That’s our girl! Cranbrook’s Danielle Cardozo has not only made it into the final eight contestants on MasterChef Canada, she did it after winning a doozy of a Mystery Box Challenge.
Cardozo, who now works as a sous chef at the Heid Out, conquered the challenge after tackling a box full of exotic ingredients that smelt like dirty feet.
Danielle starts the Monday, March 17 episode of CTV’s reality cook-off series on top, after making the best – in fact, the only decent – salmon Wellington in the previous episode. She tells the camera that the recent wins have only increased the fire beneath her. I sure hope she’s being metaphorical, but you never know in the MasterChef kitchen.
The nine remaining contestants are given 90 minutes to prepare a high-end meal from a list of ingredients found in the three judge-chefs’ kitchens. There are things in the mystery box you’d have a snowball’s chance in hell of finding in Cranbrook grocery stores – like white miso, pigeon and durian fruit (the smelly feet culprit).
Danielle’s not phased (well, maybe a little rattled) and begins to craft a butter and pork basted monkfish with sea urchin veloute (which I think is a fancy word for “sauce”), topped with chantarelle mushrooms and taro crisps. To use a phrase from my homeland, it looks real posh.
In the top four meals. she’s up against Calgary’s Tammara Behl, Toronto’s Marida Mohammed and Kelowna’s Kaila Klassen. And she wins!
“I had never cooked with any of those ingredients before. Not chanterelles, not monkfish, not sea urchin, or taro root. But that day I had a vision and was inspired!” Danielle told the Townsman.
Danielle can’t wipe the smile from her face as the judges escort her into the MasterChef pantry, where she is able to construct a tough elimination challenge for her competitors.
She’s given the choice of three classic Canadian desserts: butter tarts, blueberry grunt (what is that?!?) and the humble Nanaimo bar.
Like a good B.C. girl, she chooses the Nanaimo bar. The other contestants then have to create a dessert using the deconstructed ingredients of the dessert.
“I have to be honest when I say I am not personally a huge fan of any of the dessert options. But I knew right away that I was sticking to my B.C. roots with the Nanaimo bar. Not because of the B.C. connection, but because I knew it would be easy to overthink and forget to respect the three flavours and textures. It was a complex option,” Danielle said.
She also tells the judges that she hopes the challenge will eliminate two of her tougher competitors – Marida and Kaila. It seems only fair – Kaila has admitted several times that she’s trying to get Danielle out. Time to return the favour.
Danielle then heads upstairs to the gallery where she can watch the other cooks sweat it out over baking. Cue evil cackle.
“I feel like someone was watching over me because I probably would have went home if I had to bake that day. I have an amazing sister who taught me how to bake, but it’s never been without effort. Things can easily go wrong when you bake. Being able to bake is a major strength in this competition,” she said.
Downstairs, the chefs are flinging chocolate around, forgetting how to make custard, and, in the case of Eric Chong, burning caramel not once, but twice as he sprints from stove to pantry like the Road Runner.
Danielle’s plan is looking good as Marida, with an apron that looks more brown than white from chocolate, tells the camera she’s never been so overwhelmed in the kitchen, and Kaila’s panna cottas melt into slop on the plate.
Marida’s truffles do indeed land her in the bottom three, next to Vancouver’s Carly Tennant and Mississauga’s Pino Di Cerbo. It’s Carly who is sent home in a puddle of tears.
As always, Kaila has a passing swipe at Danielle to end the show – pointing out that Danielle is on top now, but that means she has only one way to go.
Danielle says she’ll get her next time. I sure hope so because that girl’s got to go.
Tune into the next episode of MasterChef Canada on CTV on Monday, March 24. And you can watch the show at the Heid Out in Cranbrook, enjoying a dish Danielle prepared in that episode.