Get to know the brave and talented Canadian chefs who will step behind the grills on the brand new show, Fire Masters. The chef who shows barbecue mastery through all three rounds of fiery culinary challenges will win the bragging rights of being a Fire Master Champion and the $10,000 grand prize.
Good luck, chefs!
Trish Gill from Windsor, ON
Growing up in rural northern Alberta surrounded by hunters, fishers, trappers and gardeners, Trish Gill gained an appreciation for all things wild, homemade and comforting. Although Trish isn’t formally trained, she learned her craft from working alongside some of Canada’s best chefs. After several years of cooking in Toronto, Trish moved back to Windsor where she heads up the kitchen at The Twisted Apron.
Marco Niccoli from Salt Lake City, UT
With a chef and restaurateur as a father, Marco Niccoli knew he wanted to become a chef from a young age. After high school, he entered culinary school and was immediately enlisted by Culinary Crafts, one of the world’s most respected catering agencies. There he helped run the bakery, eventually taking over as head pastry chef and then sous chef. Marco was named the youngest executive chef in the state of Utah at 22 years old, and he’s continued to make a name for himself in the industry ever since.
Erik Dandee from Palm Springs, CA
Erik Dandee’s culinary career started humbly, dishwashing at a family-owned steakhouse where he quickly discovered a passion for food and soon after enrolled in culinary school. Erik has made a career for himself in California, where he now lives with his wife and daughter, as executive chef at Birba in Palm Springs. Erik is hyper-focused on plating and rigid in his expectations of food presentation, which could pose a challenge for him in the heat of the Fire Masters competition.
Brad Orrison from Ocean Springs, MS
While he has degrees in marketing and business, Brad Orrison’s true life’s work is barbecue. In 2001, he and his sister opened the doors to a 300-square-foot barbecue take out shed in Mississippi. Within five years, it had morphed into a 10,000-square-foot, full-fledged barbecue mecca and is now a Mississippi institution. Brad also has launched a barbecue sauce factor. No stranger to barbecue competitions, Brad is ready to fire up the grill on Fire Masters to win another title.
Adrian Acosta from Brick, NJ
A Cuban American raised in Miami, Adrian Acosta currently lives on the Jersey Shore. Adrian learned to cook from his Cuban grandparents, watching them source fresh ingredients from their garden. Adrian’s passion for cooking along with the skills his family taught him has helped him create a style that he considers elevated Cuban-American comfort food. He has worked in his family’s Cuban restaurant Havana Cafe in New Jersey and has plans to open his own food truck business, serving his fresh Cuban food.
Rusty Johnson from Port Moody, BC
As one of Canada’s most active barbecue competitors, Rusty Johnson takes every opportunity to show off his grill skills. He enters up to 18 barbecue competitions a year, and is one of the most decorated Canadians on the scene. A self-taught barbecue expert, Rusty has a special talent for burgers, having won the World Burger Championship in 2015, plus four consecutive Canadian titles. The proud owner of 22 barbecues, Rusty plans to invest the winnings from Fire Masters into improving his barbecue trailer.
Serge Bélair from Edmonton, AB
One of Canada’s top culinary experts, Serge Bélair has been a key influencer in building Edmonton’s reputation as an international culinary destination. The accolades Serge has won over the years are impressive, including gold and silver medals at the Culinary Olympics as part of Team Canada. In his role of executive chef at the Shaw Conference Centre, he is always pushing the limits, building on the property’s extraordinary culinary reputation with his unwavering commitment to quality and innovation.
Jennifer Hunter from Toronto, ON
Formally trained as a chef, Jen Hunter transitioned away from working on the line in a kitchen after two complete knee replacements. She founded her own catering company, and is now a chef and instructor for Loblaws cooking classes, inspiring her students to find their own passion for food. Jen knows firsthand that food has the potential to cure ailments and aspires to share the positive impact food can have on health. An avid hunter and fisher who loves adventuring in the wild, Jen is not afraid of the competition on Fire Masters.
Adam Pereira from Toronto, ON
Born in St. Kitts with a Portuguese dad and Lebanese-British mom, Adam Pereira was exposed to a wide variety of international cuisine from childhood. Roadside Caribbean cooking sparked Adam’s passion for open-flame cooking and complex, fresh flavours. Adam’s approach to cooking brings together Italian and Mediterranean flavours and ingredients. Never interested in working under other chefs, his dream to open his own restaurant was accomplished with Cano in Toronto.
Roary MacPherson from Mount Pearl, NL
Roary MacPherson has been a chef for more than 25 years, working throughout Canada before returning to Newfoundland in 2003 as the Sheraton Hotel’s executive chef. Growing up on a farm in rural Newfoundland has made Roary a huge promoter of local cuisine, and equally passionate about the community. He donates his services to organizations that benefit the community, including The Gathering, a music and food festival created to draw tourism to the area. Roary loves to be challenged by up-and-coming chefs, and loves even more to beat them in competitions.
