FOCUSED: Marida pours some water into one of her steaming dishes while MasterChef judges, from left, Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung and Claudio Aprile hold a discussion in the background.

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A master chef in her own right

By Donstan Bonn

Trinidad born Marida Mohammed’s fairy tale run in Season 1 of MasterChef Canada almost saw her defy the odds and clinch the first MasterChef title.  

After surviving a season of extraordinary challenges, Marida came face-to-face with chemical engineer Eric Chong in the final three-course culinary battle for the grand prize of CAN$100,000 and the MasterChef Canada trophy. 

The finalists were given the task of creating a three course meal of whatever dishes they chose. Her opponent made pork belly and dumpling for an appetiser, a lobster pasta for the main and an Asian play on a banana split; green tea ice cream, red bean ice cream and banana tempura for his dessert.

Marida opted to go with a pumpkin and callaloo soup with pig tail for her appetiser, fish with Caribbean steamed cod and stewed pigeon peas for her main and a dessert of apple crumble with coconut ice cream and warm rum sauce.

And after great deliberation, Chong was given the nod and named the first ever Canadian  MasterChef by judges Michael Bonacini, Claudio Aprile and Alvin Leung.

Marida, who was born in San Fernando and migrated to Canada at the age of 13, said it was an amazing feeling despite not capturing the crown.

“Wearing that white chef’s coat was my end goal coming into this competition and there’s no better feeling than hearing from the judges that I earned my spot on their stage, at the end that to me was winning.  

“Although I didn’t win the monetary prize and title of being Canada’s first MasterChef I felt like a winner!”

She said her overall experience was great as she had the opportunity to showcase her food to Canada and do what she love. 

“I was able to make amazing connections with people from all over Canada and I have become a better cook because I was able to learn and grow from each challenge and critique as the competition went on.

“My most memorable moment came when the judges traded spots with Eric and I. My Masterchef Canada journey came full circle in that moment and having the judges say those words was worth more than $100,000. I will never forget it.”

When questioned on which dish she prepared during the competition that she felt was her best she replied, “I really felt that every dish I put out was my best. I tried to put my best work forward in every challenge, but the dish I’m most proud of was my winning peanut butter dish in the very first mystery box challenge. It was that dish and that challenge that really showed me for who I was as a competitor and as a cook.

Marida’s amazing journey began along with her twin sister Narida when one of their best friends saw the ad for the show and thought they would do well, so they threw their hats in the ring. 

They both made it to the round of the top 50 home cooks before moving on to the top 32. Narida would eventually be eliminated but Marida would keep progressing by getting into the top 14, followed by the top eight and then into the final four along with Chong, Tammara Behl (special needs teacher) and Kaila Klassen (realtor).

Behl ended up at the bottom of the Mystery Box Challenge and exited the competition while mystery box winner Klassen finished third in the final elimination leaving Marida and Chong to contest the grand finale.

Marida, who studied law instead of going to chef school, said it was her intention to co-own a restaurant with Narida if she had won the grand prize. 

And though she didn’t win she never once pictured herself putting her apron down.

“I always remembered what I was here for — put a lot of love into my food — and I always appreciated everything and enjoyed the moment and just gave it my all,” she said, adding that the one thing she would take away from MasterChef 2014 is that with hard work and a passion for what you love to do, you can do anything.

The personal trainer, who resides in Toronto and is the mother of a 3-year-old daughter, would also love to host a cooking show featuring Caribbean fusion dishes one day.

Narida had this to say: She did us Trinis proud by making it to the very end but unfortunately not taking the prize home.  Her journey was almost flawless and she represented our culture and herself in the classiest of ways.  We are all so proud and can’t wait to come to Trinidad to celebrate.

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