It’s been a busy week for Michael Nardozza. The Horizon High School teacher has exams to mark, while dealing with newfound attention he’s receiving from his recent appearance on the Food Network show Wall of Chefs.
“I know I’m a very capable cook and so there was an opportunity to kind of showcase, I guess, my abilities,” said Nardozza.
“So when I saw the audition ad go up on the Food Network, I said, ‘I’m going to give it a shot.'”
Nardozza developed his deep love for cooking growing up, making homemade pasta with his nonna. He told Global News his grandmother inspires him because of what a great cook she is.
“Every time we’d eat there (nonna’s house), her food always tasted great. And so it’s something that I just got interested in,” he said.
The Italian Montrealer competed against three other home cooks in front of some of the country’s best culinary minds on “the wall.”
“Mark McEwan taught me how to make ricotta gnocchi on YouTube. Danny Smile has restaurants in Montreal, and I’m a big fan of his,” he said.
Nardozza says being surrounded by notable chefs was nerve-wracking, but he tuned them out once he was in the zone.
“When you really get down to cooking like…I did not hear anything the chefs were saying. I didn’t pay attention to the cameras.”
In the first round, Nardozza made his crowd-pleaser dish, eggplant caponata with veal cutlet.
“I knew that the judges would appreciate that because of just the different elements to the dish itself,” he said of the meal inspired by his roots.
In the second round, he accidentally overcooked his lamb.
“After round two was over, I was not so confident. I actually I had the impression that I may have been going home,” he admitted.
The teacher managed to escape elimination and his final dish, a poutine paying homage to Montreal, gave him the victory and $10,000 prize.
“Winning the show was quite justifying in knowing that I have the ability to cook for world-renowned chefs and them actually enjoy the food that I’m cooking,” he said.
Nardozza plans to split the money between his parents’ non-profit organization, Bearers of Love International, and towards a car for his growing family.
As for entering another cooking competition, he plans to stick to home cooking — at least for now.
“The competition itself is very intense, so in the moment, I was telling myself, like, I never wanted to do this again,” he said. “But now that it’s all over… I would do this again.”