Michael Kirkwood from Toronto, ON
With gourmand parents who had him eating frog legs by the age of 12, it is no wonder Michael Kirkwood was inspired to pursue a culinary career. After completing George Brown College’s Chef Pre-Employment program, he began working in Toronto. Looking to expand his skills, Michael took a position at The Grain Store in Edinburgh, renowned for its use of local Scottish game meats, seafood and produce. Returning to Canada, Michael found positions in several high profile kitchens, now the executive chef at the Novotel City Centre Hotel.
Allan Feldman from Mexico City, Mexico
Allan Feldman’s culinary passion was always rooted in his home, Mexico City. A graduate of the New York Culinary Institute of America, Allen worked in high profile kitchens in New York City. He eventually opened his own restaurant, La Cevicheria La Barra. He later returned to Mexico City to bring his talents to his hometown. Now, he is the executive chef and partner of Julia in the Park, as well as Grandpa Elliot, La Culichi and La Rua. Allan sees Fire Masters is his opportunity to bring high-end Mexican flavours to the competition.
Tigretón Marques from Montréal, QC
Originally, from a small village in the Catalan Pyrenees, Luis “Tigretón” Marques is a Montréal-based chef who specializes in Spanish food. Learning the art of cooking from his restaurateur father, Tigretón is inspired by the hyper-local food served in their family restaurant. Determined to perfect his craft, Tigretón worked in kitchens from Spain to London, where he prepared French and Japanese food in Michelin-star restaurants. After moving to Montréal, Qué., Tigretón started a catering business, serving up his specialty, traditional paellas, and Spanish tapas.
Cam Dobranski from Calgary, AB
A chef and entrepreneur, Cam Dobranski owns and operates three successful Calgary restaurants. The culinary world has been in his blood since his first gig washing dishes in his uncle’s Edmonton diner. With a diploma in business management and cooking stints in Switzerland to Chicago, Cam is a serial entrepreneur. His three Calgary restaurants are an important part of city’s burgeoning culinary scene. Cam has defined and redefined his style of cuisine over the years, moving from fine dining to a more approachable style that lets the food speak for itself.
Felix Zhou from Coquitlam, BC
A classically trained chef, Felix is the co-owner and chef at Heritage Asian Eatery, where he taps into his creativity and roots to elevate Asian fast food and snacks. Born in China, Felix was raised by his grandparents in Vancouver. After receiving a scholarship for a cooking class, he found his passion for food. In 2018, Felix competed on Top Chef Canada. Having travelled extensively, gaining experience working in Michelin-star restaurants, Felix is confident he can take home a win on Fire Masters.
Steve Buzak from Edmonton, AB
Steve Buzak is the executive chef and director of food and beverage at Edmonton’s prestigious Royal Glenora Club. After his culinary school education, Steve went on to receive sommelier training with the International Sommeliers Guild. Steve has a passion for eating local, practicing what he preaches in the menus he creates. An avid competitor, he has participated in several cooking competitions, and alsi regularly participates in ice carving competitions, even receiving second place at the 2017 Harbin China International Ice Carving Competition.
Lindsay Porter from Edmonton, AB
A culinary star on the rise, Lindsay Porter has made an impact on Edmonton’s food scene. After successful stints as executive chef at Edmonton eateries El Cortez, Have Mercy and Woodwork, Lindsay opened her own restaurant, London Local. An upscale British pub, London Local has quickly became a hotspot for traditional British staples with local Canadian ingredients. As executive chef at Woodwork, Lindsay used a wood-fired grill every day to smoke and cook meats and vegetables, so she is excited to flex her skills and take home the Fire Masters title.
Humberto Sanchez from Toronto, ON
Humberto Sanchez was born and raised in Venezuela and has over 17 years of experience in restaurants around the world. His culinary journey has taken him from DiverXO Madrid’s only 3 Michelin-star restaurant, to the Biltmore Hotel in Miami. In Toronto, he found his gastronomic home as the executive chef at the Wilcox Gastropub. Humberto shares his love and passion for cooking with the students of George Brown College. Humberto’s most recent venture is his catering company, Paelleros, cooking open-fire paellas for events and festivals.
Kiki Longo from Port Hope, ON
Kiki Longo is here to prove that girls who grill can take down any barbecue competitor. She owns her own farm, butchers whole animals and loves to spread the joy of food with others through “Maddie & Kiki,” YouTube videos with her older sister. Kiki is a sassy country girl who loves to be out in the mud with her animals. She knows many will underestimate her skills, but having performed surgery on five of her chickens because the vet would not, Kiki can safely say there is nothing she can’t handle on her own.
Cam Dyment from Collingwood, ON
Self-taught chef Cam Dyment, turned the art of barbecue from a hobby into a passion when he discovered the powerful Traeger smoker. He followed his passion by opening The Smoke Restaurant in Collingwood. followed by a second location in Vaughan. Cam has a creative palate, and delights in combining unconventional items into exciting sensations for the taste buds. On his popular YouTube channel, he is known as “The Georgian Chef” and has created dozens of videos on how to smoke and barbecue meats and fish.
