Watching every episode of the inaugural Master Chef Canada competition last year significantly impacted Ajax resident Kwasi Douglas.
Instead of yearning for the contestants’ mouth-watering dishes, it whetted his appetite to be part of the reality show.
“I didn’t see much of a reflection of myself,” he said. “That and the opportunity to pursue a food dream of making fine dining accessible for those who can’t afford it were the primary reasons I chose to enter the competition.”
Trinidad & Tobago-born sisters
Ottawa-based social worker Sparkle Davis, who grew up in T & T with her father; and Jamaican-born Fabian Suckoo, who migrated to Calgary five years ago, were the only Caribbean-born contestants to crack the inaugural competition’s Top 50.
Narida Mohammed, Davis and Suckoo were eliminated in the early stages, while Marida Mohammed made it all the way to the final, finishing in second place behind Eric Chong.
The last of three boys born to Guyanese immigrants, Douglas is attempting to go a step further than Mohammed.
At last July’s open casting call, he delivered a signature dish consisting of sweet potatoes and salmon fish cakes with polenta fries and coleslaw.
“It was a humble dish which I put in my backpack and made my way to the open call,” said Douglas. “I took it down with my fingers crossed and hoping for the best. When I got to the facility and saw the level of competition, I almost packed up my dish and walked out.”
Calming down and eventually overcoming the overwhelming audition, Douglas is set to impress the judges who include culinary experts Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile, regarded as one of Canada’s most innovative and creative chefs.
“I expect to do well because I have very high standards which are what the judges are looking for,” he said. “They are among the best in their field and I trust them.”
Douglas started cooking in his early teenage years in his family’s Durham residence kitchen.
“It began with me looking at what mom was doing and then trying it for myself,” he said. “My mother likes to cook and food was always prepared in our home for family and other events. While I have worked part-time in restaurants and kitchens, most of my cooking is done at home for family and friends.”
He singled out dhal and rice with fried bangamary fish as his favourite dish.
“I could eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Douglas. “I also enjoy stew peas and rice with some meat even though my diet is predominantly vegetarian.”
When he’s not in the kitchen, Douglas – a social service worker – provides support for men with special needs in Durham.
“These are people I can identify with because they face challenges just like I did while growing up in Whitby,” said Douglas, a Sinclair Secondary School graduate who attended Durham College. “As a visible minority, I was subjected to prejudice while individuals from the special needs community come up against hurdles every day.”
The second season of Master Chef Canada kicks off on Sunday, February 8 at 7 p.m. on CTV and CTV Go.
The winner will receive $100,000.