Best Advice from Past Competitors


Rick Matharu (Photo credit: JD Dorka, Karmagine), Jacqui Keseluk and Don Harquail

What is it like being on Recipe to Riches? We asked winners from last season about their experience and received some valuable advice on marketing and what they learned.

Rick Matharu Series Winner Season 2

What advice would you give to this season’s applicants when they’re developing their recipe?

Just remember that your recipe is your product. Don't think of it as just yummy food.  Right off the bat, envision it as a prestigious President's Choice product that will be on the shelves all over Canada. You want to make sure you are focusing on taste, but also a few other key ingredients. One of them is marketing. Is your product marketable to the mass public? Do you see your product hitting the shelves and others relating to it? Is there a story behind your dish that brings in your family traditions? Or is your recipe reflective of your lifestyle?

Editor’s note: Read our article on branding your product for more marketing tips.

The other key factor in developing your recipe is asking yourself, is it easy to mass-produce? It is sometimes hard to mass-produce a recipe that has over 30 ingredients. So keep it simple, although that doesn't mean your dish should lack personality. Make your dish a reflection of you, but also make it stand out with creativity and originality. Most importantly, think about taste and presentation. No one is going to like a product that doesn't taste amazing. Focus on your dish, give it a fun or bold name, and have fun with it. Present it in a way you would want it served to you in a restaurant.

What’s your secret for beating the pre-audition jitters?

Just be yourself and sell you, not another character you have in mind. The more you sell yourself and the more honest you are with yourself and your dish, the more the story will create itself. I remember being so nervous when Recipe to Riches was filming me for my intro video. I was speaking so fast, my glasses were fogging up because I was so hot, I was pacing very fast. But then I realized, this is a dream come true. A dream of mine was to have my product on grocery store shelves across the country. That was happening. Why should I be so nervous? It's not every day you get to be on national television and show off your food and culture.

Here are a few tips:

If you feel nervous and you have those butterflies in your stomach, take a few DEEEEEP breathes, and start counting backwards.

When you see the judges, don't plan a script. If you plan a script and then start to get nervous, you will have no idea what you have just said. It's embarrassing! Think positive and go in there knowing that you will receive a gold card and sell them your best dish.

Keep your cool. Make sure you hydrate yourself, but not too much so you have to go to the washroom during your pitch.

The judges are cool. Don't be afraid of them. They are not going to eat you as well.

You were teased as a child for your curry-smelling lunches. How did being on Recipe to Riches change how you view your mother’s cooking?

Although my lunches were different than the other kids growing up, that never made me resent my culture or my mother's awesome cooking. While the other kids were eating boring bologna sandwiches, I had a Punjabi-style pizza made on naan bread. My mother's cooking is the biggest influence on my style of creating recipes, and Recipe to Riches allowed me to pay homage to her style of mixing Eastern and Western flavours. And now I run my own food and lifestyle blog at

Jacqui Keseluk Season 1 Category Winner: Cakes

What advice would you give to this season’s applicants on preparing for their audition?

I would recommend that applicants should be confident and let their personality shine during the audition. It's not just their recipe they're trying to sell here. I really played up the pin-up look in my season because I knew it would stand out and get me noticed.

What’s the most important lesson you learned from being on the show?

One lesson I learned from being on the show was simply affirmation that with enough determination and belief in yourself, you can achieve great things. I was only a pastry student and I made it onto a national television show and my cheesecake became a President’s Choice product. I achieved this because I took advantage of an opportunity to audition rather than pass it by through self doubt.

You’re an aspiring pastry chef. How did being on the show affect your career goals?

I was an aspiring pastry chef. I am not currently working in the industry and I have begun a new lifestyle in fitness. I am currently preparing for a fitness competition. After eating copious amounts of cheesecake post-Recipe to Riches, I decided to get into shape. I am almost at my one year goal at the gym and I’ve started a blog on fitness at to offer healthy alternative recipes using my culinary and pastry background. I am not overly upset that I am not in the pastry industry like I had planned. I feel like I have accomplished a lot and I have many interests outside of baking.

Don Harquail Season 2 Category Winner: Candies and Chocolates

Your winning recipe was one you modified and perfected after receiving it from a friend. How did you know that this was the winning recipe?

I knew my Golden Toffee Nut Gems - Triple Nut Toffee was a winning recipe after my first bite. I had come up with several variations - all good - but this recipe was it! It became a huge success with my friends and I could not keep up making them. In choosing the ingredients I tried to ensure that ingredients did not overpower each other. I think I succeeded.

What’s the best advice you would give to this season’s applications?

My best advice to this season's applicants is to go and have fun. Be yourself, be confident, and know your recipe inside out.

What did you learn most from being on the show?

I learned that no matter what life brings, you can overcome barriers and succeed. Every day I think, “Wow, I did it! I won the Candies and Chocolate category of Recipe to Riches.” What an incredible experience.

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