the day of reckoning

As promised, I have an update for my blog followers.  You are (almost) the first to receive this MasterChef Canada update.

I received an email today – I hope it is spam – indicating I will not be moving forward with the top 50 in the MasterChef Canada season 2 process.

Although short-lived, this process has been tremendously exciting and loads of fun.  I must confess, I am astounded by the amount and volume of support from family, friends and fans.  The blog and my culinary adventures will continue as I hone my skills for the next round of auditions.

‘A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work’, Colin Powell   

under pressure

As experienced and knowledgeable as I may feel in the kitchen, I am dumbfounded when I reflect on the techniques, tools, ingredients and types of cuisine still unknown to me.  I must put every effort to explore these unfamiliar culinary realms to properly prepare for my hopeful MasterChef Canada journey. My experience in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves has taught me proper planning and preparation prevents p!ss poor performance – and I’m determined not to perform that way!

There are definite constraints in the MasterChef kitchen – a masterpiece must be plated usually in less than 60 minutes.  The brave chefs use daring techniques to develop flavour profiles and manipulate their ingredients through the use of a sous-vide, smoke guns, blast chillers and pressure cookers, to name a few. I must familiarize myself these new tools and techniques to be an effective participant in the MasterChef process.

I am lucky to live on a street that is more than a street – it is a real community.  A core group of neighbours are quite close and get together throughout the year for potluck dinners or appetizer nights.  We had such an occasion just recently and was the perfect opportunity for me to break in my newest kitchen purchase – a T-Fal Clipso Pressure Cooker – and an opportunity to make my first pulled pork shoulder!  With a bit of research, I found just the directions and inspiration I was looking for: an Asian inspired pulled pork.

The NPR site has a good warm-up for your first ventures with a pressure cooker which lists four recipes of varying complexity.  The sweet yet distinctly Asian broth melted away all connective tissue of the pork shoulder resulting in a mound of delectable shredded meat.  Our contribution was served with slider-sized ciabatta buns and elicited many ‘oohs‘ and ‘mmms’ through the night.

I believe my love affair under pressure has just begun.

the audition

To begin – I am blessed… The amount of support, love, encouragement and go get’em words and sentiments I have read in the past 18 hours are more than I would ever have expected. I definitely have been holding this MasterChef Canada audition pretty close to my chest – until there is something more substantive to disclose. That went out the window last night when my head cheerleader, Sherri, posted a collage of pics to her Facebook page with both Eric and I tagged. The barrage of likes and cheers have been so heartwarming. As Sherri explains “where attention goes, energy flows”. The statement still makes me smile – or maybe it is all the bottled up energy ready to explode.

I’m also wondering who is up to help taste test my fearless recipes this summer? Let me know in the comments below – first come, first served at the à la Claude table!

Thanks for following, please share with your friends and I’ll be sure to provide updates as the process develops.


iron chef – emergency preparedness week style

Each year, my workplace acknowledges Public Safety Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Week in early May by hosting guest speakers, themed events and trivia draws. This year, the coordinator, Kristina, recruited budding chefs for the ultimate challenge – 30 minutes to make a creative and impressive meal from pantry staples. The scenario:  a local disaster has trapped you in your house for several days without power. Your perishables are gone and you only have an ethanol gel stove to use – and guests are on their way!

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I immediately began brainstorming meal ideas. After quite a bit of frustrating thought (really what CAN you make without fresh herbs or produce?), an entrée and dessert were chosen. Spicy green Thai curry shrimp followed by bruléed bananas Foster – after all I did receive a kitchen torch for Christmas and it would still be full of butane!

I must confess – I didn’t necessarily have all the ingredients in my pantry. But anyone who knows me wouldn’t doubt I might’ve had them. Any good competitor knows proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance. I decided I would treat the spoils of my trial run on the eve of the big day. Sadly, my can of bananas didn’t really work as I was hoping (they were pink, mealy and sourced from Thailand).  Time to launch into Plan B: Tropical Trifle.

Once the meal was over, I made my notes – after all 30 minutes with an ethanol stove was not very forgiving considering I needed to soak rice vermicelli noodles in ‘hot’ water. There must be a precise plan and order of tasks to complete my two course meal.

The challenge began with lighting the stove (kitchen torch saves the day) and warming a pan (full of water in my case). A projected Chopped-style 30:00 minute countdown was set and the action began!

ClaudeSome competitors had an appetizer ready in minutes – another was heating military rations. I consulted my list and began knocking the tasks off the list. Soak the rice noodles. Shake coconut milk with instant pudding powder *ahem*. Chop and mince and sauté onion and ginger (they keep for a few days during a natural disaster, right?). Open and drain cans of spinach and chick peas. Slowly build the entrée flavours. Remember to add canned shrimp at the last minute, lest they resemble mush! Layer the trifle – crushed flaky sugar cookies, chopped canned pineapple, coconut milk pudding and vanilla sugar. Assemble the entrée. Rice vermicelli, shrimp green Thai curry – strategically place extra shrimp on top. Serve in hand thrown glazed ceramic bowl with hand carved chopstick. Quick – brûlée the vanilla sugar and serve alongside the main. Oh my, 8:00 minutes to spare.

I guess I could have let the curry simmer a bit longer.

After an excruciating fifteen minutes, the top three are announced. An authentic Indian curry with handmade roti, crab chowder and yours truly taking top spot! A thrill – and a bit of a surprise!

Now what to make for tomorrow night?!?

