Danielle Cardozo of Cranbrook is pictured dealing with the pressure of the Mystery Box Challenge on the most recent episode of MasterChef Canada.

Danielle Cardozo of Cranbrook is pictured dealing with the pressure of the Mystery Box Challenge on the most recent episode of MasterChef Canada.

Pork chops the apple of Danielle’s eye

Cranbrook’s MasterChef Canada contestant wins a challenge and is named team leader in the latest episode

The scheming continues in MasterChef Canada, but so far Cranbrook’s Danielle Cardozo seems to be ignoring the drama and benefitting from that.

Beware that reading on will reveal what happens in this week’s episode.

In Monday night’s fifth episode of the reality cook-off series, Danielle prepared one of the judges’ favourite dishes in the elimination challenge. That means that our Danielle has been named a team captain in the team challenge in next week’s episode.

“It’s about damn time I stepped up to the plate (pun intended)!” Danielle told the Townsman.

But first things first. The 13 remaining home cooks in the national television series were tasked with making a burger in the Mystery Box Challenge. Sounds simple, but the meats the contestants had to choose from were a little unusual: elk, bison, wild boar, musk ox, lamb, pork shoulder, turkey, kangaroo and duck.

“I went against my gut to make a big juicy elk burger (something I know works well) and tried something new,” Danielle said.

Instead, she made a lamb and bison burger, stuffed with feta, sundried tomatoes and herbs, on an open-faced grilled pita and served with a cucumber slaw.

“My healthy choice, according to the judges, just wasn’t enticing enough. It wasn’t bad. Just not that big greasy mess of a burger that makes you want to dig right in,” she said.

Meanwhile, while Danielle was grinding meat for her burger, beside her Eric Chong was slicing his fingers open in a bloody knife mishap.

“I was sharing a station with him during that challenge. When he cut himself and I saw the blood go everywhere, I had to start some self-talk and convince myself not to look back over. I wanted to (be) sick seeing all that blood on the floor beside me.”

Kelowna’s Kaila Klassen won the challenge with her Oinkin’ Duck burger — a man-friendly pork and duck patty. For winning the challenge, Kaila got to choose the special ingredients that all of the other contestants would have to cook with in the elimination challenge.

After contestant Josh Gale tells the cameras that he’s not worried about Kaila having it in for him, Kaila reveals that she does in fact have it in for him, choosing apples and beer as the ingredients and making Josh cook a dessert with them in an attempt to eliminate him.

The move backfires because Josh cooks beer-infused profiteroles with caramelized apples, which the judges love.

Back from his injury, Eric quips at just the wrong time that Kaila could only have won the challenge if everyone else cut themselves too; for that, Kaila forces him to bake with beer along with Josh. Eric doesn’t fare as well, making an apple pie with a beer-infused crust that is unfortunately undercooked.

He lands in the bottom three, alongside Danny Raposo and Pino Di Cerbo. Raposo is cut from the show.

Meanwhile, Danielle was scrambling when the special ingredients were revealed.

“I could have killed Kaila when I heard she picked beer and apples. Seriously? I mean, good choice for the competition, but it wasn’t all that inspiring for me at the moment it was announced.”

Danielle said that she has something of a personality clash with her fellow Southern Interior contestant.

“Kaila and I had a funny relationship throughout the duration of the show. She and I are clearly total opposites. She and I value very different things. We absolutely had a love-hate relationship. But when it comes down to it, we are both extremely strong career-driven women. This meant we can both appreciate one another’s ambition. It also meant we are killer competitive against one another.”

Learning from last week’s smelt challenge, Danielle decided to trust her gut and stick to something familiar, thinking of pork chops and apple sauce.

“It’s a classic, and classics are just that for a reason. They’re good,” she said. “I made the conscious decision not to second guess myself. So I decided to add a little sophistication. I made sure I had beer and apples in every component of the dish.”

It paid off. Her dish — a pork rib chop with a beer glaze and apple relish, served with dijon and apple cider new potatoes and a crisp green apple and mache salad — wowed the judges, and even surprised Danielle herself a little.

“My first thought when I completed my dish: ‘Did I just make that?!’ I have to be honest: going into the challenge, plating was not my strong point. I cook at home. It doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to taste great. So to plate a dish, and have Michael Bonacini tell me that the plating was clean and the other competitors could learn a thing or two from me? Mind blown! It was the boost of confidence I needed.

“In real time, I was getting extremely discouraged at that point. I was starting to feel like maybe the competition was a little beyond me. I really needed that win.”

As the judges announced that Danielle’s was won of the top two dishes, the camera panned to her contestants — specifically Alberta’s Dora Cote — rolling their eyes. Then the judges named Dora’s dish as the other winner, meaning the two contestants will face off against each other as team leaders in next week’s challenge.

“Dora won the challenge, so she will get first pick,” said Danielle. “I realize that I have to get strategic and start thinking about who she is going to be picking. At this point in the competition, you have got to know strengths and weaknesses; you know who will respect you as a captain. I know who Dora is likely to pick. I know I am going to have to get extremely creative.”

The next episode of MasterChef Canada will air Monday, Feb. 24 on CTV. As always, you can watch it at the Heid Out, which will serve a dish inspired by what Danielle cooks in that episode.

However, next week Danielle won’t be watching at the Heid Out herself. She’s off to Kelowna to watch the show with her friend Kaila.

“I am really excited to go see her, as I have not seen her since production!” said Danielle.