Chopped Canada’s season two premiere is just one day away! Tune in on Saturday, January 10th at 9 e/p to watch Michael Smith, Anne Yarymowich and Eden Grinshpan dish out culinary judgement in the season’s premiere episode.  What do they and their fellow judges think about the show, the competing chefs and the new season? Food Network Canada (FNC) visited the set last year to chat with all the judges. Here’s what our panel of celebrity chef judges had to say.

Lynn Crawford joking around with fellow judge, Antonio Park, who is new this season, while returning judge John Higgins looks on.

FNC: What should the fans look forward to in the new season?
Lynn Crawford: Chopped Canada really focuses on Canadian ingredients. I’m really proud of and really thrilled to see what these Canadian chefs are doing with local Canadian products. There’s a lot to cook with that I can’t get into any details (no spoilers!) but I don’t know who’s behind those basket combinations. They’re brilliant!

Anne Yarymowich: It’s exciting as ever. There’s a lot of suspense on the show. What I really enjoy about the show is the basket. When we see some of those ingredients come out of the basket, we’re just like omg. What are they going to do with that? What’s incredible, surprising and exciting is that the chefs pull stuff out of their imagination and do stuff with the ingredients that I think ‘I don’t think I could have done that’. It’s so fun.  What the culinary team does here, they put together a great pantry, an incredible basket, they keep it exciting, they keep it fresh. The quality of the ingredients are so good. We know that all of the stuff in the pantry and in the baskets is top notch. I really love that. 

Michael Smith goofing around with fellow judges Anne Yarymowich and Eden Grinshpan during the shoot for the season’s premiere episode. 

FNC: What were some things you found surprising being on Chopped Canada?
Antonio Park: The secret basket ingredients! It’s like holy s@#%! Sometimes I look at those basket ingredients and I’m shocked. There’s certain items that you can actually use for an entree or an appetizer but not for desserts. But apart from being shocking, it makes me realize that you don’t have to see the ingredients as they are.  You have to think of it in a different way. Let’s say you’re getting a cheesecake you can use it as a cheesy component to your dish or a sweet component.  So, that’s a challenge and that’s why you win ten thousand dollars at the end of the day.

FNC:  What does a competing chef need to win?
John Higgins: You have to think on your feet, be competitive and be creative. But taste is king even for the queen as I keep saying on the show. It’s all about the taste. Sometimes it doesn’t look good but it can taste good. Visual is very important but I think taste is the most important thing, the most memorable for me.

Michael Smith:  The key to winning Chopped Canada is to stay in the moment.  To overcome the fear, to overcome the pressure,  all of which are self-caused.  And to just stay in the moment. It’s so easy to look back with 20/20 hindsight and say I would have done this or I woudl have done that.  But you don’t need 20/20 hindsight to take a deep breath. Open the basket, take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and just cook.

Roger Mooking: You have to utilize the basket ingredients. In my mind, some of the judges like to see and make sure that every basket ingredient is incredibly transformed. In my opinion, as long as the chefs take the ingredient and make a dish that’s cohesive, makes sense and is delicious. [For example], if they just take a hemp heart and put it on the plate and that was the best application for that dish, to me they have done their job.

Judges Massimo Capra, John Higgins and Michael Smith take a break from the intensity on the Chopped Canada set. 

FNC: What makes you excited to be a judge on Chopped Canada?
Massimo Capra: I get to see other people in a really tight position. It’s nice to see other chefs from all over the country and see how they handle being put on the spot. We get put on the spot all the time in our restaurants every night. A show like this can really give you an idea of how good the chef is and where his mind is at.

FNC: Have you given any of the new judges any advice?
Susur Lee: No. I don’t give them any advice I just say, “Wow, you’re amazing!” They are very good expressing their thoughts about the food. There’s good energy.We have fun and we respect each other. I’m enjoying working with colleagues who are experienced and know what they’re talking about.

Judges Susur Lee and Roger Mooking share a laugh while manning the chopping block. 

FNC: Did any of the judges returning from the first season give you any advice?
Eden Grinshpan: Absolutely.  My first day I worked with Chef Michael and Chef Anne. Both super smart, extremely talented chefs. They said to me: really pay attention to understand where these chefs are coming from, understand what techniques and what is motivating them.  Pay attention to every little detail.  Those details really make that chef shine. And just be as honest as you possibly can.  Everything in the end is all positive feedback. It’s not that the chef isn’t good, it’s just that they can do this to take them to the next level.

We’ll hear more from the judges throughout the entire second season. Check back each week for exclusive articles, photos and more on what these celebrity chefs shared with us.