Recipe to Riches: Episode 1 Recap
Posted By: Terry Wong, 10/18/2012 11:15:00 PM
Food Network fanatics, I hope you're not dehydrated this morning! No doubt your salivary glands were working in overdrive during last night's Season 2 premiere of Recipe to Riches, the show that crowns Canada's best home cooks and puts their mouthwatering delicacies on grocery store shelves.
If you're new to the show, or just cursed with a poor memory, here's a quick rundown of the formula: each episode features three finalist dishes — created by ordinary Canadians — in categories ranging from savoury snacks to entrees to condiments and dips. The contestants compete in various cooking, marketing challenges and then present their fare to our expert judges: chef, cookbook author and television host Laura Calder, advertising agency founder Tony Chapman, product development expert Dana McCauley, and Loblaws executive chairman Galen Weston. In addition to netting their creators some cool cash, the winning recipes are also produced and sold at Loblaws stores across the country. A clever concept, eh?
This week's class of culinarians? The cake, pudding and pie makers!
(Above from left: Jillianne Niver, Jason Keary, Cherilynn Balachandar)
Cherilynn Balachandar of Mississauga, Ontario, whose Battenburg cake looked like the perfect complement to a traditional afternoon tea.
Surrey, B.C. food blogger Jillianne Niver and her chocolate butterscotch pots de crème was a real ladykiller in the preliminary round. Judges Laura and Dana looked like they’d died and gone to heaven with their first spoonfuls.
Jason Keary from Nerepis, New Brunswick, whose “cheesy bees’ nests” — honey and cheese pastries — came about through simple experimentation with leftovers.
(Above: President's Choice Mini Cheesy Bees' Nests)
As you likely expected, our trio of pastry chefs were immediately thrown into proverbial fire, challenged to increase their serving sizes from three or four to 200.
I wasn’t surprised the Jay came away with the victory in this encounter. His recipe was the definition of quick and dirty. He literally just crammed some phyllo dough into a muffin sheet then stuffed it with a honey-sweetened cheese mixture. The process went so smoothly that the tarts actually came out better than the ones Jay made for his audition.
Both Jillianne and Cherilynn, on the other hand, struggled to reproduce their more meticulous recipes on a macro scale. Anyone who’s ever attempted either a pot de crème or battenburg cake knows that the different elements need a lot of time to prepare, cook, cool, set, etc. In mass production, each additional step creates new opportunities for something to go wrong. For Jillianne, the end result was a dessert with chocolate and butterscotch layers that had seeped into one another. Cherilynne’s cakes came out looking lovely — thanks to the cook’s latent perfectionism, one suspects — but the judges were less impressed by the confections’ underwhelming flavour. Brilliant presentation, in this case, was not enough to carry the Mississauga cake maker into the next round. And let’s face it, her recipe would likely have been a tad difficult to replicate en masse.
So the two J’s moved on to the marketing and merchandising stage of this week’s competition, where they were tasked with developing coming-out parties for their respective treats. Rough-and-tumble Jay put his background as a heavy metal musician to good use at a rock ‘n’ roll–inspired event, while Jillianne went à la Française with a Marie Antoinette theme. In truth, neither launch really got me excited to gobble down a dessert, but the event’s attendees, George Brown College culinary students, seemed to be game enough. When it was all said and done, they gave our four judges a lot to chew on, particularly since the students overwhelmingly favoured Jillianne’s choco-scotchy pots. (They scored a 91 percent recommendation rating!).
(Above: Jillianne Niver and Jason Keary)
Interestingly, while their launch events were deemed successful, both contestants got rapped for giving into their marketing teams’ apparent love of profoundly bland product names. Jay could’ve served “Cheese Bees’ Nests,” but instead ended up with a “Honey Cheese Tarts” brand. Jillianne’s dessert name incorporated a portion of her existing “Miss Delish” online presence, but ultimately “Delish Pots de Crème” just didn’t roll smoothly off the tongue. Frankly, I thought Jay’s was the more egregious case of messing with a good thing. Apparently the marketers thought bees had a negative connotation. I tend to think the opposite; as pollinators of our crops, and producers of sweet, sweet honey, bees are among the world’s most useful insects. Unless you’re allergic to them, who cares if they sting every once in a while?
Despite failing to score high marks in the Product Launch challenge, Jay’s recipe was simple, creative and, most importantly, tasty enough to come out on top in this week’s episode. And good for him! He seemed like a genuine, stand-up guy with a real passion for his work and family. His $25,000 prize was well-deserved. We’ll see if he can add an extra zero to that figure in seven weeks time, when he and his dessert compete for Recipe to Riches’ overall title. Look for Jason's President's Choice Mini Cheesy Bees' Nests in grocery stores this weekend.
If you missed it, make sure to check out the Cakes, Puddings and Pies full episode here.
Craig is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.