Whether in the classroom, on the rugby field or in the MasterChef Canada kitchen, Michael Griffiths (BSc ’16, BEd ’16) has always had an appetite for success.
Harnessing the same determination he used throughout his studies at Brock, the alumnus came just shy of earning the coveted cooking title on the nationally televised show’s most recent season — but considers his experience a win nonetheless.
The 24-year-old Richmond Hill native beat out hundreds of home cooks to become one of 21 finalists who faced off in the MasterChef kitchen this spring.
Despite some stiff competition, Griffiths managed to stand out among the crowd to become a fan favourite.
Along with impressive culinary skills, it was his passion for mathematics that helped him to capture the hearts of viewers across the country and ultimately reach the Top 3.
Among Griffiths’ most cherished moments on the show was an emotional episode that saw him reunited with one of his biggest supports, his sister Sarah.
Side by side, the pair worked to elevate Griffiths’ homemade sausage dish that initially impressed judges during auditions.
The challenge was fitting for the Brock graduate, who credits his academic background for teaching him to problem solve and push to continuously up his game.
Drawn to school from a young age and driven by a desire to discover, learn and explore, Griffiths felt he found his fit at Brock.
“I knew I was going there right from the get go,” he said while recalling two trips to the University — in Grades 6 and 12 — that solidified his commitment. The deciding factor was the strong sense of community he experienced from the moment he set foot on campus for the first time.
As an undergrad, in addition to working on campus and playing rugby, Griffiths developed a reputation for being an above-average student.
Faculty of Education Academic Advisor Pina McDonnell, who has stayed in touch with Griffiths over the years and counts him among her friends, remembers the Mathematics and Concurrent Education student’s impressive drive all too well.
“When I asked how Michael planned to balance his studies with competitive sport, while at the same time having a broken arm, his response was that when he puts his mind to something, he makes it happen,” she said. “I saw this same determination as I watched him compete each week on MasterChef Canada.”
Griffiths has channelled that same energy into pursuing a career in the culinary arts. Though his decision may seem like a departure from the academic PhD-driven career path he originally planned, he notes the two are more closely connected than he initially realized.
“The whole MasterChef experience really altered my path,” said Griffiths. “I realized I could do something similar, but in a different direction, a different discipline. I’m not downgrading. I’m upgrading because I’m a cook with an academic mind that’s taught myself how to do things differently than the rest.”
With the competition now behind him, Griffiths has been busy focusing on his business, Cuisine22. Through the company, he creates “experiential culinary events” that tie back to mathematics and academia, while also taking inspiration from a variety of cultures, experiences and traditions.
“I work with guests to decide on a cuisine and then I do research as though I’m trying to find answers to a problem,” said Griffiths. “I aim to discover anything and everything about that cuisine, learning about the innovators and traditional dishes before mashing everything together into a culinary experience.”
Along with his own business, the Brock graduate is also busy with several other projects, including exploring sponsorship and branding opportunities with several companies. Though larger projects are still under wraps, he revealed that a cookbook is in the works.
For Ejaz Ahmed, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Science, Griffiths’ move highlights the many avenues academia opens up to students.
“Along with high-level education, we foster dynamic experiential learning, research opportunities and skills applicable to the real world,” he said. “Our students graduate armed with the skills they need to not only succeed, but as Michael demonstrates, excel in their field and beyond.”
As he did before starting MasterChef Canada, Griffiths once again encouraged the Brock community to “stay tuned” for what comes next and reminds others to be open to new experiences and career paths.
“There’s no harm in chasing down a dream.”