MasterChef Canada’s Judge Claudio Aprile Celebrates Diversity with Butter Chicken
WHEN CHEF Claudio Aprile, celebrity owner of Toronto’s acclaimed Origin restaurants, says with feeling that MasterChef Canada celebrates his country’s cultural diversity, his enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be contrived, for he himself is a face of the rainbow-hued nation.
A MasterChef Canada judge since Season 1, Aprile arrived in Canada when he was still a child after his parents migrated from Uruguay, and he was raised in multi-cultural Toronto, where samosa and Peking duck are as much a part of the culinary landscape as the iconic peameal bacon sandwich. Aprile grew up in a culinary landscape suffused with the flavours and aromas of the kitchens of numerous nations.
“Canada is so incredibly multi-cultural with so many different cuisines that it is an exciting place to grow up in,” Aprile said in a telephone interview with Indian Restaurant Spy. These influences, he says, have shaped the ‘global cuisine’ menu of the Origin restaurants, which draws liberally from Latin American, Japanese, Indian and Thai sources. Of course, April has worked across continents with some of the most celebrated restaurants of the world — from Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago to Nobu London, from Alinea, also in Chicago, to elBulli in Spain — and earned his spurs at Bali Sugar, the once-popular but now defunct London restaurant on All Saints Road, Notting Hill, and the subtly stylish yet definitely upscale Sen5es, Toronto.
MasterChef Canada, Aprile said, is “incredibly diverse” both from the culinary point of view and from the ethnic origins of the home cooks who are in the race for the fame and fortune that come with the franchise that has spawned the world’s most watched reality cookery shows. “We celebrate Canadian culture, the Canadian people, and the great Canadian outdoors,” Aprile said, adding that Toronto has “one of the largest Chinatowns in the world”.
Seen from Indian eyes, the diversity that the show celebrates is best expressed in the headline-making vegetable samosa with tamarind chutney and sweet and spicy green mango chutney created in Season 1 by Tammara Behl, a special needs teacher from Calgary pursuing her dream to become the next Lynn Crawford.
“I have never been to India, but I would love to go there,” Aprile said. “I would love be on MasterChef India,” he added hopefully. Talking about his Indian connection, Aprile said his business associate, A.J. Virmani, is of Indian origin — the owner of Canada’s most successful cargo airline, Cargojet, migrated from New Delhi in 1975. Unsurprisingly, Aprile loves butter chicken, a dish that is so dear to Delhiites. And at Origin, the lamb burger comes with raita and the Thai curried shrimps are served with naan.
1. Your favourite cuisine.
South American. That’s where I come from.
2. Your favourite chef.
Thomas Keller, the American chef best known for this two Michelin three-star restaurants, French Laundry (California) and Per Se (New York).
3. Your inspiration for cooking.
Curiosity. I love eating something that I’ve never had before.
4. If given a chance to choose between Mystery Box or Pressure Test…
Mystery Box. I like surprises.
5. Favourite comfort food.
I don’t really have a favourite, I like all foods. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I like Indian cuisine, I like spicy food, the complexity of flavours in Indian cuisine. I love Latin American cuisine because that’s where I’m from. Japanese cuisine is very tough. I have a lot of respect for the chefs preparing Japanese cuisine.
6. What is your view of the ‘fusion’ food trend?
I think it brings a lot of different nationalities together. As long as you respect the origin of the ingredients, you know where they come from, you understand how they are going to work together, I think fusion can then be a very exciting cuisine. I think, in India, there are so many different styles of cooking that ‘fusion’ really works out for them there.
7. What are you looking for on MasterChef Canada?
I am looking for a chef who has a really exciting attitude. Someone who is confident. Somebody who’ll never give up.
8. Which ingredient do you like to use mostly?
Sometimes, I have an idea that pop in my very mind and I build around that. Sometimes it’s an ingredient that inspires me, sometimes it may be something visual that inspires me.
9. What is Canadian food to you?
It’s a cultural melting pot. We have cuisines from all over the world. Canadian cuisine is incredibly unpredictable, it could be anything, and that’s what makes it so exciting.
To find out the timings when MasterChef Canada will be aired on different days this week, go to http://tv.burrp.com/channel/tlc/61/