Entertainment Television

MasterChef Canada’s Justine and Matt talk shocking double-elimination

By Jim Slotek, Postmedia Network

(Handout)

(Handout)

It’s a tradition on MasterChef Canada (and its American predecessor) for the home cooks who are safe from elimination to shout out advice from the balcony during pressure tests.

Question is, are they helping or hurting?

Safe in the balcony, Mai Nguyen and Thea VanHerwaarden were clearly favouring the tag-team challenge duo of Montreal’s Justine Joyal and Toronto’s Matt VanderHelm.

But Joyal and VanderHelm were eliminated on the basis of a high-end “Bento box” that failed on almost every level, undercooked rice, salmon sushi with the skin left on, badly sliced Wagyu beef, and soba-wrapped shrimp that exploded, such that Demon chef Alvin Leung called it, “a sea monster.”

Among themselves, judges Leung, Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile questioned whether Nguyen’s advice was a distraction.

What must make it sting a little more is that the double elimination – which reduces the competition to six home cooks – was a set-up for next week’s episode when a previously-eliminated cook will apparently return.

In an interview with both, Joyal was diplomatic about the change-up. “As far as I’m concerned, surprising things happen all the time in the MasterChef kitchen. If you’re good enough to make the top-12, or even the top-24, everybody deserves a second chance.”

Both enthused about the guest appearance by Jamie Oliver, who judged the first round of dishes made from various Italian-oriented ingredients. “Off-TV, he is like he is on,” VanderHelm said. “An incredibly knowledgable person, very nice, very friendly. Just an overall awesome guy.

“And so handsome!” Joyal added with a laugh.

As for their pals in the balcony, VanderHelm admitted there was an element of distraction.

“I mean, it’s nice to be able to feel you have someone helping you up there, and have a leg up that way. You put stuff aside in your brain and think, ‘I’m okay because someone’s going to help me.' It’s a nice gesture.

“At the same time, this particular challenge had so many things going on, tagging in and out, different people doing stuff, so many different components on the dish.

“What she was trying to help us with was not always the component we were on, or it didn’t match up. Or it was too far ahead of where we were.

“So I think it was a little bit distracting. She’s telling me to do this, but I think it should be this way. Is she right or am I right?”

Both admitted, however, that they were totally unprepared for elevated Japanese food. “I never made anything Japanese ever before. I’ve never cooked any component of sushi,” Joyal said.

“I cook Asian all the time, but those specific things on the show were all new to me on the show. I’d done a basic roll before, sticking stuff on a piece of rice paper, is not the hardest thing in the world. But this is way more technical.”

Like contestants before them, Joyal and VanderHelm are already on a foodie course post-MasterChef Canada. He’s started his own catering company, vanderkitchen.com

“And I’m finishing my degree in two weeks in marketing and consulting management,” Joyal said. “I want to join my two passions, business and food.”

MasterChef Canada airs Thursdays on CTV.

Twitter: @jimslotek

JSlotek@postmedia.com