When the Young family drove to Haines, Alaska in the summer of 1990, they had little idea of the impact the trip would one day have on their son.
It was that July, at the annual Southeast Alaska State Fair, that seven-year old Nathan first discovered a fondness for fish and chips.
“In the three days we were there I must have had it 50 times,” he said.
Almost 25 years later, it inspired him to come up with a fish and chips recipe of his own, one that would ultimately land him a spot on season two of MasterChef Canada.
The 31-year-old Toronto resident, whose day job is in marketing for a men’s grooming company, is one of 49 finalists vying to be crowned Canada’s next top chef.
It’s a varied bunch. Other finalists range from a rural veterinarian to a bartender to a tax officer.
Growing up in Whitehorse, Young spent a lot of time in kitchens around the city.
His father, a cook, plied his trade at Trails North, the Gold Rush Inn and the Chilkoot Trail Inn, among other places.
“I saw how hard he worked and how passionate he was, it really inspired me,” Young said.
“Cooking has always been in my family. It’s always sort of been a hobby of mine and it’s probably only in the past few years that I’ve started taking it more seriously.”
When Young moved from the Yukon to Toronto at age 21, he was soon exposed to a wide variety of cuisines and foods he’d never tasted before. “I didn’t eat a Jamaican patty until I was in my 20s. Down here, that’s what all the high school kids eat.”
Young discovered Korean food, and barbecue in particular, which became his favourite cuisine.
Kimchi, a spicy cabbage served with almost every Korean meal, is one of the foods Young learned to love.
“It smells like a used sock but once you start eating it, you just want more,” he said.
Young has a friend who took part in season one of the television show and who encouraged him to try out for it.
He told him it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and there was no sense in having any regrets.
After Young auditioned for a culinary team in Toronto last year, he received a call from the MasterChef Canada producers a few months later telling him he’d been accepted on the show.
Then, he auditioned for a panel of judges – Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung, and Claudio Aprile – and made the cut.
Although he can’t reveal too many details about the show itself, he said he was surprised by the level of competition from his peers.
“A lot of people took time off to study with a professional chef,” he said.
“I’m just a guy from the Yukon who likes to cook for his wife. It was one of the most challenging but also rewarding things I’ve done in my life.
“It was an amazing experience and I met some great people there.”
With the show behind him, Young said he isn’t sure about whether he wants to make a career out of cooking.
If the opportunity presented itself, it’s something he’d seriously consider, he said.
The series kicks off on Sunday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. on CTV.
Contact Myles Dolphin at