Regina man turns up the heat in MasterChef kitchen
Becoming a top chef competitor on a hit TV show has given Regina's Josh Miller a fresh new outlook on cooking.
"The way that I look at food now is completely different than the way I looked at it before," said Miller, who's a top five competitor on the CTV show MasterChef Canada.
"I'm just playing with food all the time and trying to teach people to love food as much as me."
For four years, Miller's been trying to get on the show that bills itself as celebrating "the country's best home cooks."
He believes his perseverance paid off, with Miller selected to vie against 11 other competitors in cooking challenges. Last Monday's episode saw Miller make it into the top five.
"It's still almost like a dream to me," he said, of watching the show from home, trying to connect the Miller on TV with himself, and his day-to-day life as a husband, father and unit manager at a Ranch Ehrlo location.
Now, he'll watch himself on screen and get to watch people like his wife cry at the raw emotion on display during the show.
"It's amazing for them to experience some of the feelings that I experienced while I was there."
A familiar face to fans
Since he's come home, he's caught the eye of fans on the street with his distinctive big beard and newfound celebrity.
He explained that they'll come up to him to tell him how they enjoy watching him on the show or to congratulate him for his success.
I hope I'm making Saskatchewan proud.- Josh Miller
It's an experience that hasn't gotten old yet, he said.
"A lovely grandmother came up and started talking to me and telling me, 'Hey, let's share recipes, chef to chef, cook to cook.' I think it's really awesome," he said.
Now, Miller's hoping to launch his own catering dinner party service, that will combine his love of food and bringing people together over meals.
But in the meantime, there's more MasterChef episodes to come, showcasing his efforts to outlast his competitors and impress the judges.
"I hope I'm making Saskatchewan proud and keep watching to see what happens on this crazy journey."
From the gridiron to a sizzling iron…skillet, former Regina Thunder Joshua Miller debuts on season six of MasterChef Canada on Monday.
Miller played for the Thunder from 2002-2006 and was a bruising fullback. Since leaving the CJFL he has traded in his pads for pots and pans and has become quite the chef.
He was named a Top 18 MasterChef finalist recently by CTV and the show will finally debut on Monday night at 8:00pm EST/PST. The show features home cooks from across the country competing for a chance to be one of six in the elite group of title holders and take home the $100,000 cash prize.
In each episode of MasterChef Canada, the home cooks have their culinary expertise tested through a series of Mystery Box Challenges, Team Challenges, and Pressure Tests, with the judges providing direction and feedback throughout the process. At the end of each episode, at least one home cook is eliminated from the competition until only two remain, culminating in a battle during the finale for a chance to take home $100,000 and the sought-after title of MasterChef Canada.
Throughout the season, fans are invited to visit CTV.ca/MasterChefCanada for exclusive content, including background on the Season six finalists and the MasterChef Canada judges, as well as interviews, highlights, recipes, and more. CTV.ca also offers viewers a behind-the-scenes look at this season’s challenges, delectable dishes, victories, and defeats.
Below are the other 17 chefs Joshua will compete against as they all are vying for a white apron and ultimately contending for the MasterChef Canada title.
Alyssa LeBlanc, Former Public Servant, from Tusket, N.S.
Andre Bhagwandat, Hospital Housekeeper, from Scarborough, Ont.
Chanelle Saks, Entrepreneur, from Calgary, Alta.
Cliff McArthur, Cybersecurity Analyst, from Scarborough, Ont.
Colin Buckingham, Car Salesman, from St. John’s, N.L.
Cryssi Larocque, Former Airline Agent, from Thunder Bay, Ont.
Jamie Mayer, Healthcare Portfolio Manager, from Toronto, Ont.
Jennifer Crawford, Senior Policy Analyst, from Kingston, N.S.
Jenny Miller, Stay-at-Home Mom, from Havre Boucher, N.S.
Kimberly Fitzpatrick, Writer, from Ottawa, Ont.
Laurie Dingwell, Retired, from Lac Saguay, Qué.
Lena Huynh, Lash Technician, from Burnaby, B.C.
Marie Le Bel, Entrepreneur, from Westmount, Qué.
Mark Hamilton, Firefighter, from Mission, B.C.
Rozin Abbas, Digital Marketer, from Toronto, Ont.
