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(Updated 10:30 p.m., Jan. 25)
Youth wins out over wisdom as Orléans chefs do battle on Chopped Canada

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Orléans chefs François Lavalée and Qamar Masood made it to the final two on the Jan. 23rd episode of Chopped Canada. File photo

When it comes to their personalities, Orléans chefs François Lavalée and Qamar Masood are polar opposites, but when it comes to food they share a common passion.

Those qualities were laid bare for all to see when the two men appeared on the popular Food Network show “Chopped Canada” on Saturday night.

After graduating from Garneau high school in 2003, Lavalée, 31, studied the culinary arts a Algonquin College. While there he did a co-op placement at the Fairmount Chateau Laurier which hired him to work in the kitchen. Since then, he’s worked his way up through the ranks to become the hotel’s banquet chef de partie.

The husband and father of a young son went on the show to validate the 15 years he’s been working in the food service industry.

At 63, Masood is the oldest contestant to ever appear on Chopped Canada. The owner of Dewan Catering wanted to showcase his Pakistani fusion brand of cooking and to prove that a man is only as old as he feels.

Both men wanted to win the $10,00 first prize to take their families on the vacation of a lifetime.

As the show unfolded, it became apparent that Lavalée and Masood have vastly different styles. Lavalée was a bundle of nervous energy, frantically preparing his dishes, while the much older Masood was calm, cool and collected.

At one point in the show, Lavalée compares their different styles to that of the rabbit and the tortoise.

“We’re complete opposites... the rabbit and the tortoise. I just hope that this ends in the rabbit's favour,” said Lavalée.

Chopped Canada is actually three competitions in one in which four chefs must make three different dishes – an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert – incorporating five mystery ingredients in each dish.

The four chefs are whittled down to three after the appetizer round, then two after the entrees before tackling the dessert.

A panel of three judges select which chef will be “chopped” after the first two rounds and then chose a winner based on their overall performance.

Lavalée and Masood’s competition were a young chef from Vancouver named Ashley Dolbec, and Kate Dean, a chef de partie at a resort in Parksville, B.C.

Lavalée and Masood both survived the appetizer round in which duck confit was the main ingredient, when Dean neglects to wash her mushrooms.

Masood makes a critical error during the entree round when he forgets to use the pickle juice mystery ingredient, but he`s saved when one of the judges notices several drops of sweat drop into Dolnec's dish.

In the final dessert round, Lavalée and Masood both decided to make a cantaloupe sorbet which led to one of the lighter moments in the show when they are both forced to wait – Lavalée for the blast chiller and Masood for the ice cream maker.

In the end, Masood was the last chef to get chopped and Lavalée was awarded the $10,000 first prize.
Masood’s undoing, besides not using the pickle juice, was in serving rice with both his appetizer and his entree, thus the title of the episode, “Rice Twice”.

The show was actually taped in early December with the contestants having to swear to secrecy on how it turned out.

“I had to tell my wife, obviously, if I wanted to stay under the same roof, but nobody else knew,” said Masood after watching the show at home with 50 to 60 family members. “Everyone was there... all my cousins, my nieces and nephews. The house was packed and I had to cook for everyone."

While the actual television show is only an hour long, the taping took from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

“For anyone who wants to go in the acting business, no way man. It was exhausting, but I really enjoyed myself. It was the experience of a lifetime,” said Masood.

Masood and Lavallée only met each other for the first time while they were waiting for the limousine to take them to the studio.

“We got along very well. He is a wonderful young man. Honestly when we were waiting to find out who the winner was, I knew it was him because of the bloody pickle juice. Can you imagine? All I had to do was open the pickle juice and put a few drops in my dish. Oh well, at least the money went to a guy from Orléans," laughed Masood.

After the show aired, Lavalée’s cell phone started blowing up with voice and text messages.

“There were so many I had to stop answering them. When I woke up in the morning I had 150 messages. I’m still answering them,” Lavalée said during an interview on Monday.

While Lavalée didn’t have any problems with any of the mystery ingredients, he was most worried about the dessert round.

“I haven’t made a dessert since college,” said Lavalée. “I had a couple of ideas going into it and I just worked with the ingredients we were given. I’ve never made sorbet before in my life."

While most contestants on Chopped Canada face a certain amount of pressure, Lavalée had to deal with the added ressure of representing an internationally renowned hotel chain.

“The pressure was unbelievable and it showed, but my colleagues have been nothing but proud of me,” says Lavalée..

Like Masood, Lavalée was happy with the way the he was portrayed on the show, especially the part when he wins.

Another chef from Orléans will get a chance to win $10,000 when Chef Mark Steele from OCCO Kitchen appears on the show on March 12.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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