With her beaming smile and get-‘er-done attitude, MasterChef Canada competitor Alyssa LeBlanc from Tusket, Yarmouth County, has the region on her side.
Season 6 of the CTV show kicked off April 8 with a special two-hour premiere. The Tusket Falls Brewing Company was packed full of cheering supporters for its hometown cook.
Melanie Sweeney, who co-owns the brewery with Jeff Raynard, says LeBlanc is involved with their business in many ways.
“She’s a musician and plays here on a regular basis. She also works with Raegan Stuart, who owns Speakeasy Supper Club that supplies the food for the brewery,” said Sweeney.
The premiere was shown on the brewery’s projector system from 9 p.m. to midnight, but folks started gathering around 6 p.m. to socialize and celebrate.
Many of the supporters were wearing staff attire - red and black plaid shirts like LeBlanc’s.
“She’s a team plaid girl so it doesn’t really matter the colour,” laughed Sweeney.
LeBlanc spent most of her childhood outside, driving her four-wheeler around, playing hockey, hunting and fishing. She hopes to someday open a cabin-style restaurant to serve wild-game meat and homegrown produce.
To earn her MasterChef white apron and the right to continue competing, LeBlanc chose to make Acadian rappie pie for the Favourite Comfort Food Challenge.
The dish typically takes several hours to create and involves peeling and grating potatoes, squeezing the liquid from them, boiling a chicken with onions, deboning it, then scalding the squeezed potatoes with the broth and layering the mixture with chicken before baking.
The gamble paid off when it came to the judges’ decision. But how did she make rappie pie in 45 minutes?
That remains her secret.
“Shocking, I know. I didn’t think it was possible either, but I pulled out a whole lot of cooking tricks for that one,” she said.
Sweeney laughs about the achievement and says it was a mystery to supporters who were watching.
“That’s everyone’s question around here. She (Alyssa) was joking last night and says she surprised all of Canada with ‘What the heck is rappie pie?’ And then she surprised all the Acadians with ‘How the heck did she make it in 45 minutes?’”
Musician Simon LeBlanc sings 45 minute rappie pie
During the second part of the show the 12 home cooks were supplied with their first mystery box.
“Mystery boxes are shocking no matter what’s under the cover,” said LeBlanc.
“The anticipation of waiting for them to lift it is the hardest part.”
Her face lit up when she discovered the contents.
“It’s a bunch of root vegetables,” she said with a grin.
The cooks were instructed to use the vegetables to tell judges something about their roots.
LeBlanc made a filet mignon with a celery root puree and roasted vegetables. It received favourable comments.
Next up was the elimination challenge, which ended with two cooks sent home.
A tableful of protein-packed meats and fish was unveiled and LeBlanc was second-to-last in the selection process. She grabbed up the giant turkey, carried it back to her station and slammed it down on her cutting board while others laughed.
“Alyssa is dealing with a turkey almost her size,” said judge Alvin Leung.
“But she is a hunter and hunter’s love to butcher their own meat,” said judge Michael Bonacini.
In 60 minutes, she prepared a wild turkey supper with wild rice, then stood before the judges waiting for their verdict.
“You know we’re sending two cooks home today, right?” said judge Claudio Aprile.
“Yes,” she said.
“You tell me if you think the wild rice needs a little more time,” he said.
She scooped up a bit with a fork for a taste.
“Yes,” she said.
“I just need to see a little more creativity,” Aprile added.
Four cooks were called to the front at the end of the session. LeBlanc was one of them.
“I was not ready to go home,” said LeBlanc. She didn’t have to. Steven Lapointe (Acton Vale, Quebec) and Cliff McArthur (Scarborough) were cut from the competition.
“Relieved is an understatement,” LeBlanc said after learning it wasn’t her.
At least one home cook will be eliminated each week until only two are left to battle it out in the MasterChef Canada Season 6 finale. The winning cook will receive $100,000 and the title of Canada’s next MasterChef.
The public is invited to watch MasterChef Canada at Tusket Falls Brewing every Monday night from 10 to 11 p.m.