Eric Chong wins 'MasterChef Canada', gets job with Demon Chef judge

Eric Chong wins MasterChef Canada (Handout)

Eric Chong wins MasterChef Canada (Handout)

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:11 PM ET

The MasterChef Canada finale was a double victory for Eric Chong – the reluctant chemical engineer who gave his father back his “face.”

Monday’s episode was only a few minutes old when it hit a touching moment. The judges noted Eric’s tenacity and the camera turned to his father in the balcony, who said, “He gets that from me – he may be better than me!”

“I feel like I already won,” the younger Chong said.

On Tuesday, when asked about the conflict at home over his dream of being a chef, the 21-year-old Chong said, “it really wasn’t a big argument. It seemed impractical at that moment to pursue cooking. And in Asian culture, it’s all about ‘face.’ So a father would be more proud to say, ‘My son is a doctor,’ or ‘My son is an engineer,’ versus, ‘My son is a chef.’

“Now they’re all 100% behind me.” Especially Chong’s grandfather, a former head cook in Toronto’s original Chinatown. “He saw things he didn’t even realize I’d picked up from him, like the dumplings. I learned just from watching him. He never specifically said, ‘You add this, then you add this.’ But I always watched.”

As usual, the often nerve-wracked Chong didn’t win easily – even though both he and Marida Mohammed knew from the show’s template that finalists would be required to make a three-course meal. The margin of victory was literally an apple peel.

“For that reason, everyone throughout the competition is trying to save their ace for the finale,” Chong said.

His pork-belly/dumpling appetizer lost to Mohammed’s pumpkin callaloo soup because the meat wasn’t equally marbled. His home-made noodles with lobster beat her steamed black cod because of the small fish portion.

And then his “Chinese banana split” with tempura banana and two kinds of ice cream (red bean and green tea) narrowly beat her apple crumble, with the judges criticizing her choice to not peel the apples.

Quick-freezing the ice cream with liquid nitrogen was probably one of the, ahem, cooler effects ever seen on a cooking show. But Chong was no stranger to it. “You can order liquid nitrogen online,” he said. “You only need it if you’re in a time crunch or if you’re using a lot of alcohol because otherwise it won’t freeze.”

From underdog to winner, Chong once almost bled himself off the show. In an early episode he severely cut his index finger and thumb during a mystery box apple-pie challenge. He dropped out of that challenge, and returned to the pressure test with six stitches.

“I guess I was fortunate it was a mystery box and not an elimination challenge. It absolutely could have been over for me.”

Come the next round, though, “I just pretended the stitches weren’t there.”

Chong eventually plans to use his $100,000 prize to start his own restaurant, which will probably be upscale dim sum.

In the meantime, the Demon Chef judge, Alvin Leung has offered Chong a job at his world famous Bo Motivation restaurant in Hong Kong. “That’ll be exciting, working in a three Michelin star restaurant,” says Chong, who heads to Hong Kong in June.

As for chemical engineering, it’ll always figure in his approach. “Cooking is essentially a science,” Chong says. “You’re just mixing ingredients instead of chemicals.”

TOP MOMENTS FROM MASTERCHEF CANADA

No knives were wielded in anger in MasterChef Canada. But there were "moments," some involving things strange and uniquely Canadian.

1. The smelt episode: If you, like me, are from Northern Ontario, you know you just fry up the little buggers, bones and all, season to taste. Ben Miner's downfall began when he hilariously tried to de-bone them. Fellow eliminated contestant Meghan Toth made them into a quiche, which the judges found revolting.

2. Blood on the floor: Eric Chong cut himself badly enough making apple pie, you half expected he'd lose consciousness. “I actually thought Eric took his finger off. There was blood squirting everywhere," said Danny Raposo.

3. Beef cheeks: Again, what do you do when you're assigned something you've never even tasted, let alone cooked? Dora Cote made a stew. “When Claudio (Aprile) called my dish ‘barf,’ how do you not go home?" she said.

4. Rare versus "still mooing": Mike Green went home for falling waaay short of the medium-rare steak he was supposed to cook. But earlier, Dale Kuda did the same and even argued with the judges that it was fine. Demon Chef Alvin was red-faced with anger, but they kept Dale for another day. "When Dale was being such a twerp about justifying his raw steak, I thought, ‘Okay, he’s being enough of an ass that I’m going to be okay,'" Dora said on beef-cheek day. No such luck.

5. Fire hazards: In the semi-finals, Kaila Klassen managed to set some paper towels ablaze. Her scallops were ultimately overcooked by 15 seconds (about the time it took her to put out the fire). On the other hand, Marida Mohammed managed to ignite some parchment paper en route to baking donuts that had cops 10 miles away sniffing the air appreciatively. So no harm, no foul.

Twitter: @jimslotek

jim.slotek@sunmedia.ca

 


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