Football players aren’t usually known for their discerning taste buds; when Brad Smith was catching passes in Edmonton, he was no different. Thanks to his new job, though, his palate is now a little more sophisticated.
Smith, who was a slotback with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2010 and 2011, is the new host of Chopped Canada. The third season will debut on Food Network Canada later this year. On the show, chefs from all over the country compete to make high-end dishes from mystery ingredients.
Those dishes are a far cry from what Smith and his teammates would chow down on in Edmonton.
“We were always at Mucho Burrito,” he says with a laugh. “That was like the rite of passage – you had to go to Mucho Burrito!
“But the Edmonton culinary scene is really kind of crazy, because Edmonton is such a diverse place,” he adds.
After leaving the Eskimos and the CFL, Smith was the main man on the first-ever season of The Bachelor Canada, and then transitioned into a broadcasting career, co-hosting Breakfast Television on Citytv in Toronto.
” [On Breakfast Television,] I quickly found out that my favourite segments were when cooks would come in. I would be standing there just waiting for our floor director to go to break so I could eat everything they made,” he says.
The Chopped Canada kitchen is just as competitive as the football field, though, and Smith is finding a lot of similarities between the people in the two environments. “Being a chef is a very blue-collar job, and so is playing in the CFL. People assume that both lifestyles are very glamorous, but they’re both a lot of work with not a whole lot of reward.”
The new season of Chopped Canada will be the biggest ever, with past contestants returning for shots at redemption on some of the 31 episodes, as well as a Teen Tournament featuring 13- to 17-year-old chefs, whom Smith says left him in awe.
“At 13 years old, my parents had to child-proof the kitchen so I couldn’t hold a knife. And these kids have knife skills like you wouldn’t believe,” he says. “The food they put out, with the time constraints and not knowing the products, it was crazy.”