Kate Dean has chops.
The Tigh-Na-Mara chef de partie will be featured in an upcoming episode of Chopped Canada, a reality cooking show described by Food Network as a “high stakes, heart-pumping competition.”
The episode featuring Dean airs January 23 on Food Network. It can also be viewed online.
Filming took place over one day in June in an undisclosed location in Canada, but the Cedars Restaurant chef has been sworn to secrecy about the outcome.
“It was fun if nothing else just to try it and bring some awareness to Vancouver Island,” she said, noting for confidentiality reasons she can’t say much more. Food Network filmed Dean at her Parksville home and in the Cedars kitchen for part of the show.
In each episode four chefs from around the country go head-to-head in a three-round competition where they have to make an appetizer, main course and dessert out of a mystery basket of ingredients. Competitors are required to use all the ingredients. After each round, one of the competitors is “chopped” while the rest go onto the next round until there is just one reigning winner who takes home $10,000.
Dean said she would use the prize money to spend more time with her five-year-old son Sawyer.
She said she saw an open casting advertisement for Chopped Canada early last year and decided to apply.
“I’m a huge fan of the show,” she said. “I’m addicted to Food Network.”
After filing out an online application and doing a phone interview, Dean said she didn’t hear anything back for weeks until one day she got a phone call from an unknown number.
She admitted she had forgotten all about the competition and was completely caught off guard.
“I almost didn’t answer it because I thought it was a telemarketer,” she recalled with a laugh.
Dean was officially selected for the show in March.
As practice for the competition, she said her executive chef and sous chef would throw random ingredients at her to make a dish.
“They gave me beef consommé, lime jello powder and coconut water once,” she said.
Dean has been cooking for most of her life, thanks in large part to her mom.
“I come from the most non-foodie family you’ll ever meet,” she said. “My mom would cook to eat so I took over the cooking by age 11… but it was great because I liked to cook and she liked to clean.”
Dean went on to take the culinary program at Malaspina (now Vancouver Island University) and has since worked in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Bermuda and in the Australian outback before settling in Parksville.
Along with working at Cedars Restaurant in Tigh-Na-Mara, Dean offers cooking classes to kids where she goes to a person’s house and helps them cook dinner which they often serve to their parents. She also helps out with teaching the students at her son’s school, Springwood Elementary, during a cooking segment the kids do every two weeks in class.
“The kids love it and it’s an hour of my life that I like the most,” she said, noting her work with kids and food helped prepare her for the show. “Kids are honest with you and they know what they like and they definitely know what they don’t like.”
Cedars executive chef Eric Edwards said he’s excited to watch the show.
“They couldn’t have picked a better person,” he said of Dean. “I think it’s just fantastic. It’s fun to be thinking outside the box… I’m very proud.”
Dean said she has this Saturday night booked off to celebrate and watch the show with friends and family, reliving the whole experience for the first time.
Tune into Food Network Jan. 23 for Chopped Canada featuring Parksville’s Kate Dean. According to the show’s website, the episode is titled Rice Twice and it’s synopsis offers: “Sweet and savory brings luck to the duck in the appetizer round. The entrée round has our judges chewing over tried and true or bold and new. A sorbet showdown determines the winner!”
The judges for Saturday’s round are John Higgins, Eden Grinshpan and Antonio Park.