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Competition turns fierce on MasterChef

Cranbrook’s Danielle Cardozo leads the pack as teams race to their stations at an Armed Forces Base on MasterChef Canada. - Courtesy CTV/Bell Media
Cranbrook’s Danielle Cardozo leads the pack as teams race to their stations at an Armed Forces Base on MasterChef Canada.
— image credit: Courtesy CTV/Bell Media

Sally MacDonald

Townsman Staff

Cranbrook's Danielle Cardozo has made it through to the final nine contestants in MasterChef Canada, after a nailbiter episode Monday, March 10 where nothing was certain.

"I have been waiting for that episode for months!" Danielle told the Townsman. "I knew it would get viewers on the edge of their seat."

The episode kicks off with the home cooks at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. The two teams are tasked with preparing a rib-eye steak with sauce and two sides in just two hours for 150 troops – using a military field kitchen.

Danielle is chosen second by team captain Kaila Klassen, who says it's because Danielle has surprised her. But at the end of the episode, Kaila admits she chose both Danielle and Julie Miguel as a bid to get them out, so who knows what's true at this point?

There's tension on Danielle's red team right away as Kaila alternates between giving orders and asking for a consensus on small decisions. Danielle and Marida Mohammed bicker about what to put in the barbecue sauce, with Danielle insisting that acidic ingredients be added later, and Marida wanting to add mustard.

Danielle said tensions were running high because the contestants were sleep deprived.

"It was a late night the night before for all of us in the competition. And then we were up at 3 a.m. to get ready for the challenge. We were all exhausted and things got emotional that day," she said.

"Of course, editing focuses on the drama, because honestly, it is what people want to see. My hope for viewers is that they won't judge everyone for our bad days, and remember that we're all human. It was a very stressful situation to be in. Most of us are able to forgive words that are said. Our friendships off set are very different after the competition. During the competition, it's easy for the claws to come out."

In the end, the barbecue sauce is the least of the red team's problems. They run out of sides – brussel sprouts with bacon hash, and roast potatoes – well before the last of the troops has siphoned through their serving station. The red team loses badly to the blue team, which secures 107 of 151 votes.

As the red team goes into the pressure test the next day, the judges ask team leader Kaila whether she would save herself from having to participate in the elimination challenge. She responds that she would save herself, because if she was eliminated she would never forgive herself if she had passed up the opportunity to be safe. Meanwhile, Julie and Kaila blame each other for the team's failure, throwing snide comments, rolling eyes, and finger pointing.

Then the judges throw a delicious curveball – the red team must decide among themselves who will be safe from elimination. They head into the kitchen to discuss in private.

The exchange shown on camera is certainly not flattering, especially for Kaila. While her team mates agree to nominate someone other than themselves, Kaila waits until they have all named someone and then refuses to save anyone but herself.

"It was a lengthy and catty process. I think it was about 20 minutes before anyone nominated each other," said Danielle.

It's Danielle who starts the ball rolling, saying that since the steaks were the only successful part of the dish, she and Marida should be safe. Since she can't nominate herself, she names Marida. Marida reciprocates by naming Danielle.

"Marida and I, despite our differences, cooked 151 steaks and got them on the plate. I couldn't say the same about the three responsible for the potatoes and brussel sprouts. If I couldn't nominate myself, it only made sense to nominate Marida. We may have had our differences, but anyone who knows me knows I don't hold grudges and I am not a catty person."

It's two votes to save Marida and two votes to save Danielle when Kaila finally agrees to behave like an adult and chose one or the other. She chooses to save Marida.

And then the judges tell the remaining four cooks that they have one hour to prepare salmon Wellington – a salmon steak topped with Swiss chard and leek and wrapped in pastry to cook. It's incredibly tricky to cook because you can't see or test the meat to know when it's done.

Just four minutes into the challenge, Danielle slices her hand open. She calls out, "Medic!" and continues to chop vegetables like a badass as the first aid attendant wraps it up. But it turns out to be a more serious cut than she thought, and Danielle is pulled out of the challenge for 12 agonizing minutes while the cut is attended to.

"I was terrified that I was going to get sent home," she said. "I refused to let it happen. I got the medic to over wrap it and went back in with 12 minutes lost. I had 48 minutes to do the same challenge everyone else had to do in 60 minutes. That only made me want it that much more. First off, I was not going home on fish. Second, I was not going home on pastry."

She hits the ground running, despite the bulky plastic glove that makes it impossible to grip the salmon as she's filleting it. Somehow, she manages to get her salmon Wellington into the oven well before her competitors, and plates it up with time to spare on presentation. The other home cooks looking on acknowledge that Danielle's salmon Wellington is beautiful and are, once more, surprised by how competent she is.

The judges are likewise impressed, with Claudio Aprile saying he doesn't know how she managed to cook something so beautiful in so little time. They pick Danielle's dish as their favourite, saving her from elimination. Kaila snips to the camera that it was a total fluke.

"As for Kaila's comment that it was a fluke that my Wellington made top dish alongside Julie's Wellington, I think anyone watching knows it was hard work and determination," Danielle said.

It's Kaila and Dale Kuda in the bottom two. Both think they're going home after failing to cook their pastry. Ultimately, Kaila is saved again and Dale is going home, taking some colour out of the kitchen as he goes.

The next episode of MasterChef Canada airs Monday, March 17 on CTV.

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