Ellie Hadley of Port Alberni cooks eggplant parmigiana during the ‘crowd pleaser’ round in an episode of Wall of Chefs that aired Feb. 21, 2022. (Photo courtesy Food Network Canada)

Ellie Hadley of Port Alberni cooks eggplant parmigiana during the ‘crowd pleaser’ round in an episode of Wall of Chefs that aired Feb. 21, 2022. (Photo courtesy Food Network Canada)

Port Alberni home cook wows judges on ‘Wall of Chefs’

Ellie Hadley is the co-owner of Maehem Spirits Distillery

A Port Alberni home cook wowed the Wall of Chefs with a vegan dish during an episode of the television show earlier this month.

Ellie Hadley, co-owner of Maehem Spirits Distillery, took a favourite recipe that connects both her Canadian and British families and cooked it for a host of professional chefs, all while competing against three other home cooks from across Canada.

This is the second season for Wall of Chefs, a prime time cooking competition series from Insight Productions and Corus Studios. In each episode, four home cooks enter the Wall of Chefs kitchen to face off in three intense rounds of cooking: the first round is for crowd pleasers, the second round they are challenged to create a dish using three staples from one of the chefs’ home refrigerators, and the third they create a restaurant-worthy dish inspired by one of the celebrity chefs’ signature dishes.

Hadley’s eggplant parmigiana with tomato sauce and spaghetti on the side earned her compliments from judges Lynn Crawford, who liked the idea of turning a classic parmigiana into a vegan dish, and Nuit Regular, who said the texture “was just so perfect.”

Hadley’s episode was taped in a single day last summer in the show’s Toronto studio. “It was a very long day but fun,” she said. “I was definitely running on adrenaline by the end,” she said. Her employers, Robin Miles and Andy Richards of Dog Mountain Brewing, held a viewing party for Hadley when her episode aired Feb. 21.

She had applied for the show six months previously. “It was kind of on a whim. I saw they had a casting call on the Food Network; I applied and when through the process.

“The benefit of (the show) being in its second season is I watched the first season and had time to prepare a little bit. It was nice to have a rough idea of what the challenges were going to be.”

Hadley asked a few friends to help her practice by making dinner for them for a couple of nights with different parameters, such as giving her three ingredients to incorporate into one meal. Having transitioned to plant-based eating five years ago, she planned to present vegan dishes to the Wall of Chefs judges.

In the end, the chefs did not choose Hadley to move onto the second challenge. Michael Campoli of Montreal, Quebec won the final challenge and the $10,000 prize.

Hadley said despite not moving forward, she received valuable feedback from the chefs. “I got tips on how to improve my dish and other dishes in the future.”

She is already putting the advice to good use as she develops a menu for Maehem Spirits Distillery, which she and her husband Mike will be opening on Cherry Creek Road in the next three or four months. Aside from a menu of cocktails and other beverages using spirits distilled on the property, Maehem Spirits will have a menu with vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian options.

The distillery’s main equipment was delivered last month and construction continues.

Wall of Chefs airs Mondays at 10 p.m. PST on Food Network Canada and on various streaming services. Do you think you have what it takes to face the Wall? Apply through the Food Network Canada website at food network.ca.

Hadley’s episode can be viewed through any streaming services that carry The Food Network (including STACKTV, Amazon Prime Video or the Global TV app).

cookingDistilleriesDistilleryPORT ALBERNIVegan and Vegetarian