Steven Lapointe, International Figure Skater, from Acton Vale, Qué.
Tony La Ferrara, Soccer Coach and Retired Teacher, from Whitby, Ont.
Good luck to Joshua!!
End of the line for Bearded Prairie Chef: Josh Miller out of MasterChef Canada finals
Regina home cook Josh Miller, better known as the Bearded Prairie Chef on MasterChef Canada, fell just short of making the finals in Monday night’s episode.
Miller couldn’t crack the top two this year, finishing his season in third place.
“The journey was just crazy,” Miller told CTV Morning Live on Tuesday. “To be top three in Canada from that aspect is just huge. Thousands of people down to three, I’m super jacked about it.”
It took Miller six years to make the show, and says it was all worth it for the shot to win it all.
“The experience was second-to-none,” he said. “It was something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and the journey was crazy.”
Miller added he appreciated all the support from the province during his time on MasterChef Canada.
“Saskatchewan has been awesome and that’s been part of the journey,” he said. “Sharing Saskatchewan with the rest of Canada and showing how amazing this province is.”
The chef said he wished he could change some things in his final episode. But it was a competition, so someone had to go home at the end, Miller said.
“It was just a great experience for all my family and friends and all of Saskatchewan to get to live that whole journey through me,” he said. “To get those messages back and see people on the street that were just super jacked and proud to see somebody on the show representing Saskatchewan was great.”
Miller hopes to keep his cooking success going through a catering and private dinner party service in Regina.
The final two home cooks will battle it out for the title in the finale of MasterChef Canada next Monday on CTV.
More from CTV News Regina
Pressure Test(s) Survived
Joshua "Josh" Gale was a contestant on Season 1 of MasterChef Canada. He ranked in 12th place.
Josh was a nice person and got along with most contestants in his season. In the kitchen, he was viewed (by most of the contestants) as one of the strongest competitors, as he was known to attempt to overly impress the judges with his dishes. His risk-taking style of cooking generally worked but unfortunately his last dish, a cheesecake, went into a disaster, leading to his elimination. He had a dislike towards Dale due to his poor leadership skills and disrespectful attitude.
|Week 4||Pressure Test|
Canada josh masterchef
Q&A with MasterChef Canada's Josh Gale
Hailing from Vancouver, B.C., Josh Gale is a former corporate IT sales guy who’s been displaying some unexpected prowess in the kitchen on the current and inaugural season of MasterChef Canada.
He has shown off his cooking skills to audiences across the country. Now, he’s sharing a little more about himself, including his exciting plans for the future, and a little something about a scandalous tattoo.
From a life in IT to a life in the kitchen, what inspired you to apply for MasterChef Canada?
Well, I've been a huge fan of the American version of MasterChef since the first season. When I saw the commercials advertising the first Canadian season, I thought, "Cool. I'll definitely be watching that!" I had no plans to apply. For some reason, I just couldn't see myself cooking on TV. Thankfully, my friends and family disagreed with that and basically dragged me to fill out the application. I did, and 11 minutes later, I got a call from one of the producers, saying that they would love to have me at the Vancouver auditions. The rest is history.
You’ve only been cooking for a couple of years. What dish are you most proud of, and what is one thing that you’ve yet to master?
Well, I am definitely most proud of my audition dish that got me my white apron. All three judges gave me a "yes" and told me it was the best dish of the auditions. I made seared scallops on a grilled corn and avocado relish, with a charred red pepper puree, citrus foam and a bacon crumb. I had made this dish quite a few times for my friends and family; so, when it came time to pick an audition dish, it was unanimous: this was the one I was going to make.
Baking has always been the weak point of my cooking game, but I have really been working hard on that lately, and I finally have some decent baking and dessert skills to show. Somehow, the one baked good that seems to elude me is a simple batch of cookies. I've made a couple of good batches, but I'm pretty sure I've made more crappy ones than anything else. I think my problem is that I am horrible at sticking to a recipe, and I typically try to incorporate crazy ingredients, like bacon fat or numerous shots of bourbon. Mmm, bourbon.
How has your current gig at Vancouver’s Fable restaurant impacted your life?
