Ousted MasterChef Canada cook: Alvin Leung 'a great hugger'

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:30 PM ET

Some would say Canada’s national fish is cod. But those of us who grew up near fresh water might make a case for smelt (I can fry them up to taste like heaven).

Smelt turned up as the elimination challenge on MasterChef Canada this week, and the tiny fish proved to be the undoing of Toronto standup comic Ben Miner and St. Catharines stay-at-home mom Meghan Toth.

Miner’s fish cakes (he even tried to debone the little things) and Toth’s fish quiche were revolting in the opinion of celebrity judges Alvin Leung, Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile. Miner and Toth ended up as the first two home cooks to be eliminated from the final 16.

So having been victimized by a completely unfamiliar ingredient, we wanted to know if they’d ever take another crack at cooking these little finny bits of Canadiana.

In a conference call Tuesday, Miner said he’d definitely try again. “I want to make them good,” said the comic, who’s also an on-air personality on Sirius XM’s Laugh Attack.

“I don’t want to just quit on an ingredient. Part of cooking is about taking maybe not the best ingredients and making them into good food. I haven’t quit on smelts. We’re still pals.”

Not so with Meghan. “We’re not friends anymore, smelts and I,” Toth said. “I’m good. I don’t think it’s an ingredient I’ll be using in my future.”

Though the politicking and judges’ shaming has just begun, Toth and Miner had a pretty good insider’s view of how things are shaping up. Sudbury personal trainer Marida Mohammed was the Mystery Box winner who chose the smelts (over two chef-friendlier Canadian staples, venison and duck) for her competitors to cook. She and Toronto make-up artist Brooke Feldman – with whom Mohammed shared immunity from the smelt challenge - seem to already be positioned as mean girls. And no, Toth says, that’s not all fiction created in the editing room.

“I’ve learned never to put anything past people,” Toth said. “It’s easy to talk bad about other people, especially when they don’t have to say it in front of them. And, y’know girls are mean. Everybody knows that.

“That’s the kind of world we live in now. More power to them, but I don’t play those games.”

As for the judges themselves, Miner debunked the “mean judge” image that Alvin Leung has tailored for himself. Apparently, he hugs as good as he yells.

“He’s a great hugger,” Miner said. “He’s not the scary person he seems. He’s obviously intense, but he’s super good at what he does. I get where he’s coming from. He’s like an artist, and artists are not always the friendliest. But they mean well. He’s bad-ass. I’ve got nothing but love for Alvin Leung.”

He also had an odd comparison for Bonacini, operator of 11 high-end Toronto restaurants. “Michael’s the coolest. He should be in a Bond movie, he’s so classy. Remember Liam Neeson’s character, Ra’s al Ghul who trained Batman? There’s a little bit of Ra’s al Ghul there.”

Both of the eliminated contestants said it was too early in the game to declare a favourite. But Miner gave an edge to anybody with kids. “Any parent has a huge advantage, because they’re used to making food in a timed environment.

“So Pino (DiCerbo)’s a stay-at-home dad, there’s a bunch of parents. I make grandma food. It’s tough to make grandma food in an hour.”

Twitter: @jimslotek

Jim.slotek@sunmedia.ca


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