Q&A with MasterChef Canada's Carly Tennant

Who this fashionable home cook wouldn't mind never seeing again and what she thinks of judge Alvin

It's no surprise that there are a lot of big personalities on the inaugural season of MasterChef Canada. I mean, Dale does have quite the dagger stare now, doesn't he? Amidst the he-said-she-said, his-food-sucks-her-food-sucks exchange in each episode, it's refreshing to see a personality shine through as having some fun in the kitchen.

On-screen, Carly Tennant comes off as nothing short of enjoyable. Friendly, vibrant, occasionally a little scattered in the kitchen (not unlike myself), she's someone you want to root for. Since filming the show, she has closed her womenswear shop, but you can find her earning her culinary stripes — not that she hasn't earned some already, cooking on national television — at Cannibal Cafe, a popular burger joint on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, B.C.

The West Coast cook chats with me about what it's like to have a camera relentlessly in your face while cooking, which MasterChef Canada finalist she wouldn't mind never seeing again (luckily, it's not fellow Vancouverite, Josh Gale. Phew!) and how an opportunity like this has affected her life.

Why did you want to be on MasterChef Canada? It's such a typical question, I know, but it must always be asked!

Because I like to cook? I’m a competitive person. God, I don’t know; because I just thought it would be fun.

So, when you headed to Toronto for the top-50 auditions, did you look around the room and size everybody up?

When first got there, I thought everyone was pretty diverse and mostly friendly, but we didn’t really see anyone cooking. Obviously there were the loud mouths that liked to talk about themselves a lot, how they cooked and everything, but competition-wise, you couldn’t size up their cooking right away, just their personalities; just how you thought they were going to handle the pressure.

When you’re in the midst of a cooking challenge, what does that feel like?

It was full on! There are constant questions coming at you while you’re trying to cook. You’re in there, trying to cook, thinking about what you’re doing and you’re trying to not get stressed out, but then there’s someone asking you questions constantly: ’What are you doing now? Ok, what are you doing now?" And, I’d say, "Ah! I don’t even know what I’m doing!" I’m just trying to make it all work. That was probably the hardest part about it.

Did you ever get used to having a camera in your face while you were cooking?

No. Never.

I always wonder if the judges are exactly as they appear on TV. Is Alvin really a "demon" of a man?

Honestly, with Alvin, I didn’t really experience a harsh vibe or any cruel words. I thought he was actually pretty nice. I mean, of course they’re going to get as much drama on a TV show like this as possible. [The judges] do say a lot of things that could be taken in a good or bad way. I just tried not to let it get to me, because you have to just keep going.

If you were a stand-in judge on MasterChef Canada, what is one thing that you’d look for in a finalist’s dish?

I do think taste is really important, obviously, but I’d pay attention to whether or not the competitor stayed in the parameters of the actual challenge. I think there were a couple of times where I thought that people made something that looked good, but it didn’t seem to make sense for the specific challenge. Visuals are high up there for me, too, how pretty it would look.

And, to all of those people that sit on their couches, critiquing your choices like they could do better, you would say:

I used to always say that when watching TV, too. You know, "What an idiot!" But, when you’re on a show like that, you find out that it’s so hard. If you think about it, people screw up at home [cooking] all of the time and at home, you can just scratch it and start over. It’s easy to sit there and say, "I would have done this." I was definitely guilty of saying that, though. Not anymore!

Was there one ingredient or specific dish you were hoping not to encounter on the show?

I’m not a baker. I don’t bake or make desserts, so I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do anything like that on the show. Anything to do with desserts, or fucking offal! Intestines? Like, please don’t give me a cow’s butthole or something, you know?

Do you think being on a show like MasterChef Canada actually made you a better home cook?

Oh yeah! Being thrown into situations like this and coming out on the other end obviously teaches you a lot. It teaches you not only a ton about cooking, but about yourself, your competitive nature, how you work with other people and handling stress. I feel like I’m a better cook, for sure. I learned a lot from just rooming with Tammara during the filming. She taught me a lot, and Marida did, too. I think I actually learned more from the other home cooks than from the competition itself.

Who’s the one finalist that you’d be happy to never see again?

Danny. Ha, ha, ha. I don’t know. He’s a talker. I’m sure if I actually did bump into him, I’d be happy to see him, but you know.

You were a womens clothing store owner. Are you looking to change your career path to something more food oriented?

Well, I have closed my store now and started a new dream. I am liking working my way up from the bottom, not throwing myself into things too quickly. I’m learning a lot.