KENTVILLE – Three people with connections to Kentville have made the cut for the upcoming MasterChef Canada season and are eager to stir up some competition.
Kentville natives Felix Fudge and Mike Schroeder, along with NSCC Kingstec student Layla Kelly, are getting ready to bring their A game to the show, which has a strong Nova Scotia presence this year, with six of the top 21 finalists on the show from the province.
Their cooking styles are as unique as their personalities and are set to resonate loudly with their audience this season, and, according to Schroeder, are eager to represent their province.
“It’s really cool to have had such a strong Kentville and Nova Scotia presence on the show this year. We aren’t going to disappoint,” he said.
Chef and trans spokesperson
Even though Felix Fudge cannot make fudge, he can cook a mean fish and chips.
This is why he chose this “quintessentially Canadian” dish as his audition meal, which featured beer-battered Atlantic cod with shoestring chips and tartar sauce.
It’s a recipe he’s perfected after years spent cooking with his father – with more information on his inspiration to be detailed on the show – and grandmother, saying that cooking, “has never not been a part of my world.”
After years of cooking for classmates in university and friends once he graduated, Fudge, now 35, began thinking of auditioning for the show for season 4, but ultimately had to back out of the process, as his gender confirming surgery was scheduled to happen when the show would be filmed.
So Fudge went through the process again, and was selected this time as a finalist.
“It was an opportunity to live as my authentic self that I couldn’t pass up, but I’m so happy to be back as a finalist this season,” he said.
His time on the show will be spent showing the judges that traditional maritime dishes can be more versatile than they may seem, and will also be an opportunity for him to represent the trans community
“It’s about bringing visibility to the queer community, and showing other queer folk from small towns that you can get past any hardships you’re going through, and move on – it gets better,” he said.
Music and cooking apparently harmonious
Layla Kelly, 23, is from Halifax, but is an NSCC student at Kentville’s Kingstec campus, who is also known for her contributions to Wolfville’s music scene, and for hosting the first of several open mics events for the non-profit organization she’s founded, called SOSNS, which focuses on mental health in Nova Scotia.
Kelly is a person that prescribes to no one narrative, and her rockstar chef persona is a prime example of that.
“I think I really shocked a lot of family and friends with this, because so many people know me for my music,” she said.
“I shocked myself too. I posted the audition video, and got a phone call from CTV 30 minutes later.”
Kelly created a dish featuring maple bacon scallops with apple cider glaze and sliced apples with cinnamon and nutmeg for her audition, wanting to showcase seasonal produce from the Annapolis Valley. She also grew up with a chef father and baker mother, but didn’t initially feel cooking was something to pursue.
“Some industry parents actually recommend not going into it, and that’s exactly what my dad did,” she said.
Her rock star background is a recurring theme on the show and in her real life, having also just been selected as one of the top 100 CBC Searchlight Music Contest finalists.
Having spent much time recently focusing on creating her non-profit initiative, she’s looking forward to letting her creative side shine.
“The Layla Kelly brand is definitely up and coming. This has been a whirlwind time for me, but I’m not even close to stopping now,” she said.
Fusion food can come from here, too
Mike Schroeder wants those gearing up to watch the show that while he may look like a teddy bear, he’s a well-traveled foodie with a fusion-inspired palate.
“People see the beard, they see how tall I am, and find out I’m from Nova Scotia, and maybe assume some thing because of all that. But I’m actually really inspired by places I’ve visited, and showcase that in my food,” he said.
Schroeder, 31, chose a strategy opposite from Fudge’s, stating on his contestant profile that, “the east coast is not all about fish and chips,” which the two contestants laughed about afterwards.
He chose his dish, smoked wild boar with rosemary butter and Tuscan salad with citrus dressing, to showcase how his kitchen style has been influenced by growing up around food while also absorbing tastes from the different places he’s lived in and traveled to.
“My father was a cook for the army, and my grandmother’s house was always full of fresh food. That, combined with living coast to coast and traveling, means my cooking is pretty unique,” he said.
Schroeder sees himself as a mystery box cooking, often opening his fridge and concocting a delicious meal with what he sees before him, and said he looks forward to showcasing this on the show.
“I think I’m going to be a big surprise for people. I’m more diverse than I look,” he laughed.
“This is the first step in a big journey for me.”
The new season, which premieres MasterChef Canada fires up Season 5 on Tuesday, April 3 at 9 p.m. ET / 10 p.m. AT on CTV and CTV GO.