Bryan Mroczka from Orlando, FL
Bryan Mroczka’s path to the world of professional barbecue was a happy accident. He discovered a love of competition barbecue after his college football career ended and he had lost his outlet for competing. He got his dream job with Sonny’s BBQ, known for their “Random Acts of BBQ” charity that throws barbecue feasts for community leaders who have been nominated for their contributions to their city. If he took home the prize, Bryan would donate the money to Sonny’s BBQ “Random Acts of BBQ” charity, in the spirit of true southern hospitality.
Thomas Heitz from Toronto, ON
Born in Germany, Thomas Heitz comes from a European heritage that celebrates local and seasonal ingredients. Coming to Canada, he perfected his obsession with fine gastronomy under a host of celebrated chefs. Thomas is an accomplished operations leader, corporate chef, sommelier, and higher educator, with over 25 years of front and back of house operational experience within hospitality and education. Thomas loves frequenting farmers markets for locally-grown produce and knows the local fishmongers and butchers by name. As the corporate chef for the Kraft Heinz Company, Thomas is responsible for over 200 brands and product innovations.
Steven Brochu from Beaumont, AB
Bringing his own creative sensibility to French Canadian cuisine is Steven Brochu’s mission. Since joining Chartier Restaurant in Beaumont. Steven has received multiple accolades for his whimsical approach to cuisine. Chartier was named the Best New Restaurant of 2016 and Best French Restaurant of 2016 by Avenue Magazine, and one of the Top New Restaurants in Alberta by The Globe and Mail, all under his careful guidance. A fervent student of food and its origins, Steven is constantly researching and adapting classic French Canadian recipes.
Phillip Dell from Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas food truck owner and chef, Phillip Dell has been transformed by food. He lost 100 pounds through improved nutrition and that experience transformed his outlook on life, becoming an award-winning natural bodybuilder and champion powerlifter. He is a 5’2” dynamo who loves competing in barbecue competitions and serving up inventive, restaurant-quality fusion food from his food truck Fusion Beastro. Phillip is a Chopped Champion, and has also competed on Cutthroat Kitchen. Coming into Fire Masters, Phillip is ready for the heat of battle.
Navita Singh from Kitchener, ON
Having worked in fine dining and now feeding Google Canada’s hungry staff with theme menus that change every week, Navita loves to play with fusion and getting people to enjoy foods outside of their comfort zone. Her favourite flavours are Indonesian and Thai, which she has mastered from travels and working in a Thai/Indonesian fine dining restaurant. Also a teacher, Navita is eager to step into the Fire Masters arena to test her skills and show her students that she is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen.
Chris Hogg from Waterdown, ON
From an early age, Chris Hogg has known that a culinary career was the right path for him. Classically trained with a majority of his career working in fine dining Italian restaurants, he has now ventured into more a corporate environment at MLSE as chef de cuisine. His passion and undeniable energy makes him an asset to any kitchen. Recently Chris travelled to Kenya with the charity ME to WE. With a win on Fire Masters he would fund another trip to explore new cultures while making an impact on communities in need.
Bruno Pascale from Flemington, NJ
Bruno Pascale opened Marley’s Gotham Grill as a labor of love, the latest in a 35-year career of running his own restaurants. Bruno graduated top of his class from the Culinary Art Institute and the New York Institute of Dietetics, won the “Salute to Excellence” from the NRA and “Best of the Chefs” Award. Grilling and open-flame cooking has always been at the heart of Bruno’s cooking style. A showman as well as a chef, Bruno is ready to make an impression and take home the prize on Fire Masters.
Victoria Alexander from North York, ON
Growing up in Castries, Saint Lucia, Victoria Alexander learned the basics of open-fire cooking and Caribbean flavours from her family. An entrepreneur and chef, she has a line of pepper sauces, spice rubs and marinades that she sells through her catering business Ti Kay La Foods, which translates to “the little house,” referencing her humble beginnings. She is the food service manager and chef for Christie-Ossington Neighbourhood Centre, where she often has to create nutritious meals for $4 per client, so she knows how to be creative in the kitchen.
Stan Hays from Pleasant Hill, MS
Leaving his corporate job behind, Stan Hays founded Operation BBQ Relief in response to the second deadliest tornado in U.S. history. Competition barbecue teams from eight states answered the call to help feed displaced families and emergency personnel in Mississippi. Headed by Stan, 120,000 barbecue meals were served in less than two weeks. Continuing the good work of Operation BBQ Relief is Stan’s goal, and they are now a not-for-profit corporation and are ready to respond to natural disaster emergencies across the United States. In 2017, Stan Hays was honoured as one of CNN’s “CNN Heroes”.
Jagger Gordon from Toronto, ON
Describing himself as a chef and artist, Jagger Gordon has travelled around the world learning food styles ranging from Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, Italian, Middle Eastern, Southern barbecue and molecular gastronomy. He prescribes to the farm-to-fork philosophy, so his cuisine is always locally sourced. A community leader, Gordon founded Feed It Forward, a pay-what-you-can grocery store that repurposes wasted organic produce from retailers to feed communities in need. He would use his Fire Masters winnings to give back to more communities across the country.
