Chris Mask is no stranger to the Sudbury food scene.
He is the host of Off the Chip Wagon, which airs on Eastlink TV and is now in its sixth season. It’s the most watched Eastlink program and is aired nationally, coast to coast.
He’s also a grill master sponsored by Broil King.
The self-taught chef, who is a Paramedic by trade, grew up in Timmins.
While other eight-year-olds were playing with their Hot Wheels cars, Mask was learning to cook.
“One side of my family was Polish, the other half Italian. By the time I was in middle school, I was preparing perogies for everyone to try in my Home Economics class.”
Together, we recently teamed up to make penne from scratch.
He prefers to use two cups of semolina for his pasta. Semolina is like flour, but tan coloured and coarser.
He begins by using three whole eggs and six yolks to create a volcano in the middle of the semolina. He then pokes holes at the mix, creating what looks like a scrambled egg mixture over time.
Mask has made pasta by hand but for a demonstration, he speeds up the process using his trusty Kitchen Aid mixer.
He rolls it out, puts it through the belt feature. All the while he is looking for a pasta consistency that is see-through when held up to the light of a window.
Simultaneously, he is making the perfect homemade sauce. Roasted cherry tomatoes, broccoli, rosemary, carrots and anything else he has left in the fridge simmer together.
“Here I am making homemade pasta and sauce and my ten-year-old, Olivia, prefers Bravo canned sauce and that kills me just a bit. She just doesn’t have the palete of an adult yet,” Mask joked.
When he’s not making his own pasta, Mask said his top two places to go for the Italian staple in Sudbury are Verdicchio’s and Bella Vita for the win.
Mask enjoys the thrill and demands of food sport competition having done about 20 barbeque competitions over the years. There hasn’t been much opportunity for that or catering for events thanks to the pandemic.
A couple months ago, he competed at the Broken Antler BBQ competition in Delhi, Ont. It was the first competition put on by the Canadian BBQ Society since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mask put his skills to the test against 25 other teams and his team placed second for its chicken presentation.
Mask also used to offer catering opportunities, but that has slowed down, too, allowing him to work on more paramedic certifications and cook for his family in the downtime.
He is a lover of all foods. But there is one he remembers eating way too much of as a child that he just cannot stomach.
“It’s an Italian dish with salt cod called ‘baccala’. It’s the one item I will never attempt to make.”
After creating the perfect pasta mix, Mask creates penne noodles. And like any true foodie, he takes the scraps and turns them into something magnificent: a Roman dish of cacio e pepe, which translates to cheese and pepper.
He effortlessly adds black shaved truffles, Calabrian chilli, cracked black pepper and pecorino goat cheese.
And while enjoying that, he quickly prepares a crepe dessert with soursop custard. Soursop is a fruit native to tropical regions. The dish also featured whip cream, basil, rambutan fruit, which is like a lychee nut but hairy and prickly on the outside.
Anastasia Rioux is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury.