In the middle of downtown Toronto, in a film studio full of the swankiest kitchen appliances, UBC Chef Valentino Pereira arrived with a big smile on his face. He then went on to win round after round of Chopped Canada—one of the Food Network’s top rated shows in Canada—and take home the coveted $10,000 prize.
“I wanted to push myself and see if it would pay off,” says Valentino. And it did. Literally.
During the competition, chefs are asked to create three different dishes in a set time period: 20 minutes for an appetizer, and 30 minutes respectively for the entrée and dessert rounds. Chefs are also completely unaware of the ingredients they’ll have to use in each round.
“The moment the host says ‘Okay open your baskets,’ that’s the first time you actually see what you have to work with,” he explains. “There’s no way to create a game plan because even if you tried, when you see what’s in front of you, you just immediately blank due to nerves.”
Being nervous didn’t stop Valentino from ousting the competition every time.
For round one, he created a Grilled Salmon Sausage with BBQ eggplant and mountain tea butter glaze. “The right way to create the butter glaze is to double boil it, but I only had 20 minutes, so I just took it with my bare hands did it over the grill,” he says.
For round two, he created a Salsify rosti with Canadian aged gouda, sesame seed cabbage and spice-rubbed flank steak. “At one point during the main course,” reflects Valentino, “I remember Judge Mooking looking directly at me and saying ‘Your rosti is cooked perfectly.’ That felt really good.”
Valentino’s biggest challenge came during the desert round. “I figured I would make a cake of some sort,” he explains, smiling. “But when I got a baked potato in my basket I was really confused.” When you add potato to a cake it makes it very dense. “I had to change my game plan immediately.”
Despite the baked potato curveball, Valentino rallied against the odds to craft a sumptuous poached candied orange with shortbread biscuits and chocolate mousse. As for the baked potato, “I threw it into the chocolate to make it slightly heavier than a conventional mousse,” he laughs. “I remember Judge McEwan saying it was bit weird.”
In the end, Valentino’s skills in the kitchen and his ability to transform even the strangest ingredients into winning combinations secured him the victory.
But with $10,000 to his name, Valentino has no immediate plans to cash in. “The reason I did the challenge was to open a restaurant someday in the future.”
Until then, you can find Valentino on the line at various UBC retail locations, or see him in action this June at UBC’s Summer Sizzler event!