Christian Gill from Cincinnati, OH
Christian Gill came by his passion for food and cooking honestly, learning alongside his mother and grandmother. His culinary journey has taken him all over the United States for a range of opportunities from corporate chains to local catering, and even Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. He has held several prestigious positions in Cincinnati, Ohio, as executive chef at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and at the celebrated Rhinegeist Brewery. His newest pursuit has been for the perfect biscuit, elevating comfort food as the chef of Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey. If he takes home the Fire Masters prize money, he’d like to take his mom on a trip to Thailand, as she was the person who first stoked his passion for food.
Jason Rees from Toronto, ON
While his career began with 12 years in the IT field, Jason Rees’ passion for barbecue is absolutely undeniable. Self-taught, he opened his first restaurant Baju Barbecue in 2014. Since then, his focus has been on his catering company, the Pork Ninjas Barbecue and Catering Team. For that project he teamed up with his girlfriend Andrea Toole, a food blogger, sous chef and cornbread baker extraordinaire. Between barbecue catering and local pop-up dinners, the Pork Ninjas compete in barbecue competitions all over North America. Despite being based in Toronto, Ont. Jason is a member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and a certified KCBS judge.
Nick Chindamo from Souris, PEI
Throughout his career, Nick Chindamo has cooked as much on open fire as he has using ovens. Well-travelled, well read, and always looking to explore new horizons, Nick made the journey to the east coast from his home in Northern Ontario to join a talented team, working for Chef Michael Smith at FireWorks at The Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island. That role has him immersed in open fire cooking, giving Nick a leg up in the competition, bolstered by his own talent, creativity and passion. He sees competing on Fire Masters as an opportunity to continue to develop as a chef and gain valuable experience competing against North America’s best culinary talent.
BJ Smith from Portland, OR
With over two decades of culinary experience, BJ Smith applies both classic and modern cooking techniques to high quality ingredients provided by local farmers. Growing up in a restaurant family, Smith spent most of his childhood at his parents’ restaurant in South Bend, Ind. His love for cooking brought him to the former Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore. He is now the owner and executive chef of Smokehouse 21, Smokehouse Tavern, and Kim Jong Smokehouse at Pine Street Market in Portland, Ore. as well as the newest location, Smokehouse Provisions in Vancouver, Wash. In his spare time, chef Smith likes to DJ and loves making music as much as he does food.
Matthew Kershaw from Hamilton, ON
A lifelong love affair with meat has led Matt Kershaw to where he is today. Matt grew up in restaurants, with over 25 years working every role from dishwasher to manager. As evidence that food has long been more passion than pay cheque, as a teen Matt once prepared a roast leg of lamb at a party instead of letting everyone order pizza. After working in fine-dining restaurants in Canada, England and Scotland, Matt brought his culinary skills home, first opening his 30-seat restaurant The Alex in Burlington, Ont. before joining the burgeoning food movement in Hamilton, Ont., with Rapscallion Rogue Eatery, a collaboration with his partner Erin Durham. This was followed by six other properties in Hamilton, Ont. all of which explore high-end cuisine in low-key surroundings and showcase Matt’s talent and deep love for meat.
Paul Shufelt from Edmonton, AB
Passionate about food since childhood, Paul Shufelt began his culinary education at age 16, when he took a job as a dishwasher. After a short stint working in Montréal, Que. Paul enrolled in the culinary apprenticeship program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, after which he traveled to Switzerland to hone his craft. Paul draws inspiration from his travels to influence the dishes he creates. He describes his approach as “comfort food with a contemporary twist” and it has earned him several awards, the most recent being a gold medal in Edmonton’s Golden Plates Competition. When Paul isn’t in the kitchen, he keeps busy by writing his weekly column for the Edmonton Sun where he provides mouth-watering and stress-free recipes for the modern family.
Calvin Truong from Winnipeg, MB
While restaurant life is hectic, Calvin Truong is certainly no stranger to it. His parents owned the iconic Spring Roll Restaurant in Winnipeg, Man. when he was growing up, and by age 22, he and wife Melody took the reins. Since then he has opened multiple restaurants, bringing his passion and creativity to each. In his cooking, Calvin pushes boundaries and crosses borders, resulting in creations like bulgogi pizza, or a sandwich topped with the flavours of okonomiyaki. Calvin is a young, ambitious chef who is ready to test his mettle against North America’s best.
Mark Steele from Ottawa, ON
Beginning his career on Canada’s east coast where he attained his Red Seal certification, Mark Steele eventually made the move west, taking on a position with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. Mark’s career within Fairmont eventually landed him in the nation’s capital as chef de cuisine at the Château Laurier. Over the years Mark has had many culinary achievements including owning a fine-dining bistro, executing multiple head of state dinners including the British Royalty and the President of France, and multiple Gold Medal wins for National & International Culinary competitions.
Valentino Pereira from Aldergrove, BC
With 18 years in the culinary industry, Valentino Periera has worked with some of the world’s best chefs on both land and sea. With a degree in hotel management, he joined Taj Group of Hotels, the finest 5-star luxury hotel group in India. Beginning as a trainee, he excelled and was promoted through the ranks to the role of senior chef de partie. His time there only stoked his thirst for travel, leading him to take a role aboard a luxury cruise line, working with Michelin-starred chefs in restaurants on the high seas. After a stint in London, England, Valentino made his way to Vancouver, B.C. tackling several high-profile projects and feeding a passion for competition, winning Silver at B.C. Iron Chef, and taking home the win on Food Network Canada’s Chopped Canada.