Working at Fable has been an amazing opportunity for me. It is an entirely different beast, working in a professional restaurant environment. At home, I can take my time and cook all day if I want. In the MasterChef kitchen, we have one hour to produce one amazing dish. But at the restaurant, we have to be cranking out amazing dishes over and over again for the entire day. The pressure is really high, but I find it extremely rewarding when we deliver a great service and see so many happy, satisfied guests. Being in this environment has shown me that I can thrive in a professional kitchen. I know this is where I want my path to go. It makes me work harder everyday so that someday soon, I can open my very own restaurant.
After competing on the show, you must have a few favourite and, well, dreaded ingredients to work with. What are they?
Well, most people would expect me to throw smelts at the top of that dreaded ingredients list. I had never seen them before that elimination challenge, so I just dredged them in flour and semolina and did a quick fry on them, and they were delicious! I would love to work with those little buggers again. I still wish Marida had chosen the ducks for us to work with, because they also had duck fat and foie gras, which are two of my utmost favourite ingredients to work with. I was just in New York for a few weeks, working at one of Daniel Boulud's Michelin-starred restaurants, and I got to see how they work with foie gras. The techniques blew my mind and I cannot wait to try some of them at home — a beignet filled with foie gras mousse, dusted with foie gras snow. Come on! Who wouldn't want to pile their face into that?
What was the toughest part of being on MasterChef: the other contestants, the judges or the challenges?
For me, the entire experience was amazing and life changing. I wish I could cook in that kitchen for those judges every day of my life. It really was a dream come true. I'm not really one to get sucked into the drama, so I really enjoyed cooking alongside the other contestants everyday. We all have such different backgrounds and ideas. I learned so much by being in such a diverse group. I look at every one of the other competitors as a close friend now, so picking the toughest aspect of the show is not easy. It would have to be the challenges: walking into the kitchen everyday, with your apron on the line, was not easy. There were definitely a few challenges that nearly gave me a panic attack (egg yolk ravioli in 45 minutes. Are you f-ing kidding me?) but I love nothing more than being faced with those challenges and working my butt off to succeed.
What’s next for you, after this season of MasterChef?
Well, food is my life now, in every single way. I am looking to gain as much experience as possible by working in professional kitchens around the world, and I hope to translate that experience into a restaurant and a cookbook of my own in the near future. I have a deep passion for food and I absolutely love sharing that passion with other people and inspiring them to cook more, and getting in touch with the amazing produce and providers that we can all find in our own backyards.
I hear you’re a little kitchen-gadget crazy. What’s your dream tool or product?
I do love my kitchen gadgets. One tool that I must have after using it in the pork tenderloin mystery box challenge is a PolyScience Smoking Gun. I love adding smoke to my food, and that little gun is the best way that I've seen so far. That is at the top of my list and I cannot wait to get my hands on one.
I have to ask: where’s the Gordon Ramsay tattoo (I did say I was getting a little more personal)?
Very few people in my life know the truth behind my tattoo. I think we may have to wait for our next interview before we get that intimate. And, you may have to buy me a couple drinks first! Ha, ha, ha.
Dusk loomed a few hours away, but as the young man wandered, vacant eyed, through the back streets of his Chicago boyhood, a different kind of darkness, one that had stalked him for months, settled on him like a fog.
Please, he begged.
No, the voices insisted.
The gun had been easy enough to find, even for someone who’d grown up abhorring the destruction that violence had visited on the city he loved.
He hadn’t even had to pay for it. Not that he could have. A thousand dollars plus an iPhone had been the ask. He had eight bucks in his pocket, and there was no way he was giving up his phone, the one on which he had saved every message from his mother as the darkness had descended.
You can borrow it, then. A favor. But you best bring it back.
A few miles away, cheeks wet from panicked tears, hands slapping the steering wheel, his mother weaved through rush-hour traffic, stoplights and speed limits be damned. Her son, she had been told, was wandering the streets. With a gun.
Please, baby. I’m on my way.
That it had come to this, in the space of only a few months, seemed inconceivable. Just a year earlier, Josh Marks, the 7-foot-2 gentle giant with the sweet-tempered smile and almost sappy sincerity, was the breakout star on Gordon Ramsay’s reality show MasterChef. From rival competitors to hardened viewers to the cooking contest’s notoriously hotheaded, impossible-to-please host, the 26-year-old Marks had done the unimaginable: make everyone like him. Even when he didn’t win—he was a runner-up in a season that had started with some 30,000 applicants—he seemed to come out on top. Restaurants wanted him, and his growing legion of fans lavished supportive comments on him. He was on his way. Or seemed to be. Until the first panic attack came.
