Jeremy Senaris took his main courses seriously as a Civil Engineering Technology student at Red River College. This summer, the 2010 grad aced appetizers and desserts too, as the runner-up on the third season of CTV series MasterChef Canada.
“I’m still pretty proud,” the 35-year-old self-taught chef says.
“I’ve always been a fan of the show. I’ve always watched the American one and then once the Canadian one started I tried out for the first season. I didn’t make it that season and at that point I was like, ‘OK I tried, I’ll never do it again.’”
Never say never. The show’s producers invited Senaris back to audition for the third season, and he wowed the judges through all 15 episodes up to the finale in June.
As a building plan examiner for the City of Winnipeg by day, Senaris works strictly by the book, making sure residential floor plans comply with building codes and checking the structural design of every house to ensure it’s safe and sound. After hours, he likes to colour outside the lines, concocting creative menus that might include anything from bison tataki to squid ink risotto and “ice cream” made with purple heirloom rice, whipped cream and candied bacon.
The key ingredient to success on both fronts is preparation.
“I’ve always been interested in structural design, which is why I took civil engineering,” he says, adding he chose RRC because he wanted to begin working in his field as soon as possible.
The three-year course met his need for speed, and the combination of classroom theory and hands-on co-op work experiences equipped him to hit the ground running after graduation.
“The co-op opportunities with the Civil Engineering Technology program are amazing. It gives you a chance to work in your six months off and it really prepares you for the field,” he says.
“I did my first one with Manitoba Highways, testing asphalt, and then my second co-op was with Defence Construction Canada, where I was a construction coordinator.”
Following graduation, Senaris began his career with Qualico Homes, where his duties included preparing building permit applications. Following a two-year stint as a project manager for Regent Construction, he joined the City of Winnipeg three years ago. These days, he’s on the receiving end of building applications from Qualico and other home builders, which gives him a first look at the latest home designs.
“I get to see all the fancy floor plans,” he says. “It’s something that I like and it’s a good job to have with the city.”
Preparation for what may become a second career as a chef started at an early age. Senaris says he always helped his mother, Marina, in the kitchen, but he began taking cooking more seriously after she died from cancer in 2008. Today, he replicates and puts fresh spins on dishes she prepared for him, his younger brother Jonathan, older sister Jennifer and their father, Edd, who also happens to be a good cook.
Fans of MasterChef Canada who are familiar with Senaris’ Asian-fusion specialties had a chance to sample them on July 17, when he was guest chef at Baon Manila Nights, a pop-up restaurant that showcases Filipino chefs in different locations around Winnipeg. The July pop-up held at the Merchant Kitchen sold out within 48 hours, and Senaris is already planning a second menu for an August feast.
And soon, he’ll have another mouth to feed on the homefront. Senaris and his girlfriend, Agnieszka Piotrowski, are expecting their first child — a girl they plan to name Mileena Marina — in late December or early January. Soon afterward, they plan to become first-time home buyers.
Right now, they’re looking for an existing home to accommodate their little family, which includes a cat named Fred and two French bulldog-Boston terrier cross dogs — brothers Inglewood and Lloyd Banks, who is named after the rap star. But if the opportunity arises to build their own home in the future, you can be sure it will be built to code, and to Senaris’ own specifications.
“I would definitely do the plans myself and have a big part in the design,” he says. “A custom kitchen would definitely be the biggest thing for me.”
— Profile by Pat St. Germain (Creative Communications, 1989)