"I wish I could have done a little more,” said a resigned Michael Varga.
The 39-year-old Vancouver fire fighter was the most recent home cook sent packing from the MasterChef Canada kitchen after an extremely competitive elimination challenge on the most recent episode.
“Even re-living it right now is a bit emotional, “he confessed as he remembered his final cook. “I just had so much more to give.”
Varga found himself having to cook to keep his spot in the competition after his team came up short in a high-concept doughnut challenge at Toronto’s Cherry Beach. The home cooks were divided into three squads who had to outwork each other to sell the most doughnuts to hungry dog owners. Ultimately the green team, helmed by Marissa, took the day with a warming apple donut that scored points with the chilly dog lovers. The home cooks from the other two losing teams went on to face off in an intense pressure test.
“I think conceptually our doughnut was the best,” said Varga, “but at the end of the day the voting was just so close.”
After a twist that saw Andy and Nadia reprieved from the elimination challenge by their fellow contestants, Michael Varga, Eugene Cheng, Michael Griffiths and Jen Jenkins remained to battle it out in a dish replication challenge. To the shock of everyone, Chef Michael Bonacini revealed that dish to be a tricky Russian savoury pastry dish known as salmon coulibiac.
"Oh s***, is the first thing I thought,” Michael said with a chuckle. “They told me the name of it and I’m thinking how many qs are in coulibliac? Not only is it a difficult dish to execute but it’s a difficult dish to pronounce!”
The fish delicacy which includes seven layers of ingredients requires skill, attention to detail and to the chagrin of Michael Varga, time, to pull off successfully.
“75 minutes to put that thing together is insane,” he lamented. “I got everything into it but I should have been a little more organized. Time management just got me.”
While Jen was the clear winner with her near-perfect replication, Michael G., Michael V., and Eugene all had some trouble with the complicated layers and fine technique involved. While Michael G. flew through his prep, Michael V. seemed to slow throughout the challenge. Despite a perfect cook on the salmon, his version fell flat on flavour and lacked the finesse the judges were searching for and he was sent home.
“I definitely teared up; I’m not going to front,” he said. “But I’d been away from my family for longer than I’d ever been, so I was excited to be able to go home and see them.”
Family is something that is incredibly important to Varga who revealed that if it weren’t for his wife’s urging he would have never applied to be on the show. Every week since the premiere, he’s been faithfully hosting MasterChef Canada viewing parties with his family and friends.
“We were watching last night with my son and he was just devastated. He was like “I need to talk to the judges. You should still be there!” Varga revealed while laughing.
Throughout the season Michael charmed fans with his kind demeanor, honest nature and natural charisma. He was a strong competitor in every challenge and became a contender early with a flavourful paella that earned him second place in the first elimination challenge.
“To be under that pressure and to persevere and come out on top, was such a cool experience and I think set the tempo for the rest of my run on the show."
After 13 years as a professional firefighter, Michael does not feel the need to leave a career he loves, but opportunities in the culinary world have already started to present themselves.
“I’ve actually done some pop-up restaurants with Eugene and Kaegan. We’ve actually become pretty good buds,” he revealed. “[The pop-up events] literally sold out in two days. They’ve gone really smoothly and have had great reviews. I’m also doing catering events and giving cooking lessons at local kitchen stores,” he added. “The sky is limit. I’m just going to see where this crazy journey is going to take me."
So despite leaving the competition earlier than he would have like, Michael Varga is ultimately happy with his MasterChef Canada experience.
“I feel really fortunate and humbled to have been a part of it,” he said. “What an amazing ride. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Watch Michael attempt to battle his way back into the MasterChef Canada competition on the first episode of Redemption.
Stay to up-to-date with Michael Varga, by following his Instagram account. Watch new episodes of MasterChef Canada, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on CTV.