, ginger, and chilis with the ground spices until soft.
  4. Add coconut milk and fish sauce, bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add green peppers and puree in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Set aside.

Coconut Rice Ingredients:
1 cup jasmine rice
1 ½ cups water
1 pinch salt
2 teaspoons coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Rinse rice under cold water until water runs clear.
  2. Add rice to a pot with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover. Cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and place coconut oil on top.

Main Ingredients:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
12 large Oceanwise prawns, peeled and deveined
½ pound white fish, cut into 1-inch pieces
lime wedges
½ bunch fresh coriander
salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large pan, saute vegetables until they begin to soften, then add prawns and fish and continue to sauté for several minutes.
  2. Add green curry sauce and heat through. Serve with rice. Slice some limes and pick fresh coriander for garnish. Season to taste.

Amy Rosen is a food and travel writer. Her latest cookbook is TORONTO COOKS. Follow her @AmyRRosen.

Chopped Canada Judges Reveal Their Thoughts on Season Two

Chopped Canada’s season two premiere is just one day away! Tune in on Saturday, January 10th at 9 e/p to watch Michael Smith, Anne Yarymowich and Eden Grinshpan dish out culinary judgement in the season’s premiere episode.  What do they and their fellow judges think about the show, the competing chefs and the new season? Food Network Canada (FNC) visited the set last year to chat with all the judges. Here’s what our panel of celebrity chef judges had to say.

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Lynn Crawford joking around with fellow judge, Antonio Park, who is new this season, while returning judge John Higgins looks on.

FNC: What should the fans look forward to in the new season?
Lynn Crawford: Chopped Canada really focuses on Canadian ingredients. I’m really proud of and really thrilled to see what these Canadian chefs are doing with local Canadian products. There’s a lot to cook with that I can’t get into any details (no spoilers!) but I don’t know who’s behind those basket combinations. They’re brilliant!

Anne Yarymowich: It’s exciting as ever. There’s a lot of suspense on the show. What I really enjoy about the show is the basket. When we see some of those ingredients come out of the basket, we’re just like omg. What are they going to do with that? What’s incredible, surprising and exciting is that the chefs pull stuff out of their imagination and do stuff with the ingredients that I think ‘I don’t think I could have done that’. It’s so fun.  What the culinary team does here, they put together a great pantry, an incredible basket, they keep it exciting, they keep it fresh. The quality of the ingredients are so good. We know that all of the stuff in the pantry and in the baskets is top notch. I really love that. 

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Michael Smith goofing around with fellow judges Anne Yarymowich and Eden Grinshpan during the shoot for the season’s premiere episode. 

FNC: What were some things you found surprising being on Chopped Canada?
Antonio Park: The secret basket ingredients! It’s like holy s@#%! Sometimes I look at those basket ingredients and I’m shocked. There’s certain items that you can actually use for an entree or an appetizer but not for desserts. But apart from being shocking, it makes me realize that you don’t have to see the ingredients as they are.  You have to think of it in a different way. Let’s say you’re getting a cheesecake you can use it as a cheesy component to your dish or a sweet component.  So, that’s a challenge and that’s why you win ten thousand dollars at the end of the day.

FNC:  What does a competing chef need to win?
John Higgins: You have to think on your feet, be competitive and be creative. But taste is king even for the queen as I keep saying on the show. It’s all about the taste. Sometimes it doesn’t look good but it can taste good. Visual is very important but I think taste is the most important thing, the most memorable for me.

Michael Smith:  The key to winning Chopped Canada is to stay in the moment.  To overcome the fear, to overcome the pressure,  all of which are self-caused.  And to just stay in the moment. It’s so easy to look back with 20/20 hindsight and say I would have done this or I woudl have done that.  But you don’t need 20/20 hindsight to take a deep breath. Open the basket, take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and just cook.

Roger Mooking: You have to utilize the basket ingredients. In my mind, some of the judges like to see and make sure that every basket ingredient is incredibly transformed. In my opinion, as long as the chefs take the ingredient and make a dish that’s cohesive, makes sense and is delicious. [For example], if they just take a hemp heart and put it on the plate and that was the best application for that dish, to me they have done their job.

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Judges Massimo Capra, John Higgins and Michael Smith take a break from the intensity on the Chopped Canada set. 

FNC: What makes you excited to be a judge on Chopped Canada?
Massimo Capra: I get to see other people in a really tight position. It’s nice to see other chefs from all over the country and see how they handle being put on the spot. We get put on the spot all the time in our restaurants every night. A show like this can really give you an idea of how good the chef is and where his mind is at.

FNC: Have you given any of the new judges any advice?
Susur Lee: No. I don’t give them any advice I just say, “Wow, you’re amazing!” They are very good expressing their thoughts about the food. There’s good energy.We have fun and we respect each other. I’m enjoying working with colleagues who are experienced and know what they’re talking about.

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Judges Susur Lee and Roger Mooking share a laugh while manning the chopping block. 

FNC: Did any of the judges returning from the first season give you any advice?
Eden Grinshpan: Absolutely.  My first day I worked with Chef Michael and Chef Anne. Both super smart, extremely talented chefs. They said to me: really pay attention to understand where these chefs are coming from, understand what techniques and what is motivating them.  Pay attention to every little detail.  Those details really make that chef shine. And just be as honest as you possibly can.  Everything in the end is all positive feedback. It’s not that the chef isn’t good, it’s just that they can do this to take them to the next level.

We’ll hear more from the judges throughout the entire second season. Check back each week for exclusive articles, photos and more on what these celebrity chefs shared with us.

Exclusive Interview: Dean McDermott on Marriage, Life Choices and Hosting Chopped Canada

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Dean McDermott on the first season of Chopped Canada. 

Dean McDermott, the host of Food Network Canada’s hit series Chopped Canada, sat down with ET Canada host Cheryl Hickey at his Los Angeles home for an exclusive one-on-one interview. He talks about his life choices, his marriage and about returning to host  season two of Chopped Canada, premiering next January.
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Excerpts from the two-part interview can be viewed below.

Part I: Dean discusses his relationship with his wife, Tori Spelling.

Part II: Dean shares his thoughts on returning for the second season of Chopped Canada.

You can watch the full interview with Cheryl Hickey on ET Canada’s website here.

Related:Dean McDermottChopped Canada.