Master Chef Canada Winner Jennifer Crawford Goes “All In” on Cooking, Wrestling – and Life
In life, it’s not often you come across someone who is truly dynamic that draws you in the way Jennifer E. Crawford, the 2019 winner of Master Chef Canada, does. During their stint on the show, they quickly became a fan favorite by letting their spunky personality shine and creating awe-inspiring dishes that look too good to eat.
Once called “the most talented home cook we’ve seen in six seasons,” Jennifer is much more than a talented food enthusiast. Whether creating new recipes or preparing for the next big wrestling match, she is a colorful personality who loves to throw down in the kitchen and the ring. Since their monumental win, Jennifer has made a name for themself in the culinary world by collaborating with elite chefs, participating in speaking engagements, and writing for food columns.
Recently, Jennifer has been working with their partner to renovate a mid-nineteenth-century farmhouse. We had the opportunity to catch up with Jennifer and chat about their latest projects, including their kitchen renovation and the inspiration behind designing the space.
Q. You’re such a dynamic and interesting person. Can you share a little about yourself?
A. I really love a lot of things and try to design my days to make as much room as possible for all of them! I grew up in Kingston, Nova Scotia, and now I am so grateful to live just 45 minutes from there. There are a few pillars that I build my life around: creativity, athleticism, food, sobriety, friends and, most importantly, love – of life, pursuits, and people.
Q. Food obviously plays a huge role in your life. When did you fall in love with cooking – and what do enjoy most about it?
A. Even my earliest memories are of food. When I was 3, my favorite snack pairing was maraschino cherries and black licorice. By 8, I was making lattice-top apple pies. For a kid to have the chance to mess around in the kitchen, screw things up, and get things right – does so much for self-esteem and developing a growth mindset. You can always be learning, and no one ever starts at the top. Imagination is a big part of my life – food is a chance, each day, to manifest those things with your own hands and then share the joy and vulnerability of it with others.
Q. When, and how, did you start your wrestling career?
A. Pro-wrestling is a huge part of my life – first as a fan, then as an athlete. As a kid, I was just dazzled by the glamour, the macho energy balanced by how fancy and sparkly it all was. In 2018, I trained and went hard – I flamed out, struggling with PTSD and addiction. When I addressed my issues, I was determined to take another go at it, and I’m so grateful I did. Since winter 2020, I’ve been training in earnest and had my first match in July 2020. I’ve fought in multiple matches throughout Nova Scotia – it is a dream come true.
Q. What’s your training regimen like?
A. Training reminds me daily that I can do hard things and rise to the occasion to do them with consistency and determination. It’s very dynamic, and the variety keeps my brain happy – lots of strength movements, gymnastics, agility, and intense cardio that I like to take to the limit. Training is for the mentality, knowing that you can execute exceptionally difficult movements under fatigue and pressure, keeping yourself and your opponent’s safe. Whenever I don’t feel like training, I remember that it’s not all about me – it’s about keeping my fellow wrestlers safe and about the people who have paid their hard-earned money to see us do what we love. Care for others is often the thing that gets me off the couch and under the bar each day.
Q. How would you describe your personal style and aesthetic? What inspires you?
A. “Chaotic good” might best describe my style and aesthetic. Inspiration comes from everywhere – I don’t talk about this a lot, but I love art, poetry, and philosophy. I love thinking about how capitalism affects our personal choices in how we live our lives, how we dress our bodies and why and how it limits us and could set us free, even a little bit each day. Colors, textures, and shapes affect me a lot, and that’s true for how I adorn myself and plates of food.
Q. You’re renovating an 1866 farmhouse in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. How did that come about?
A. Winning MasterChef Canada gave me the chance to move back to my beloved Nova Scotia. I couldn’t believe that they handed me a $100k cheque. It still feels sublime, strange, and other-worldly to me. My main thought was, “Ok, I will not squander this precious, weird opportunity.” I didn’t want to play small – so I went big. A farmhouse and 2 acres big. The gratitude I feel to be here is just as intense two years plus later as it was the day I first walked through the door.
Q. As part of the renovation, you recently re-designed your kitchen. What was your inspiration for the kitchen?
A. Kitchens are where I’d live day in and out if I could. When designing it, I thought about it as the beating heart of my home – there had to be warmth, room for people, and ample space for being together. I have a lot of little collections that are precious to me – I love being able to see all my treasures lined up together, co-mingling a million memories and feelings when I glance in their direction.
Q. You chose an Elmira Fireview woodburning cookstove for the kitchen. Why did you decide to go with a cookstove – and the Fireview, in particular?
A. Literal warmth from a fire always translates into emotional warmth for me. Tending to a fire bespeaks a willingness to care for something – it feels like an act of care and precision when cooking is involved. Intimacy with my cooking tools makes me so excited – getting to know my stove these past few months has blessed my life with immeasurable joy and meaning. Cooking by fire is not hurried – it demands attention and time, the two things necessary for care and love. Loving cooking isn’t just about making food. It’s how we allocate our emotional resources and share them with others. Hopefully, this doesn’t sound too “woo,” but I’ve learned a lot about myself cooking like this, too. There are techniques and flavors you can create with fire that simply aren’t possible to replicate with gas, induction, or electricity – not to say those things are bad, they all do different things. I want my life to feel unhurried to let myself focus fully on what I’m doing, have as many avenues as possible for expression and creation. By design, the Fireview builds this freedom into my life every day.
Q. What dishes do you like to prepare with your Fireview?
A. Oh, I have so many favorite things to make with this stove. Sourdough, meatballs, babka, pastries, challah, roast chickens… but if I had to pick one, it might be charred broccoli. I’m kind of a fussy kid when it comes to eating vegetables, but this dish knocks my socks off every time. I char broccoli on the hot coals, chop it up, then finish it on the cooktop with lots and lots of parmesan, chopped parsley, lemon, garlic, and briny chopped anchovy. Even better if I get to pile it high on a slice of warm butter-fried sourdough from the oven. Making both at once with this stove is an other-worldly experience and such a complex flavor profile.
Q. What first attracted you to Elmira Stove Works appliances?
A. Classic, elegant, thoughtful pieces that withstand time and hard work have a gravitational pull on my heart. Elmira Stove Works appliances already have a long legacy of beauty and durability. I knew that whatever I chose would be an extension of me by nature of how much time we’d spend together – the Fireview was such an easy choice. I agonized over many little decisions in the kitchen, but this choice came fast and effortlessly.
Q. Anything else you think our readers would like to know?
A. I’d just like readers to know that if you’re leaning towards this stove but feeling on the fence – do it. You will absolutely fall in love and be so grateful that you went all-in.
Thank you, Jennifer E. Crawford for taking the time to speak with us. To learn more about Jennifer and their great recipes, visit the website www.jenniferecrawford.com/recipes.
Be sure to follow Jennifer on Instagram @jennifer.e.crawford.