They say that if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Second-year Mount Allison student Allison Abernethy has proven that she can not only stand the heat of the kitchen, but she thrives on it. Abernethy was selected as a one of the top fifty cooks for the debut season of MasterChef Canada, where she will show audiences across the country how she braved the heat of competition to create kitchen masterpieces. The show premières on CTV Jan. 20 at 9 pm.
Abernethy’s experience with MasterChef Canada began in August when she was selected among thousands of applicants to appear on the national reality television show. Culinary aficionados will likely be familiar with the American version of MasterChef, starring the eccentric and award-winning chef, Gordon Ramsay. The judges for the first ever Canadian season of the show are renowned restaurateurs Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile, and Alvin Leung. The trio have the task of narrowing down the contestants through a number of individual and team-based cooking challenges and weekly elimination rounds. The last chef standing will take home the MasterChef trophy and a hefty $100,000 prize. Abernethy, an Annapolis Valley native, was one of three Maritimers selected for the top fifty.
Abernethy, a nineteen-year-old business and psychology student, applied for the show in the early spring. After undergoing a series of fast-paced interviews and auditions that examined both her cooking skills and her personality, Abernethy received the news that she was chosen as a MasterChef finalist while on a family vacation in Prince Edward Island.
“It was really special because I had about half my family around me when I got the call, and everyone [was] just so excited. It was a night of celebration,” Abernethy said.
“In my whole entire life, that is probably my most memorable moment. I was feeling so many different emotions at the same time. I was so excited, but I was also thinking about school, so it was really a tug-of-war.”
Abernethy’s concerns about school stemmed from the fact that filming would take place in Toronto during the fall semester. She did, however, manage to balance both. During October and November, Abernethy headed to Toronto to begin her culinary journey. Although she left town, her reason for doing so remained a secret, in order to maintain the show’s confidentiality. No one other than Abernethy’s family and a few very close friends knew what exactly she was doing during her absence. Abernethy was finally able to publicly announce her accomplishment on Dec. 9, after filming had ended.
Abernethy reports that participating on MasterChef was an overwhelmingly positive, though challenging, experience.
“Going into it, I was as open- minded as possible. I told myself this was an amazing opportunity, and I’m going to try to absorb absolutely everything around me as much as possible, because you’re in such a whirlwind of being in a world that you think you know something about, but you know nothing about until you do it.”
However, for Abernethy, the focus of MasterChef wasn’t all about the competition: it was mainly about learning new things and connecting with other chefs from all around Canada.
“The best part for me, and the most memorable thing for me, was the new forty-nine friends I made during the show.”
Now that Abernethy is back in school, she still makes time to hone her cooking skills throughout the week. She places an emphasis on using local foods in her cooking practice, and loves the creative aspect of working in the kitchen. She notes that she rarely makes the same dish twice, and never follows a recipe exactly as it is written. The admittedly spontaneous chef favours “simple, humble food,” and is regularly inspired by her grandmother’s southern cooking style.
Even though the filming process is over for Abernethy, for the rest of Canada her journey is just beginning. Audiences all over the country can tune into MasterChef Canada on Mondays at 9 pm to follow the competition. To celebrate the season première, Abernethy will host a viewing party on Jan. 20 at The Pond.