From that moment, like a thread being pulled from a fine garment, his mental state unspooled so rapidly that the change in him seemed as impossible as his lightning-strike ascent had seemed charmed. A traffic accident borne of a mind gone suddenly blank; a terrifying scuffle with police that included gunfire, a flurry of baton blows, a cloud of pepper spray; voices torturing him at all hours, voices that he was sure wanted to kill him; weeks of hospitalization to figure out what was wrong. The episodes were alarming and heartbreaking.
And now his mother drove faster. My son. Dear God, not my son.
In the gathering dusk, Marks felt the heft of the gun. The orange sky over him bled into red. Sunset was going to be beautiful.
She rounded a corner. One alley. No. Another. No.
He raised the gun, the metal glinting in the last light.
Paulette Mitchell was relieved. The entire family was. It was early March 2012, and her son, Joshua, who had never taken a cooking class, had grabbed one of the coveted 36 spots on the third season of Fox’s MasterChef. The competition, which offered a $250,000 first prize along with a book deal, would take place in a Los Angeles studio that had been converted into a test kitchen.
As with most such shows, the drama—not to mention the ratings—leaned on the intensity surrounding which contestant would be sent home each week and which would advance. Those not were sent packing. Gordon Ramsay, the celebrity chef most famous for Hell’s Kitchen, one of his numerous reality shows, led the three-person judges’ panel, which also included prominent chefs Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich.
Josh Marks was lucky to even make the audition. He’d been living in Mississippi, where he’d landed a job with the Army Corps of Engineers. He’d come home to Chicago three months earlier to attend a birthday party for his little sister, Danielle, who was turning six, and a high school friend mentioned that a casting call for the show was being held the same weekend at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in the Loop.
Family (which included another sister, Dana, two years his senior) had always come first for Marks, but in recent years his interest in cooking had become a close second. Part of that passion stemmed from a fascination with reality cooking shows. With the family’s blessing, he dropped everything and went to work on his best dish for the audition: shrimp étouffée. “He left my kitchen a mess, but I didn’t care,” Mitchell, his mother, says. “That dish was like velvet.”
Marks was the last person the Chicago judges saw, but he left quite an impression. “I remember talking to him after he went down there, and I said, ‘So how did it go?’ ” his sister Dana recalls. “And he said, ‘Oh, they loved me.’ That was just him: ‘Oh, they loved me.’ I said, ‘I bet they did.’ ”
From the time he was a boy growing up in Washington Heights, a working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s Far South Side, Joshi, as his family called him, had always been likable. He had a round face, an infectious grin, and big wire-framed glasses that lent him a bookish air. He loved sports—basketball and baseball, in particular—but also math and chess. For all his later success in the kitchen, though, Marks as a boy showed exactly zero interest in fancier foods. “We used to call him Cheesehead because he just liked mac ’n’ cheese out the box so much,” says Mitchell, who teaches at a public elementary school in Chicago. Even so, the variety of influences to which he was exposed—from his grandmother’s down-home cuisine to local fare in Panama and Honduras, where he spent summers with his father, Roberto Marks, from whom his mother split in 1988—couldn’t help seeping in.
But Marks’s most distinctive feature emerged during high school. Of average height most of his life, he stood nearly seven feet tall by the time he’d reached his senior year at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. Not surprisingly, he played basketball in school—well enough to land a scholarship at tiny Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. It was a good fit. Several members of his extended family lived nearby, and Mitchell says that her son “really gravitated to the slower pace of Southern country life.”
Once Marks had settled in, finding a church became a top priority. As part of his spiritual commitment, he looked for ways to help people in need. He hit upon the idea of distributing one of his favorite dorm foods—Hamburger Helper—but not merely the package-instruction version. “He’d really fix it up and go pass it out to people on the streets in Jackson,” his mother recalls.