Matt Demille from Prince Edward County, ON
Growing up in rural Ontario, Matt DeMille was surrounded by a bounty of locally grown food, before farm-to-table was cool. His resume reads like a “Best of” list of Toronto, Ont.’s restaurants, including Le Select Bistro, Enoteca Sociale, and Parts & Labour, where he grew creatively and honed his love for Canadian-inspired comfort food while working alongside executive chef and friend Matty Matheson. After moving to Prince Edward County with his wife and their young family, he was part of the team that opened Drake Devonshire Inn. He then stepped out of the restaurant and launched a small, in-house, interactive dining program that brings the best of the county into his clients’ homes.
Paul Lillakas from North York, ON
With a different path than most into the world of professional cooking, Paul Lillakas has a unique perspective on the industry. His culinary career has not solely been on the line in restaurants, as he has also spent time in the media as the former food editor of Canadian Living magazine. Outside of the media world he has worked in restaurants, banquet halls, private catering and even a butcher shop. His love of food was first stoked at his Estonian family’s cottage, where his grandfather taught him all about open flame cooking with wood and coals.
Rebecca Russo from Toronto, ON
Growing up on a self-sustainable farm, Rebecca Russo was surrounded by food from childhood. Her love of food and her passionate activism have always been hand-in-hand as she developed her career. After studying at Niagara College, she brought her commitment to environmental care and sustainable, fair-trade food into her role as chef and manager for a sustainably run cooperative faculty and grad lounge at York University in Toronto, Ont. She believes some of her love for food can be traced back to her Italian heritage and would love to take her two kids to Italy with her Fire Masters winnings, to share that culinary adventure with them.
Brian Thibodeau from Souris, PEI
Raised in a small town in the Eastern Townships of Québec, Brian Thibodeau has worked hard to reach the point he is at in his career as the sous chef for Chef Michael Smith’s restaurant at The Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island. He has worked from coast to coast, where he has learned from great chefs such as chef Frank Pabst at Blue Water Café in Vancouver, B.C., chef James Walt at Araxi in Whistler, B.C. and chef Antonio Park at the famed Park Restaurant in Montréal, Qué. In his current role, he gets the chance to cook strictly using wood fires, a leg up for the Fire Masters competition. Bryan has always been his own hardest critic with the “first in, last out” mentality and a constant drive to improve his techniques.
Diona Joyce from Toronto, ON
Twenty years ago, Diana Joyce arrived in Toronto, Ont. as a lone immigrant with no job prospects. Not having gone to culinary school, Joyce learned all of her skills in the kitchen from her mother. Today, Joyce is on a mission to put Filipino cuisine on Canada’s culinary map, as the chef and owner of Tita Flips, a successful catering company whose clientele extends beyond Toronto’s growing Filipino community. She is also the woman behind the restaurant Kanto, which specializes in Filipino street food. Now in its fifth year of business, Kanto has generated rave reviews from media, food bloggers and on social media.
Dylan Kier from Montréal, QC
Having studied Southern barbecue in Kansas City, Miss. Memphis, Tenn. and St. Louis, Miss. Dylan Kier has dedicated 10 years to cooking and curing with fire. He is the chef and owner of three Montréal, Qué. restaurants; Griffintown Cafe, Tejano BBQ Burrito, and Blackstrap BBQ. Passionate about the grill, Dylan has competed in both provincial and international barbecue competitions. Open-fire cooking has become his all-consuming passion both at work and at home, and he is hoping the Fire Masters prize money can go towards more kitchen tools he needs to make the best-cured and smoked meats possible.
Abhi Patil from Edmonton, AB
Born in India and trained in London, United Kingdom, Abhishek Patil has spent his career mastering flavours from around the world. He trained in a Michelin-star restaurant in France before taking on roles that taught him the art of pastry at major hotels around the country. Since he moved to Canada, Abhi has become enamored with fusing world flavours into local ingredients and dishes, which is the beauty of Canadian cuisine. He has had success in his brief food competition career so far, taking gold in the Canadian Food Championship, and is confident that Fire Masters will hand him another title.
Doreen Prei from Edmonton, AB
Born in East Germany, Doreen grew up eating cabbage, lard and speck, and hunting mushrooms. When the Berlin Wall came down, her culinary world was blown open, inspiring a love of both cooking and eating. A Michelin-star trained, award-winning chef, Doreen has cooked in private restaurants and hotels in Germany, Ireland, and Canada. Doreen won silver at her first Gold Medal Plates Championship in 2016 and won gold at the Canadian Food Championships in the Seafood category. Always in pursuit of more knowledge and skills, Doreen would reinvest her winnings from Fire Masters in her culinary education.
