Last things first: at the end of this week’s episode (the sweet and savoury snacks challenge), the producers flashed a disclaimer explaining that “due to unforeseen circumstances,” the winning contestant would “not be competing for the grand prize in the final episode.” Our minds rife with conspiracy theories neither sweet nor savoury, we dashed off a note to the show’s publicist, who reassured us there was nothing untoward going on. Apparently, after the show was taped, the producers found out that the winner had a family member who worked at a company connected to the show, making her technically ineligible. But since that family member wasn’t in a position to have any influence on the show, they decided to let her keep her $25,000 in winnings while barring her from the grand prize. Given how badly she wanted to win (see below), we have to admit we feel a little bad. After the jump, our weekly recap and tasting panel.
We weren’t able to conduct a precise count, but we’d be willing to wager that this episode had more tears in it than in all the previous ones combined. The main (but by no means only) culprit was Whistler ski bum Sonya Walos, who brought with her a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie she devised after being disappointed, like everyone else, with the quality of gluten-free products on the market. During the batch-up challenge, Walos almost melted down when she found out her assistant had accidentally doubled the chocolate chips in her cookie (“I’ve learned one thing in life, and you can’t trust anybody,” she complained). But it was Natasha Langevin of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, who got the axe when the judges thought her one-bite s’mores (which she brilliantly named s’morsels) were a one-time novelty buy. In the marketing round, Valos went up against Vancouver econ PhD student Donna Feir, whose “bacon stampeder” cookie was a homage to the stampede breakfasts of her native Calgary (apparently they tasted of buttermilk pancakes, maple syrup and, yes, bacon). When a couple of strangers helped her set up her mock stampede at Dundas Square, the bubbly Feir was the antithesis to Walos’s cynic, proclaiming that “people are so good… and it’s good to know that my faith in people is validated!” Sadly, faith in people was not enough for Feir; in a most Canadian moment, the judges worried that her cookies were, in Laura Calder’s words, “too interesting for their own good,” and sent her packing. At this point, Walos and Feir reacted in time-honoured reality TV fashion, with weeping, spluttering, giggling, gasping, hair pulling and hugs (Galen Weston’s surprise entrance minutes earlier had provoked a similar reaction). Walos’ send-off was most memorable: “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, I don’t know what to say! Thank you so much! I think I’m going to have a heart attack!!!”
After last week’s bannock pie, which took over an hour to put together, these pre-baked “smart” cookies were a welcome reprieve—just open the box and eat. Only about half the members of our tasting panel were informed beforehand that these cookies were gluten-free and, not surprisingly, they seemed to like them a little better. Although some complained the coconut-strewn cookies were a little gritty, one taster noted, approvingly, that they “didn’t have that earthy flavour that gluten-free cookies sometimes have.” Someone else added that he couldn’t “taste the stuff mentioned on the box”—i.e. puffed corn, quinoa and crisp brown rice—“and that’s a good thing.” Still, there was broad consensus that the cookies were mighty sweet; tellingly, everyone turned down seconds. The verdict: impressive for a gluten-free cookie, passable otherwise. See the cookies in action in our box-to-plate gallery »
(Images: Sonya Walos and homemade cookies, Food Network Canada; tasting photos, Andrew D’Cruz)