It hasn’t been easy keeping it under his chef’s hat.
After being selected to compete on Season 3 of the Food Network hit show Chopped Canada, Sarnia’s Paresh Thakkar has been itching to talk.
“I couldn’t tell anyone,” he said. “And I’m still not supposed to tell anyone if I won, not even my wife.”
Sometime in the past year – he’s sworn to secrecy about when – Thakkar, the owner of Personal Touch Eatery & Catering on Mitton Street, was asked to compete in the culinary show, which pits four chefs against one another each week to produce the best appetizer, entrée and dessert in a limited time.
A panel of judges – Thakkar can’t identify who judged his work – chops a competition after each round until the winner is declared and awarded $10,000 at the end of each taping.
Thakkar, 35, is pretty good at keeping a poker face when asked if he’s $10,000 richer.
“I was a fan of the version of the show in the U.S. and I applied to be on Season 1 when Chopped Canada started,” he said.
There was no response and he all but forgot about it until friends urged him to apply for Season 3.
“I like the competitive spirit of the show,” said Thakkar. “And I knew it could be an opportunity for me to showcase myself on network TV and show there is talent in Sarnia.”
Chefs competing on Chopped Canada must use the ingredients contained in a basket for each course.
Competitors are chosen after a screening of their application, telephone interview and meeting with producers. The difficult process and took months, Thakkar said.
His episode, Duelling Over Devilled Eggs, airs March 5 and also feature chefs Dan Worth of Fernie B.C., Lynda Smith of Comox, B.C., and Melanie Robinson of Sebright, Ont.
A blurb on the show’s website states:
“A native son of Sarnia, Ont., to Indian and Ugandan parents, Paresh was surrounded by family and unique international cuisines growing up. He hopes his background and skills can help him win the money to expand his small take out restaurant, Personal Touch Eatery & Catering, and put Sarnia on the culinary map.”
In addition to the basket ingredients competitors can draw from the Chopped Canada pantry, which Thakkar describes as his “dream” pantry.
“They’ve thought of everything,” he said. “It really brought the creativity out in me.”
Playing around with local ingredients and using whatever is most available is a trademark of his restaurant menu, which has a daily special he “makes up.”
Thakkar, a Red Seal chef with an economics and accounting degree, opened Personal Touch four years ago and renovated the nine-seat restaurant last summer. The business, especially the catering end, has taken off the past few years, he said.
Chopped Canada finally announced Thakkar’s participation last week.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “I posted that I was on Chopped Canada and people have been congratulating me everywhere I go. I’ve got 1,400 likes on my Personal Touch post and 587 likes on my personal page.”
That’s all he’ll share, however. The show insists on confidentiality and won’t allow him to talk about the experience.
“I’m nervous about seeing myself on TV,” he allowed. “I don’t know what I’m going to look like.
“But I will say I feel a bit like a local celebrity. “