Gerry Quintero from Toronto, ON
Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Gerardo Quintero grew up cooking outdoors with smoke and fire, from his earliest memories of making cabrito with his grandfather on special occasions to weekly Sunday dinners for the whole family. Now based in Toronto, Ont. Gerardo has been a key team player in the opening of six restaurants, but his dream is to own one of his own. He has been developing his arsenal of culinary knowledge until he is ready to become his own boss. Growing up with Mexican flavours and ingredients dominating his palate, his food always has a signature Mexican flair.
George Logue from Montoursville, PA
Originally attending university to major in business, George Logue changed career paths mid-education to attend culinary school. Right before he had the chance to begin training to be a chef, his National Guard unit was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq. On his return, he attended culinary school at the Pennsylvania College of Technology and graduated magna cum laude. Immediately afterward, George opened up Acme Barbecue & Catering and went on to purchase and renovate a historic barn which has become the area’s premier wedding venue. He operates year-round, hosting nuptials, gatherings, and shindigs of all sorts. George competes annually in barbecue competitions and has won several prestigious awards.
John Thomson from Ottawa, ON
Barbecue sauce runs in John Thomson’s veins, and it seems that every spare moment he has is dedicated to his favourite hobby. With a full-time job in IT and a young family of three kids, those spare moments are hard to come by, but it is a labour of love. John sits on the Board of Directors for the Canadian BBQ Society and is a busy barbecue Instructor, but it is the competition that drives him. In 2017, John was in his seventh year as Pitmaster of Team Eatapedia, and it was a banner year for him. With years of experience, starting as an amateur competitor, John now hosts barbecue classes where he shares experiences, guidance, tips and award-winning food.
Rob Reinhardt from Pilot Butte, SK
With a big reputation in Canadian barbecue, Rob Reinhardt has a winning record to uphold. Cooking and grilling had been his lifelong hobby, but in 2008 he founded Prairie Smoke & Spice, which transformed his hobby & passion into a business. Rob has led his team to 21 Grand Championship wins to date, including Canadian Nationals and two World Champion awards. He owns and operates the largest Ribfest operation in Western Canada, and catering company able to feed groups of 50 to 5,000.
Charlie Brown from Montreal, QC
Young, charming and confident in the kitchen, Charlie Brown is always looking for every opportunity to take his career to the next level. His passion for food was nurtured at a young age by his uncle, a caterer and chef. Since graduating from St. Pius X Culinary Institute, he has perfected his grilling and smoking skills at Montréal, Qué. staple Queue de Cheval and Robbie’s Smokehouse. Proving his skills is this former football player’s primary goal, so Charlie is looking for the Fire Masters title more than the money, to show the world he has got the chops to back up his confidence.
Milton Rebello from Regina, SK
A Mumbai-born chef who toured the world working in kitchens, Milton Rebello eventually moved to Canada when he met his Chinese-born wife, Louise. Together they have settled in Regina, Sask. and are focused on bringing international flavours to the city’s culinary scene with adventurous cuisine created with fresh, local ingredients. Educated in India, the U.S.A. and Canada, and a champion veteran of culinary competitions, Milton is very confident about the skills he brings to the table. With two young daughters, as well as a successful restaurant and catering company, the prize money from Fire Masters would help provide some peace of mind to this hard-working entrepreneur.
Salvatore Seminerio from Souris, PEI
Passionate about his career in the kitchen, Salvatore Seminerio is determined to move past a health setback that could have hindered his career just as it began. At age 19 he was diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative eye condition that required surgical intervention and forces him to wear semi-glass permeable contact lenses. Working with chef Michael Smith’s FireWorks brigade at The Inn at Bay Fortune in Prince Edward Island, Sal has had good practice for Fire Masters, since open-fire cooking is the only way they prepare their daily specials.
Amberlynne Plourde from Toronto, ON
Amberlynne Plourde always knew she was destined for a culinary career. After spending several years in Niagara-region kitchens, the Niagara College graduate joined Toronto, Ont’s vibrant culinary scene. She quickly established herself as an integral member of The Drake Hotel’s team, advancing from her original position of chef de partie to sous chef in less than a year. Amberlynne finds a constant source of inspiration and motivation in her experiences heading up catered events, dreaming up themed menus with offerings such as a peanut butter and jelly-inspired dish of duck liver mousse with roasted peanut rosemary cream and sweet potato orange compote. Eager to take advantage of every opportunity, Amberlynne has represented The Drake at community events such as Grow for The Stop and Eat to the Beat.
Levi Biddlecombe from Edmonton, AB
Edmonton, Alta. based Levi Biddlecombe is a Red Seal Chef and owner of Why Not Cafe & Bar. After completing culinary school, Levi worked in as many different kitchens as he could to build a diverse set of skills and sharpen his palate. Inspired to run his own kitchen his own way, at 22 years old Levi opened his food truck Attila The HUNgry, serving comfortable North American dishes with an Asian twist. Eventually, Levi opened Why Not Cafe & Bar with his girlfriend, where he cooks inspired shared plates and bar snacks with heavy Asian influence. The restaurant has received incredible reviews and Levi is excited to keep developing it into a great success.
