Midhurst native Dylan Benoit is back heating up the small screen this week as the host of Food Network Canada’s third season of Fire Masters.
Each episode challenges three chefs to show off their grilling talents and culinary creativity for a chance to go head-to-head with a renowned judge in the third and final round, fighting for a $10,000 cash prize and the title of Fire Masters champion.
Viewers should expect more action and creativity with this new season, Benoit told BarrieToday from his home in the Cayman Islands.
“One of the things I love about this show is we bring in chefs (and) competitors from all over North America, Mexico and the Caribbean and they always bring with them unique ideas, ingredients, techniques and cooking styles and an outlook from all corners of the world... to the Fire Masters arena," he said. "It’s amazing to watch these chefs work.”
Even with all of the experience he’s gained over his own career, Benoit said you can’t help but learn when you’re part of a show like this.
“I’ve always believed you can learn from everybody around you. When you’re in in an environment like Fire Masters with all these qualified and talented chefs and the judges, there’s always cool stuff that people are doing, especially around live fire,” he said.
“They’re throwing whole vegetables into the coals or cooking various meats like a venison strip loin (and) rendering off a bunch of bacon and then cooking it in the bacon fat to add some richness to it," Benoit added. "We had a guy in a previous season who would throw whole cucumbers in the fire, get them black around the outside and then cut them up making a cold, cucumber salad. Little things like that you wouldn’t think to do.”
He also doesn’t mind sharing a few tricks of the trade, and said one of the biggest mistakes people make when grilling is a lack of temperature control.
“People automatically think when they fire up the grill it’s got to be high heat and cooking stuff directly over high heat until it’s either burnt or so dry you can barely eat it,” he said.
But learning how to control the temperature of your grill, much like you do your stove or oven, will increase the quality of products that you’re serving off your grill, Benoit added.
“If you can't control the temperature of your grill then you can’t really focus on any of the other things that come after that.”
Another piece of advice? Think outside the box.
“People get stuck in this little box of burgers and chicken and hot dogs. There’s so much more you can do and the possibilities are endless,” he said.
One of his favourite things to grill is seafood.
“Whether it’s fish or any kind of shellfish, when you cook those, especially with the shell on, you get this really nice roasted flavour and aroma that’s absolutely incredible," he said. "A little lemon and garlic butter, it’s game-changer.”
Benoit suggested backyard grillers also consider vegetables beyond the typical asparagus or mushrooms.
“Cuttling onions in half and roasting them until they get tender and sweet, doing things like pumpkin, smoking whole heads of cauliflower and then turning it into a puree or a soup… there is so much you can do when it comes to vegetables.”
Like any good dish, the newest season of Fire Masters has only improved with age and experience, says Benoit.
“The biggest difference from the production side of things is we’ve figured out what really works and narrowed in on tightening the screws and making nicer shots," he said. "From the competitors' side, they’re now familiar with the concept. When they apply for the show, they know what they’re getting into whereas with the first season it was an entirely new experience for everybody.
"Now they’re coming in with an expectation, and that’s elevating the dishes a little bit because people have an idea of what they need to do before they arrive.”
Prior to being named the host of Fire Masters, Benoit hadn’t spent much time in front of the camera, but said he felt pretty comfortable once they started to roll.
“I’m in my element and I’m in a kitchen surrounded by fire, and ingredients and knives and other chefs. It was a very natural transition for me,” he said.
Benoit says he has loved the experience of learning how a new industry works and seeing how a show is put together.
“It’s almost like a recipe. You take all these ingredients and put them together through a process and end up with a final product. It’s the same thing for a television show and it’s been a fascinating experience and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Fire Masters returns for new episodes beginning April 15 at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.
Benoit shares one of his favourite recipes with BarrieToday:
Spicy Balinese Pork Ribs
Indonesian food is famous for its bold flavours and liberal use of chili peppers. This recipe is a spin off a traditional Texas-style pork ribs with a slight Indonesian twist giving it a sweet sticky glaze with a fiery bite.
We begin by cooking the ribs sous vide; this technique uses a temperature controlled water bath which cooks the ribs low and slow. The major advantage of sous vide cooking is precise temperature and time control as well as zero moisture loss resulting in incredibly tender and juicy meat that is quickly flashed on the grill to finish.
If you do not have a sous vide system then traditional steam braising in the oven is always a good standby. To steam braise, place the ribs in a deep casserole or other dish so the ribs lay flat and add the stock and seasonings. Stock should only partially cover the ribs. Wrap tightly with cling film, then wrap again tin foil and braise in the oven at 200 degrees F until tender, about 1.5 - 2 hours.
Sous Vide Ribs
- 4.5 lb pork ribs, cut double bone
- 4 Cups pork stock
- 10 oz unsalted butter
- 1.75 oz juniper berry
- black pepper
- bay leaf
Balinese BBQ Sauce
- 1 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup palm sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne, or to taste
- 1 red bird chili, chopped up
- place approximately 2.25 lb of pork ribs and 2 Cups of pork stock in to each sous vide bag.
- divide salt, juniper berry, black pepper, and bay leaf evenly between the two bags.
- cook it in water bath with 50-60⁰ c heat for about 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender.
- refresh the ribs (while still in the bag) in a large ice bath.
- remove from the ice bath and keep it in fridge until ready to use.
- Whisk together all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer for around 1 hour.
- Sauce should be a little bit thick and sticky.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- dry the ribs with paper towel and place on the grill with a quick baste.
- Grill until you get good color and slight char on the ribs.
- Glaze the ribs again before removing from the BBQ.
Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve additional sauce on the side next to a crisp lager beer or a bourbon cocktail.