Cranbrook’s Danielle Cardozo (far left) learns that her team will be cooking cheesecake in a pressure test to fend off elimination from MasterChef Canada in the Feb. 24 episode.

MasterChef Canada pressure cooker

Cool, calm and collected wins the day for Cranbrook's Danielle Cardozo.

Cranbrook should be extra proud of MasterChef Canada contestant Danielle Cardozo this week, who not only won a pressure test challenge, but did it while showing integrity and humility.

Read on only if you want to know the outcome of the Feb. 24 episode.

Danielle began Monday’s sixth episode of MasterChef Canada on CTV as the leader in a team challenge, a reward for making one of the winning dishes in last week’s episode.

Alternating with Rocky Mountain House plumber Dora Cote, Danielle chooses fellow home cooks to appear on her team. While Dora seems to be choosing her buddies, Danielle is strategic, choosing the best cooks and those with serving experience for the challenge where they must prepare and serve 300 canapes for an art gallery function.

“I spent a great deal of time pre-planning my strategy as a captain,” Danielle told the Townsman. “I was not about to let it become personal. I was there to compete. I picked the strongest players, ones who would complement my weakness.”

Some of Danielle’s teammates — we’re looking at you, Kaila Klassen — are sceptical about Danielle’s leadership skills, but she quickly proves them wrong by remaining calm, happily taking input from her teammates, and quickly making a tough decision to change a dish when it doesn’t turn out as expected. In an on-air interview, a surprised Kaila says to the camera, ‘Who knew?’

We did, Kaila, and now you do too.

Meanwhile, as Danielle’s team calmly gets working on their canapes and stays ahead of the clock the entire time, Dora’s team is devolving into what Tammara Behl calls “hashtag chaos”. They can’t agree on what to serve, then the samosa flavour is too strong, and when they finally begin plating — late — Dora puts the canapes on baking trays instead of serving plates.

Danielle admitted to the Townsman that she found it hard to relate to Dora’s clique of Tammara, Carly Tennant, and Marida Mohammed.

“It was definitely cliquey like high school. I will be totally honest when I say I saw Marida, Dora, Tammara, and Carly as ‘the mean girls’ of MasterChef Canada. But I made a point of not engaging. It’s not my style. I always put integrity and competition first.”

Unfortunately, the judges were underwhelmed by one of the canapes Danielle’s team produced — tuna tartare on a wonton crisp — saying that the flavour didn’t pop out. In the end, the team lost out to Dora’s hot mess of a team.

“Maybe we didn’t win the challenge, but we did win in teamwork,” said Danielle. “I took some major personalities that didn’t get along, and encouraged them to work as a team. In that, we succeeded, and that’s what matters to me. I am happy that I am able to walk away from a team challenge with integrity. That is what is important to me.”

As Danielle tells the camera she wouldn’t save herself from the elimination challenge because she feels responsible for the tartare’s shortcomings, the judges tell the safe red team they can save two people from Danielle’s team. They choose Eric Chong and Pino Di Cerbo, seeing them as lesser competitors.

Danielle, Kaila, Josh Gale and Dale Kuda — three out of the four from B.C. — are all told they will be tasked with cooking the “perfect cheesecake”. Danielle wasn’t perturbed.

“If you do well under pressure and have a large repertoire of cooking knowledge in your back pocket, then being forced to compete in a pressure test isn’t always a bad thing. The more you are forced to cook in the MasterChef kitchen and survive, the more experience you have over the competitors,” she said.

She knew a cheesecake wouldn’t send her home.

“I don’t say that because I am over confident. I say that because cheesecake and I have a very long history together. It has been a guilty pleasure for as long as I can remember!”

And indeed, Danielle totally nailed it, impressing the judges with her baking technique, her lemon-lime topping and her perfectly shaped, perfectly textured cheesecake. She had the win in the bag, and now her limoncello key lime cheesecake will be featured in a magazine ad campaign.

It’s the second week her dish has been featured outside the show: last week, her pork chops were chosen by Alexander Keith’s to feature in a commercial, and Kraft was inspired to feature a pork, apple and potato dish based on Danielle’s dish.

The cheesecake wasn’t quite so kind to Vancouver’s Josh Gale, whose dish fell apart as he was trying to plate it. Despite trying to pitch it as being inspired by postmodern art, the judges decide Josh has to go, leaving a gaping hole where a top competitor used to be.

Meanwhile, Danielle said the ups and downs of this week’s episode have made her a stronger competitor.

“Do I regret not seasoning the wonton and losing the challenge? Not a chance. It gave me the opportunity to compete in the pressure test and win the cream cheese ad campaign. So a big thank you to the mean girls for not choosing me for immunity!”

And she has some special words for her hometown.

“I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their support. I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received from the community, whether it be on social media, or people stopping me in the grocery store to wish me luck.”

Tune in next Monday, March 3 on CTV for the next episode of MasterChef Canada. You can watch the episode with Danielle at The Heid Out, which will be serving a dish inspired by what Danielle cooks on the show.

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