Thea VanHerwaarden, bottom centre, is among 12 cooks vying for the title of MasterChef Canada, which kicks off another season Feb. 14. Photo supplied

Thea VanHerwaarden, bottom centre, is among 12 cooks vying for the title of MasterChef Canada, which kicks off another season Feb. 14. Photo supplied

Vancouver Island cook returns to MasterChef Canada

Comox Valley’s Thea VanHerwaarden out for the title that just eluded her in 2017

Thea VanHerwaarden of the Comox Valley is among 12 returning cooks vying for the title of MasterChef Canada, which kicks off another season on Valentine’s Day.

The seventh season of the reality television series offers a second chance to win $100,000.

“It’s super exciting,” said VanHerwaarden, now a Vancouver resident, who finished in the runner-up position in MasterChef 2017. “I’m really eager to win this time.”

READ: Comox cook into MasterChef Canada semifinals

READ: MasterChef runner-up an award-winning broker

Since 2017, the ‘Queen of Flavour’ has appeared on Canadian and American television shows, and launched a personal brand called Théasty, under which she develops recipes for companies, creates video content and conducts private dinners.

She also spoke at an Emerging Leaders conference in Miami in 2019.

“I’m very fortunate as I’m able to speak at a number of conferences, about pursuing your passions, especially if you’re in the corporate world. Just how you can hone in on that, and pursue your dreams and make something of it.”

VanHerwaarden gained an appreciation of food at an early age, sampling cuisine from various cultures as she and her family travelled the world.

“I was nine when I had my first cow tongue in Costa Rica,” she said. “We used to spend our summers in Italy, so Italian food has a special place in my heart.”

As does Mexican — likely inherited from her father who grew up in Arizona, close to the Mexican border.

“When he came to Comox, he brought his ’Tex-Mex’ style of food to Comox. We ate that way every week.”

But pasta is her go-to, specialty dish.

“I think I make fresh pastas two or three times a week. It’s like my de-stressor at the end of the day.”

VanHerwaarden developed her cooking skills after sustaining a broken back in 2006. Homebound, she spent a great deal of time in the kitchen. Then she met Season 2 winner David Jorge, who encouraged her to apply for MasterChef. Her N’duja ricotta tortellini proved to be a hit in Season 4.

Tune in Sunday to find out what VanHerwaarden and the other cooks are tasked to create in the kitchen.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” she said.

MasterChef Canada: Back to Win airs Sunday, Feb. 14 on CTV. There are 12 episodes.

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