MasterChef Canada runner up to start pop-ups and private dining business
July 16, 2019
Ask Andre Bhagwandat what’s his favorite dish and there will be a slight pause followed by, ‘Man, I am bad…pizza.’
While his choice of food may not always be healthy, there’s no denying his culinary expertise.
The Malvern resident was the runner-up in the sixth season of MasterChef Canada, a highly competitive reality cooking show featuring amateur and home chefs.
There were 12 entrants.
For his final presentation, Bhagwandat defended his choice of dumplings with lobster rundown, curried goat and deconstructed turon with five-spice waffle.
“The selection was based on me wanting to leave my imprint on the show and giving the judges something different,” he said. “I always try to stay true to myself in anything I do, including cooking. I don’t go too far out of the box and I take some risks because you never know what could happen.”
While watching ‘The Amazing Race’ last year with his wife of two years, Krystle Williams, he saw the MasterChef open casting call.
“I turned to her and said, ‘Why don’t I do this for us?’ he recalled. “It was pretty much out of the blue. The whole experience was amazing and it proved that there is something I am good at. Before, I cooked for family and friends which I will continue to do. It was only when I reached the final of MasterChef that it dawned on me that I may be good at this and I should take it more seriously.”
Bhagwandat’s passion for cooking emerged after he was sent to Jamaica to live with his father, Tony Bhagwandat, who owned a restaurant – Slick Chick – in St. Mary.
He spent four years on the Caribbean island before returning to Toronto for Grade Eight.
“That was the first time I was living with my dad and part of that bonding process involved spending long stretches at his restaurant washing dishes and observing what he was doing,” said Bhagwandat. “On weekends, I did a variety of duties, including cashier, waiter and bartending. Most of the people he employed were family members and people close to him who provided me with cooking tips like how to fry chicken.”
The family patriarch was unaware his son was in the competition.
“When dad got wind of it,” he was shocked,” said Bhagwandat. “The only advice he gave me was to put seasoning in the food.”
A 100-metre sprinter and high jumper in high school at Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute, Bhagwandat said there’s a vast difference in the two competitions.
“I can remember being so nervous back in the day before the gun went off,” he pointed out. “Here, you didn’t have time for that. You are into it right away and you get into a zone. I felt very comfortable after a while.”
Bhagwandat said his colleagues at Toronto General Hospital, where he has been an operating theatre housekeeper for nearly six years, were very supportive during the competition.
“Everyone said they were watching the episodes and pulling for me to do well,” he noted. “Even though I didn’t win the competition, they praised me for reaching so far. I really appreciate that level of support.”
He plans to use his newfound notoriety to do occasional pop-ups and start a private dining business.
As for which celebrity he would like to show off his culinary skills for, Drake is at the top of the list.
Spicy jerk pork and festival will be prepared for the OVO Sound record label founder and it wouldn’t hurt if the chef gets a ‘sneak peek’ on a new Drake song.
Outside of cooking and working, Bhagwandat’s other interest is spending time with his wife who’s starting to perfect cooking rice & peas and ackee.
“We go to food festivals and enjoy trying different dishes,” he said. “We just love doing things together.”