Agassiz resident Tammy Wood probably has the best-tasting dinner on her table tonight. It might be a Greek venison kleftiko with puff pastry or maybe venison samosas. It could be Italian elk sausage or perhaps braised, roasted elk with caramelized onions and mushrooms served atop a turnip horseradish puree.
“My passion is cooking and creating,” Wood explains. “I’m very calm in the kitchen. It’s my sanctity, my peace.”
Wood is a hunter but she takes her cooking to a whole new level with gourmet treatments of game meats. Her six children all like her cooking. But Wood recently brought her culinary skills to some critics more challenging than kids and she wowed them too. Wood has been announced one of the top 50 finalists in the second season of MasterChef Canada.
This reality TV show features amateur cooks from across Canada vying for the $100,000 prize and accolades as a master chef. The finalists are as varied as can be, from a holistic nutritionist in Brampton to a retired pro football player in Vancouver. There’s a veterinarian, a bus driver and stay-at-home moms, all seeking a spot in the top 16.
Wood grew up with parents who had a passion for food. Her dad has worked as a camp cook his whole career and her mom is also a “fantastic” cook who loves Asian cuisine. She grew up not on mac and cheese, but on Sunday morning visits to Vancouver for dim sum, on authentic Indian cuisine, on unique and creative foods and ways to prepare them. It gave her an adventurous spirit when it comes to food and it’s something she’s passed on to her kids as well.
This Chilliwack-born resident is raising her six children in Agassiz on her own after losing her husband before their youngest was born. Her children help her in the kitchen and her oldest goes hunting with her now too. As we sat in Wood’s kitchen, a sumptuous aroma filled the air from a simmering pot on the stove. She remarks that it is an Irish peasant soup. Made from chicken gizzards. And she knows her kids will love it. Wood proudly cooks many “offals” such as the kidney, heart or gizzards, as they are referred to in the Chilliwack grocery store where Wood works part-time.
With her favourite pastimes of hunting and fishing, Wood has access to organic, fresh meat on a regular basis for her family. She hunts, cuts and prepares the animal from start to end.
One thing Wood has found is there’s not a lot of recipe books out there for game meat so she has taken matters into her own hands and started creating her own cookbooks. She’s just finishing up her first cookbook called “Around The World in 30 Plates” focusing on venison.
In her Youtube submission to MasterChef, Wood talked about her passion for hunting. After submitting her video, she heard back the next day from MasterChef. She ended up getting a call to go to a closed audition in Vancouver and, after waiting for every other contestant to be called, finally got her chance to show off her cooking skills to the judges. She brought with her a tasting plate with smoked beer pepperoni, sage-venison sausage and cherry-smoked Jack Spring salmon served with puff pastry.
While the filming has already taken place, Wood is tight-lipped about the outcome. All she can say now is, “stay tuned.”
MasterChef Canada quickly became a hit in its inaugural season, averaging 1.8 million viewers, becoming the most-watched Canadian series in the country for the 2013/14 broadcast season. MasterChef Canada premieres its second season February 1 on CTV following the Super Bowl game. It’s rebroadcast on Feb. 8 at 7p.m.