Tristen Katcher from Vancouver, BC
West coast to the core, Tristen Katcher has lived and worked in British Columbia’s best fine dining kitchens in Whistler, Vancouver, and on Vancouver Island. His food style is based around his knowledge of local ingredients, which he sources from local farms, suppliers or forages himself. He loves to understand the origins of his surroundings and then fuse those ingredients with his formal fine dining training. Tristen is known to pull out all the stops in his plating, with many technical tricks to bring to the competition.
Brian Misko from Surrey, BC
Since leaving behind a job in the software industry to cook competitively, Brian Misko has been known as one of the best pitmasters and storytellers around. He and his House of Q team have been crowned Grand Champion at many barbecue competitions. He has earned the title of Canadian BBQ Society national Team of the Year, been crowned twice Grand Champion, and been selected to represent Canada at the Jack Daniels World Invitational BBQ Championship. One of his career highlights is winning first place ribs at the 2014 World Food Championships. Brian’s cookbook, Grilling with House of Q garnered rave reviews while educating cooking enthusiasts on how to be creative at the grill.
Pam Fanjoy from Hillsburgh, ON
Before launching her culinary career, Pam Fanjoy had a highly successful career as a clinical social worker. She believes she is still building community and facilitating conversations, only now it is over a shared dinner table. Pam went to culinary school at age 40, applying her years of experience helping people into her culinary passion. Pam understands farm to table cooking because it is how she lives. Pam raises animals, grows food on her farm, and prepares the ingredients into delicious meals in her restaurant. With her Fire Masters winnings, Pam would add an open flame grill to her existing restaurant to add that layer of flavour to her menu.
Phil “The Grill” Johnson from Phoenix, AZ
Having lived in all corners of the United States, starting new businesses and careers, and ultimately taking a leap into the world of barbecue pitmasters, Phil “The Grill” Johnson has seen and done it all. Dubbed “The Jay-Z of BBQ”, Phil started barbecuing when he lived in the Bronx and moved to Phoenix, Ariz. in 2008. Not long after, people started to notice his grilling skills at backyard parties. Working in construction at the time, Phil decided to shift to the grill full time when the recession hit, and business started to slow. Using money, he saved from catering to buy a food truck he named Sammitch, which quickly became a local hit. From there he opened Trapp Haus BBQ and ignited the barbecue competition circuit with his memorable personality and unforgettable food.
Arif Khalid from Vancouver, BC
Born in Kuwait, Arif Khalid grew up around live-fire cooking and grilling and has worked hard to move up in the food industry here in Canada. He has worked as the chef de cuisine at several restaurants around the world. Currently, Arif works as a private caterer, in West Vancouver. He is passionate about incorporating global flavours into his dishes, and using open fire takes those flavours to the next level. He describes his food as global, creative and colourful.
Brandon Thompson from Ucluelet, BC
Brandon Thompson is the kind of chef that takes full advantage of his surroundings to be able to create amazing dishes. Living on Vancouver Island, B.C. the main source of culinary inspiration for Brandon is, of course, the ocean. He loves to take advantage of seasonal fish and seafood. He and his wife also take out their paddleboards and harvest sea asparagus, bull kelp and other sea vegetation for use in the kitchen.
Felipe Milanes from Panama City, Panama
Felipe is one of Panama’s busiest and most successful chefs. In just the past four years he has opened four restaurants that rank in the top restaurant lists for his whole country. Even with all of this success, he still likes to be in the kitchen every day with his staff making sure his establishments are putting out the best possible product and enjoying the thrill of the line. Every one of his restaurants cook over wood and coals, using gas only as a last resort. He loves to deliver foods that reflect the many influences that make up Panamanian culture.
Jean Jacque Kabuya from Port Coquitlam, BC
Jean Jacques Kabuya was born in Zambia, before moving to Vancouver, B.C. with his mother at the age of five. He found his passion and love for cooking from his mother, who was always singing and cooking before making her way to bed for her graveyard shift. When not in the kitchen, Jacques could be found volunteering at YouthCO’s Camp Moomba, a camp leader where he led activities such as canoeing, kayaking, and rock climbing. These many different life experiences helped shape Jacques into the positive, forward-thinking person he is today.
Raimund Heuser from Vancouver, BC
Raimund Heuser grew up in a small town near the Rhine River in Germany, where he was a carpenter before he found a love for cooking. Even though he had never worked with food before, he was given an opportunity in a Spanish Tapas kitchen and never looked back. He went on to complete a culinary apprenticeship in Berlin and then traveled around the world staging and cooking in Austria, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand; but he never loved anywhere more than Vancouver where he now resides. Raimund is a chef whose approach to flavour is unique, he never shies away from trying new things and isn’t afraid to fail. He thrives under pressure and believes it brings out his best and most creative dishes. To him cooking with an open fire is exciting and brings an exciting new element to his food.
