MasterChef contestant Cardozo makes it through

After beating herself up over a bad decision involving smelt, Cranbrook’s Danielle Cardozo is in the top 14 of MasterChef Canada

Cranbrook’s Danielle Cardozo is through to the top 14 in MasterChef Canada after sailing through the third episode on Sunday night.

Danielle was not seen in the final version of the episode that went to air on CTV Sunday night after the Super Bowl. However, sometimes no news is good news as Danielle was not among those cut from the reality series this week.

Danielle shared her off camera experiences of this week’s episode with the Townsman. Stop reading here if you don’t want to know what happens.

The episode started with the 16 home cooks remaining in the cook-off series being welcomed into the MasterChef kitchen where they will sweat out fine cuisine each week until the series concludes.

Then the contestants were given their first Mystery Box challenge. They had one hour to cook a dish using some or all of these ingredients: pork tenderloin, chorizo, peanut butter and chocolate.

“I made a ginger and garlic glazed pork tenderloin, with a hot and sour ramen noodle salad,” said Danielle. “I was extremely happy with the results! I even got creative and rinsed some of the crunchy peanuts out of the Kraft Peanut Butter to toast as a sweet and salty peanut garnish.”

Danielle’s dish was neither in the top three or bottom three of the challenge, so she did not receive feedback from the judges.

Toronto’s Marida Mohammed won the Mystery Challenge with a spicy noodle dish served with a cilantro salad. For the honour, Marida was able to sit out the next challenge and choose the ingredient that her competitors had to include in their dishes.

Marida chose smelt, a tiny fish found in the Great Lakes and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Many of the competitors were visibly panicked by the idea of cooking with smelt.

Danielle said she initially wasn’t worried about preparing a dish with smelt.

“I am Portuguese. Smelt and toast is definitely not unfamiliar in a Portuguese household!” she said. “They’re the easiest fish to cook. A little flour and cornmeal and throw them in some oil; bones in for crunch.”

But instead of sticking to what she knew, Danielle decided to branch out.

“I thought that would be too easy. How could I possibly impress the judges by making a 10-minute dish?! So instead, inspired by my dad and son, I decided to make my take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pizza classic, pepperoni and anchovies. Instead it was smelt and salami, a homemade crust, a homemade sauce, fresh basil, raw mozza, and crispy fried smelt.”

Although it sounds delicious, Danielle quickly found herself in hot water.

“It made sense in my head. It did not translate onto the dish. I won’t tell you all the judges said, but one judge told me he’d be okay if he never had it again.”

Again, Danielle’s dish was not shown in the episode, but she was fiercely worried she would be in the bottom three.

“I wasn’t just worried I would be in the bottom three. I was confident I was going home. But the judges took into consideration all elements of the dish. I showed technique. The smelt was crispy, I made my own crust and sauce. I didn’t blend my smelt. I didn’t just throw them in some eggs.”

In fact, the three cooks in the bottom three made croquettes using pureed smelt; smelt quiche; and smelt fish cakes. It was Meghan Toth, who made the quiche, and Ben Miner, who made the fish cakes, who were ultimately sent packing.

Very relieved, Danielle said she should have trusted her instinct with the smelt.

“I learned a huge lesson that challenge: go with my gut. Don’t overanalyze the food. Cook how I cook. I told (judge) Michael Bonacini I originally thought of doing a smelt crostini, but thought the five-minute dish was a cop-out. He told me I should have stuck with the Portuguese classic, and that sometimes simplicity is exactly what a dish needs.”

Stay tuned to read about what Danielle cooks in next week’s episode of MasterChef, which airs on CTV on Monday, Feb. 10.