A local woman is once again competing in a national cooking competition.
April Lee Baker grew up in Mundare, helping out in her family's butcher shop as a kid.
"My family loved cooking. My grandma was so inspirational for me," she said.
Baker moved to Okotoks as a teenager, where a friend got her a job at a family restaurant. Meanwhile, she was taking food studies classes in high school and later spent time working with physically and mentally challenged youth to teach them basic cooking skills.
"That was a really great experience for me, just seeing how fundamental cooking is for everybody," Baker explained.
She eventually gave up cooking for while, going back to school and becoming a nursing aid. It wasn't until the television show MasterChef Canada rolled out that she thought about taking up cooking again.
With encouragement from her friends, Baker auditioned for season two – but didn't get on the show. She then tried again for season three and made it, going on to become a top-five finalist.
"It was wonderful, it was mindblowing. I never thought – coming from Mundare, Alberta – that I would ever be on a television show," Baker said, adding she will never forget the first day she walked on set. "[It was one of] those moments where you follow your dreams and they become a reality."
Following the competition, Baker became a chef for a few restaurants in downtown Calgary. After the restaurant she was employed at shut down, she moved to private chef work, helping teach other cooks and running a catering business.
Her business stopped when the pandemic first hit in March. It was a difficult time, but she tried to make the best of the situation and started virtual cooking classes.
Then, MasterChef Canada decided to make a 'Back To Win' series. Baker was contacted and informed that she had been picked as one of the contestants to return.
"I was blown away, I couldn't believe that I was going to be getting a second opportunity," she said. "I feel way more confident that I've got it this time."
Filming took place in Ontario but, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Baker explained being on set felt very different. Everyone had to keep their distance from each other, masks were mandatory, contestants were frequently tested and everyone had to quarantine for a while when they first arrived.
However, Baker also said she felt more sure of herself this time, having more experience in the kitchen and being part of the show once before. 
The winner of MasterChef Canada will receive $100,000.
"I'm definitely going out there to win," stated Baker. "When I get that cheque for $100,000, I'm going to up my game."
If she wins, she plans to use the money to improve her website and get better equipment for her virtual classes.
MasterChef Canada: Back To Win premieres on Feb.14.
April Lee Baker cooking in the MasterChef Canada competition. Photo supplied.
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