CORNER BROOK Shane Ereaut has loved tinkering around the kitchen since he was a kid.
In recent months, his seasoned culinary talents landed him a chance at a $100,000 cash prize as a contestant on the MasterChef Canada television series in an episode that airs Monday on CTV.
Ereaut, a Corner Brook native who currently lives in Ottawa, is one of the Top 50 home cooks recently announced by the television program.
Thousands of amateur cooks from across Canada auditioned for the show by tempting the palates and eyes of a panel of judges during an open audition last summer.
Ereaut knew just what to do to get his way into the Top 50.
“My father was sending me up a piece of salmon that he caught,” Ereaut said in an interview Wednesday. “I talked to my uncle, who is a professional chef, and he told me I should definitely cook the fresh salmon for the judges because you can’t get any better than that.”
Ereaut, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who still drives truck with the Canadian Armed Forces, won the judges over with his pan-seared Atlantic salmon, served up with a mâche salad drizzled with a homemade dressing.
The salmon may have gotten him onto the show, but Ereaut saved what he called his “signature dish” for the actual TV show. For that, he whipped up a mushroom and goat cheese omelette.
“That was one of the first things I ever cooked and I’ve been perfecting it over the years,” he said. “So, I felt confident cooking it in front of the judges on the show.”
The secret to a great omelette, said Ereaut, is to not use milk and to cook it on a low heat.
How his omelette recipe held up to the show’s judges cannot be revealed until the program airs.
Ereaut cooks as a hobby, sometimes putting together a fancy meal that only he gets to enjoy. He did help feed hundreds of hungry soldiers once, though.
When stationed in Petawawa, Ont., Ereaut’s reputation for being a bit of a chef was called upon by the cooks in charge of feeding more than 400 people after a military exercise. They asked him to take care of the steaks — all 450 or so of them.
“I lost about 10 pounds in sweat, just from leaning over the grill that day,” he joked.
He likely did a lot of perspiring while cooking under the bright lights and in front of the television cameras too.
“It was very surreal that me and my culinary knowledge made it to the Top 50,” he said.
He had to burn up some of his time off from work to be a part of the show, but Ereaut has absolutely no regrets about doing it.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I absolutely loved it,” he said. “Something like that doesn’t come by very often, especially when you’re just trying it on a whim.”
While he could not say if he won the $100,000 grand prize, Ereaut did say how he would spend that sort of cash.
“I’d go on a nice long vacation and buy a new sports car,” he said.
Ereaut wasn’t the only person from Newfoundland and Labrador on the show. Billie-Jo Picco, a licenced practical nurse from Mount Pearl also cooked for the judges on the show's Monday premiere.
Monday’s show airs 9:30 p.m. Newfoundland time.