One of the most popular food related shows on Canadian television these days is Masterchef Canada. The show brought together home cooks from around the country to a warehouse set in Mississauga where they cooked their hearts out for three acclaimed chefs. One of those home cooks is Marida Mohammed, who thanks a friend’s text for letting her know about the show’s auditions.
Marida was born in San Fernando, Trinidad, and grew up being surrounded by food. Her parents were separated, but her dad and grandparents lived right next door, so her and her five siblings were fortunate to have two houses with great home cooks, both serving up some delicious home cooked Trinidadian meals.
When she was thirteen she migrated to Sudbury along with her family. She stayed there till she was twenty three before moving to Toronto with her twin sister Narida in 2005.
What is your earliest food related memory?
It would have to be when we were living in Trinidad and the local fishermen would bring back their catch. They’d be driving by, honking their horns and I remember my mom would grab a basin and run outside to catch them before they passed by. She would come back with really fresh fish or shrimps and we’d sit outside while she scaled the fish or cleaned the shrimps.
When did you first become interested in cooking?
I remember tasting my mom’s food and thinking how good this is and wondering how can I make this? Also growing up in Trinidad, we had so many different cultures that influenced me with their own food like Chinese and Creole. If someone was born in Trinidad, there’s no way they can come out and say they don’t like food because everything tastes so good.
What does food mean to you?
Love. Food probably is a representation for me of health, wealth and happiness. Even when you don’t have anything else, a good meal on your table for your family is one of the most important things that you can do for them. It’s nourishment, it soothes, it’s something we use to celebrate achievements, it brings people of all different cultures together, it’s love.
How did you and your sister, Narida, decide on your Masterchef Canada audition dishes?
The people behind the show decided on it for us. When we went in to the first audition we brought in a dish of our choice. I brought in a watercress salad, red beans, rice, stewed chicken and fresh pepper sauce. My sister made paratha roti, curried chicken, channa and aloo(chickpeas with potatoes) and kuchela. So we got our call back based on those dishes. They then asked what we’d like to cook in front of the judges and we gave them a couple of options. One of my options was the bake and fish and they said to go with that. My sister suggested her curried chicken again and she also told them that she makes a Trini style vegan breakfast, and that was the one that they suggested for her.
The thing with us being twins is that when one of us do something it’s like the two of us doing something. So me getting in and her not was a win for both us. We always celebrate each others highs and we both cry for each others lows. We’re not the kind of sisters who are jealous of each other, don’t get me wrong, we do compete but when it comes to something like this, we are definitely on each others team.
Tell me about Twice De Spice?
Twice De Spice is a cooking show that we did a pilot for before Masterchef Canada. We want to use it as an avenue to educate people about exotic Caribbean food and the health benefits that go along with it. We showcase each other and our totally different styles of cooking. Narida is an incredible cook. She makes Trinidadian style food in the old traditional way, with the flavours that you might remember your Trini grandmother serving. Whereas I take that same traditional dish and I refine it with a modern spin.
If you could produce one meal for someone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you serve?
Oprah! From one strong woman to another, I would need to know what has kept her grounded and I would want to learn from her. I would make her a beautiful Trinidadian meal with curried chicken, rice, macaroni pie and callaloo. Just a full Trini spread.
What has been the best experience on Masterchef Canada thus far?
Winning the very first mystery box challenge on Masterchef Canada and making that first impression on the judges was more than I could’ve asked for. It was a curse and a blessing at the same time, because people look at you as a threat right off the bat and and work to get you out. It did bring out the claws but it made me want to work harder.
If you could bring back one contestant, who would it be?
I would bring back Dora. Dora is an amazing woman and a damn good cook. She is a real home cook who cooks her heart out for her family and was doing what I was doing: taking good home cooked meals and trying to refine it. If she had stuck around for a little longer she would’ve been a strong contender.
What happened in the last episode, did Julie really not have any idea on how to make dim sum?
None at all. My uncle is a Chinese chef in Trinidad and he taught me to wrap my first wonton at the age of 9. I grew up cooking and eating this type of food. When this challenge came up I knew I had to step up and take charge. Julie clearly didn’t have a lot of experience. Some people are good at some things and some are not. It didn’t work out for her and unfortunately it was her time to go.
Alvin is the most intimidating, but I have to say I was always pretty afraid of Claudio, I don’t know what it was about him. Michael looks very stern but I felt more comfortable with him because I used to watch him on Cook Like A Chef, so I felt like I knew him a little bit, but the other two were unknown to me.
Do Eric and Kaila really not like each other?
No, they really do NOT like each other! I think it’s because they’re so close in age. They always butt heads but deep down inside I’m sure they like each other. I know Kaila totally respects Eric and she thinks he’s a great guy and maybe deep down inside Eric might feel the same way about her.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Owning my own restaurant. Being at the front of the house welcoming people, being in the back cooking with my sister, laughing a lot and having fun. Maybe even having a cooking show where I can showcase how good and healthy Trinidadian food is.
Do you have any secrets you want to share about the upcoming episodes?
Keep watching, it’s going to be juicy. The next episode is going to be a very intense restaurant takeover of Chef Claudio’s restaurant, Origin. For most of us, it was the first time working in a professional kitchen so you’ll see who shines, who takes control and who crumbles under pressure. It’ll be a good episode, I promise.