Want to make Claude’s creations? Follow these links or go to the favourite recipes page.

unknown outcomes

“I am totally fearless! Well, of course, I’m not totally fearless. I worry constantly and obsess over things, but I just don’t let fear stand in the way of doing something that I really want to do.” – Tom Ford


Often expressed in food and entertaining, Claude’s approach to life is consistent – take a challenge, dream or goal head on and just make it happen.  In preparing for the MasterChef Canada adventure, Claude has invested much time in preparing.  He has reviewed past episodes, done a lot of extra cooking and tried a number of new cooking techniques.

Yesterday, his colleagues were treated to chocolate cupcakes with dulce de leche buttercream frosting.  It is not so much that making cupcakes is fearless, it is that standing in front of friends, family and strangers in a very public way allowing the for possibility of judgement is fearless.

MasterChef is an extreme version of this same process.  Claude is walking head on into a competitive experience designed to push a person to the edge of abilities.  The outcomes are real.  The outcomes are public.  The extraordinary part of all this is that Claude walk’s into this adventure in spite of any fear and unknown outcomes.

guest post – it begins

There is something infinitesimally wonderful about a friendship that is formed on common likes and dislikes.

glfac2When I first meet Claude, we were ever so skeptical of each other.  This big strong fabulous man was coming into my inner circle with a claim on my best friend’s heart.  Love was in the air and I wasn’t sure I liked that one bit.  As it turns out Claude felt a similar skepticism regarding moi.  Who was this best friend and why did she seem to be such a solid team with his beloved?

Well it wasn’t long before our shared curious nature had us laughing together as if we were friends of old.  I knew in those early moments, I’d been gifted with a best friend within a best friend.  As precious as pink diamonds, Claude and I formed a friendship that simply stated, is the best thing since sliced bread.

Even though our common interests match up on a multitude of fronts, none run as deep as our love for hospitality and entertaining.  Together we rival the likes of even our mentor Martha Stewart.  That’s right, we own the entire collection of Living from its inaugural issue, in duplicate.  We have tested more cookie recipes then Betty Crocker and we’ve whetted every stone and queued every Barbie over our near double decade friendship.

The reason “we” work is plain.  Claude is better than me.  And to put a finer point on it, we, happily, both accept this.  It’s not my desire to be the best, its Claude’s. It’s not my desire to go so far outside of our skills et that we spend oodles just on practice rounds, its Claude’s. Its not my desire that makes us take on more then we can possible chew, its Claude’s. He is the visionary leader of our improbable duo and he is the master of all our plans.  I aim only to keep up.  Well that’s a lie; I aim to keep pushing him up.

Claude, my kitchen companion extraordinaire, I would go anywhere, do anything, and chop a mountain of onions to save your eyes from weeping, just to see you achieve one more culinary feat just to hear those stodgy ole scotch drinkers we love so much say ‘that was incredible!’.  (Let’s not ever tell them how much we spent on that Christmas dinner that cost us several hundreds of bucks in ingredients for four people, ok?)

If you’re following à la Claude for the first time, put your seat belt on, your about to have the time of your life and yes, pyrotechnics are included.

– Sherri G.

guest post – chez claude

One of my favourite things in the world is to be invited to dinner chez Claude.  The opportunity to be wined and dined and fêted by Claude and his extraordinary staff is too good an offer to pass up.  Given that Claude is fearless in the kitchen, at times it can also be good for diners to also be fearless.  I like to think I’m a fairly adventurous eater within reason.  I’ll eat nearly anything I’m given, but I have given Claude the caveat that my food must not still be alive and able to try to run off the plate.

Thanks to Claude, I’ve tried a variety of foods that otherwise never would’ve found their way to my plate.

  • baby octopus:  Did you know that baby octopus is available in Winnipeg? And that sometimes a bag of them is on sale? Much to my surprise baby octopus stew is a good thing, the eyes thoughtfully removed (even C was uncomfortable with the idea of all those octopus eyes staring) and such a flavourful broth.
  • fennel: I thought I was familiar with fennel, but after Claude’s ministrations it was totally unfamiliar to me. Fennel purée is wonderfully smooth and rich. I’ve also had it in a variety of other forms, including braised, pickled, salads and slaws, all good.
  • sardines: Not the sardines that those of us from the Prairies are used to. These were about 12 inches long, and barbecued whole. Consensus that day was that they tasted okay, but it was just too labour-intensive to deal with all those tiny bones.
  • crispy fish skin: – I thought I had experienced crispy fish skin, but when I had it chez Claude, it was unlike any I’d had before. I finally truly understood why the judges on Chopped get so very excited when crispy skin is done right. It takes on a whole new flavour, becomes something totally different, and is amazing!
  • champagne jello: having grown up with Jell-o and Bill Cosby, I thought I was experienced with jello. Once again, C proved me wrong. It turns out that it can be transformed to an elegant dessert, especially good on a hot summer day.  The addition of champagne and tiny grapes, and topped by vanilla bean whipped cream makes it one of my all-time favourites.

Claude and Linda P.

It’s to be noted that guests will be invited more often if they are open to trying new things. Claude fearlessly finds ingredients he’s never tasted or cooked with before, and for these experiments sometimes a little bravery is needed. But for those willing to try, they’ll find that it’s always delicious, and they will get invited back more often. I think C does better when he has complete freedom and doesn’t have to be distracted by restrictions.

Every time I dine chèz Claude, I come away feeling full, happy, content and ready for the next time.  It is also to be noted that Claude’s sous-chef provides the most excellent service and that the two of them will make sure at the end of the night that you’ve have a lovely evening, and that you’ll come away feeling great about life and the world.

– Linda P.

(Oh!  I didn’t mention the Cocktail of the Day.  That’s for another day.)