It’s closing on one year to the day when 50 of us made our national TV debuts, and as we begin the process of passing the torch to season 2’s crew, I’m sharing with you some of the amazing stories of some of the home cooks that have made strides in the food business since the camera lights went off.
Today, I’m bringing you the story of one of the biggest class acts of the show…no, not Danielle, Julie or Meghan (I didn’t mean class act sarcastically), I meant everyone’s favourite Italian Papi and a gentleman of the highest order, Pino di Cerbo.
I have to admit, I never got much time to talk to Pino one-on-one while on the show. We were from two different worlds; me a fresh-eyed Chinese kid from Calgary cooking in-your-face Asian cuisine, and he a stay at home dad to two boys from Mississauga cooking traditional Italian fare. And of course, his kids are freakin’ adorable, as you can see in this darling little audition video:
Despite not talking face-to-face with him, he definitely he spoke pretty loudly when it came time to cook. Spurred on by a large cheering section led by his wife Anna, he pounded out a plate of crepes filled with beef and ricotta that blew the judges away. And as he progressed on the show, he became a sleeper pick to win. With his strong Italian stylings in his pocket, Pino proved to be a rock in the rough, turbid sea that is MasterChef Canada.
Sure, his plates might not have been as flashy or diverse, nor was he the centre of every drama storm, But time and time again, he got it done. Who knows what would have happened if hadn’t been undone by a box of donuts? Nevertheless, the pastries ended his hopes to win the prize money for a charity working to end eye disorders.
But no matter how he exited, Pino showed true class throughout, playing an honourable game; I seriously can’t recall Pino losing his temper at all even when facing the pressure tests, whereas in those same situations I probably would have lost my shit repeatedly (and probably on him, too…I shudder at the very thought.)
In a game where tripping over your own feet to stab someone else in the back to gain an iota of advantage is routine, Pino was steadfast in his gentlemanly ways despite being under constant pressure, staying above the head games and the drama while letting his cooking do all the talking for him. Now that, kids, takes some mad skills.
After leaving the show, Pino wanted to do more with cooking. He still had his kids to take care of, which practically rules out working in restaurants and most professional kitchens. Yet he longed he to share his passion for authentic Italian cuisine with others. And that is where the Presidents’ Choice Cooking School came in.
A few times a month, at Loblaws stores across the GTA, you will find him wowing home cooks with his Italian flair, showing them how to create some of Mama Di Cerbo’s time-honoured recipes that’s been given a twist that is indelibly Pino. Times and locations vary by month, but from the listings he has three classes, one of which shines a spotlight on the crepes that made him a superstar. With these classes, Pino has the best of both worlds: he gets time to spend with his family, while showing the world the gospel of Di Cerbo style Italian cuisine, which in my opinion is a well-deserved reward for a gentleman and class act.
Pino is proof that in the pressure cooker that is MasterChef, that there is still a place for honourable play; one can do extremely well without resorting to dirty tactics and back-stabbing, and he got it done. The unsung hero during team challenges and rock solid when the chips were down, this is a man who will continue to forge his own path, and someone to be looking out for in the future.