THUNDER BAY – As recently as November, Cryssi Larocque was hard at work in the aviation industry, with no plans for a career change any time soon.
Then her phone rang.
Within days after being told she couldn't get the time off she needed, Larocque had quit her job and was ready to seek her fame and fortune in front of the cameras, one of 18 contestants selected to take part in CTV’s sixth annual MasterChef Canada competition.
“I’ve just loved cooking since I was a little girl,” the 38-year-old said last week, taking a breaking from prep work at her new job as a cook at Thunder Bay’s popular Daytona’s Restaurant.
“MasterChef Canada, to me watching that show, that was the first time I could say, ‘Hey, that could be me. I could see myself there.’ Most culinary competitions are for trained chefs, so to be able to participate as a home chef, it was a goal I’d set.”
The third time was the charm, for Larocque.
She’d auditioned twice in the past, only to be sent home empty-handed, adding she second-guessed herself and came close to not bothering to try out a third time.
But her sister convinced her to give it another shot and told her she’d regret it if she didn’t keep trying to convince the judges she belonged in the MasterChef kitchen.
“I think my mind went blank, for once,” she said, describing the moment she got the good news. “Everyone that knows me knows that I’m chatty, chatty, chatty. I was speechless. It was surreal and the closer it came to the day when I was actually going to be filming in front of those judges, it started to become real.
“I was very nervous, but the kitchen is my comfort zone.”
Sworn to secrecy prior to the show’s two-hour season kick-off on April 8, Laroque says she’s had to keep tight-lipped on the results of the competition, which was judged by Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile.
Results aside, it’s an experience she’d wouldn’t trade for the world.
“It was amazing to be surrounded by so many like-minded home cooks. I’m used to my friends’ eyes kind of glazing over when I’m talking about this recipe or that recipe. I know my husband made a comment when I came home and he said, ‘You’re 10 times the cook you were before you went.’
“It was just really nice to push myself. That’s the main reason I wanted to do this. The being on TV aspect makes me nervous. This was more about proving to myself I could do this.”
Larocque said she loves to cook globally, particularly drawing on her mother’s Portuguese heritage.
“But at heart, my cooking just makes you feel good. It’s home-cooking. I just like to elevate it so it looks a little nicer, maybe introduce you to some ingredients you maybe haven’t seen before, but at the end of the day I just want you to feel great for having something I’ve created.”