Samantha Medeiros from Toronto, ON
Samantha Medeiros is a highly-skilled, highly successful chef. In just 24 years, she has amassed an enormous amount of training and experience in kitchens all over the world. From France to Hong Kong and now back home to Toronto, she has worked with a vast array of cuisines. However, she loves working in an Italian restaurant that also plays with flavours from around the world and that uses wood grills and wood-fired ovens. Often underestimated due to her age and gender, she wants to show that although she is young, her skills are on par with chefs who have been working for a longer amount of time. She also wants to smash the idea of a glass ceiling for female chefs and be a leader of the next generation of women in the culinary industry. All of these factors led her to be competitive in nature, but she also knows that at the end of the day, she is her own biggest competition.
Sean Vodden from Toronto, ON
When it comes to cooking, Sean Vodden is the best of both worlds. He is traditionally trained and operates in a high-end restaurant kitchen every day. In his downtime, he is a BBQ chef that has competed in and won some of the biggest competitions, including the Turkey Smoke ancillary category at Memphis in May. He has also competed with a team in the World Food Championships and earned a place at the final table. Sean doesn’t shy away from competition and he always guarantees a dish that will deliver.
Simon De l'est from Montreal, QC
Simon De l’est was born and raised in Montreal. He is a go-getter in everything he does, especially BBQ. Simon competes in eight to ten BBQ competitions every year and he also owns and operates his own craft BBQ sauce company. Simon is charismatic, funny and loves nothing more than cooking on an open fire. When he first discovered his love for BBQ, he immediately bought himself a smoker and never turned back.
Stephanie Wilson from Kansas City, MS
Stephanie Wilson is a smart, passionate and driven. She also comes from Kansas City, Missouri, also known as the BBQ capital of the world. Stephanie is a BBQ competition champion with her team The Slabs. Growing up in Kansas City, BBQ was at the forefront of not only food but life. For her 10th birthday, her parents asked her what she wanted, and she replied, “a BBQ cookout.” Even though her birthday was in the dead of winter, they made it happen. Stephanie’s older brother started The Slabs BBQ team 20 years ago, and she had signed on to help the team but when her brother saw her passion for BBQ, he asked her to join the team and cook with them full time. Later that year he died of a heart attack. Stephanie knew she had to continue The Slabs team in her brother’s legacy and continues to compete and win in his name.
Clayton Smith from Hamilton, ON
Clayton Smith describes his culinary style as bold, multicultural and humble. Although he is not professionally trained, he has worked in kitchens his entire life and has learned in every one of them. He now runs a very successful culinary business and works as a food blogger and recipe developer on the side. Clayton likes working with his hands outside of the kitchen and has a passion for furniture making. He has even made his own rolling pins since he was 12.
JP Dublado from Edmonton, AB
JP Dublado was born in the Philippines but grew up in Alberta. Watching his mother in the kitchen, he always knew he wanted to be a chef. He trained at S.A.I.T, finishing with honours and a full scholarship. Now, having worked in the culinary industry for more than 14 years, JP describes his style as high end, seasonal and sustainable. He worked as the Chef de Parte at Calgary’s River Cafe for five years and is a smoking expert. JP hopes to educate people about Filipino cuisine and make it as commonplace as Japanese or Chinese.
Matthew Ravenscroft from Toronto, ON
Matthew Ravenscroft’s culinary degree happened in the kitchen. He is a chef that is on the leading edge of the plant-based culinary revolution…but don’t be mistaken, he can still work his magic on the grill with meat or vegetables. At his core is creativity and culinary innovation. Matthew started working in Toronto with Matty Matheson at Parts and Labour and then running catering and special events at The Drake. Currently, he is working in an environment where the same grilling and preparing processes that go into making a meat dish are applied to plant-focused food. He knows that with the right perspective and creativity, a vegetarian meal can be just as visually stunning, taste just as good and leave you just as full as any meat dish.
Amanda Kinsey from Atlanta, GA
Amanda Kinsey started cooking BBQ with her grandmother at an early age and eventually picked up the tradition of feeding the whole family. People always raved about her BBQ so when she needed money to send her son on a school trip to China, what better way to raise funds than to sell her famous food? Amanda was a teacher for 17 years, but money was tight, and she felt stuck in a rut. Once she saw how much money she could bring in selling the food she had always made for free, she saw the opportunity to make a career change. She now is running a very successful catering company and routinely ranks among the top BBQ chefs in the extremely competitive Atlanta market.
Dang Quatch from Toronto, ON
Dang isn’t just the first thing you say when you bite into the food from one of Toronto’s best trucks, it’s also the first name of the truck’s owner Dang Quatch. Dang is driven by his passion for open fire cooking and his love for meat. He discovered his love for open fire cooking while barbequing for his family on weekends and for large-scale family parties. When he realized that he could make a living from this, he made plans to buy and run his own food truck. Dang started out as a Line Cook at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and then Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen in Toronto. But he really wanted to start his own business and give people the food that he loves. Dang Good BBQ is comfort food at its finest and on the
Scott Mason from Saint John, NB
open, but he is also the chef de cuisine for many restaurants in New Brunswick. He loves the rush that cooking gives him and loves to work under pressure. His culinary style is traditional, but he uses many influences from a wide variety of restaurants he has worked in and. However, if he had to pick a signature style, it would be Southern BBQ with an east coast twist.