Suddenly “food was all he talked about,” she says. “He started calling me and asking what was I cooking.” On her frequent visits to Mississippi, she could barely walk through the door of his apartment before Marks grabbed a spatula and skillet. “Sometimes I wouldn’t arrive until, like, 11 o’clock at night, but Joshua would take me to the grocery store and buy everything we needed to make me a late-night salad before I went to bed.” The next day, she says, “he and I would sit around for hours and watch the Food Network or look through the cookbooks my mom gave him.”
After graduating cum laude in 2009 with a degree in economics, Marks took a job as a contract specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers in nearby Vicksburg, Mississippi. But he couldn’t shake his obsession with food. If he was really being honest with himself, the audition in Chicago was more than a lark. In it, he saw the potential for an entirely new life.
Like the other contestants on the show, Marks had never cooked professionally. But he had qualities that made him stand out. His height, for one. His bighearted nature, for another. And his competitive fire. “I think that’s what got him a spot on the show,” Mitchell says, “and what kept him on the show. They got to see his personality. They got to see his charisma.”
The 20-episode competition, shot over the course of eight weeks in the spring of 2012, was grueling. Contestants were routinely roused at 5:30 a.m., and taping often went late into the evening. The producers kept them sequestered in their rooms at night, switching them to new hotels every other day. To keep word of the show’s progress from leaking, producers also discouraged them from calling relatives.
Despite the competitive atmosphere, Marks developed good friends on the show. “He called me his ‘sister from another mother,’ ” recalls Christine Ha, a blind chef who ended up winning the competition. “He is a goofy person with a great sense of humor. When we first met, he thought I was uptight, but then as he got to know me, he realized that I, too, was goofy.”
Ryan Umane, another competitor, recalls how he and Marks would while away their downtime with pushup and arm-wrestling contests. “He just always had a really positive energy,” Umane says. “He was the most well-liked [contestant] by a long shot.”
The final test to determine the winner—an episode shot in late April 2012—required Marks and Ha to each complete a three-course meal of their choosing in two hours. At the end, the duo stood in front of the judges and the cameras as their families waited in the background. After an agonizing pause, Ramsay announced that Ha had won.
A blizzard of confetti floated around them. Ha’s family rushed to her side as the judges, one by one, offered their congratulations. Marks, looking slightly lost, leaned down and gave Ha a hug and a smile. He would lavish compliments on her, calling Ha an “angel” who “can cook to the standard of a MasterChef.”
In a People magazine article published five months after the finale aired, one of the judges, Bastianich, had his own praise for Marks: “Youthful, ambitious and fiercely passionate, he has it all, including the chops to carry him through a very challenging field. I expect nothing but great things from Josh, and will always be proud of his performance on MasterChef, no matter what he goes on to pursue.”
If the loss wounded Marks, he wasn’t showing it after the taping. “He was disappointed, of course, but not too badly,” says his mother. “He took it in stride.” Indeed, at the end of the episode, when the producers pulled each of the contestants aside for a parting remark, a clear-eyed Marks looked directly into the camera and declared, “I will never give up on my dream. It will come true.”
When the show started airing in early June, Marks enjoyed his newfound celebrity, holding watch parties with his college friends and making announcements on his Facebook page about upcoming episodes. But as the finale approached in September, something inside him shifted. Always so self-possessed and imperturbable, he began suffering from panic attacks.
One of the first occurred when Marks and his mother were in New York for a finale-viewing party. Marks had been at a street festival with Ryan Umane, his friend from the show, when several people recognized him and crowded around. Overwhelmed, Marks felt a rising wave of claustrophobia and phoned Mitchell, who was visiting a friend. By the time she arrived at Umane’s apartment, her son was calming down. Both Marks and his mother dismissed the incident, but in the months that followed, such episodes grew more frequent and more troubling. Eventually, they gave way to something far more alarming: spells where Marks seemed to lose touch with reality.
His friends in Mississippi noticed the change. “He was really nervous and restless,” recalls Vincent Durman, a fellow contract specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers. At night, Marks would pace the floor and talk disconnectedly about ideas for new restaurants, new ventures, new recipes, new menus—“multiple businesses at once,” Durman says. “The stuff he was saying didn’t make any sense.” Marks and Durman had been discussing opening a cooking school, but after extensive research Marks would “almost forget the idea,” Durman says. “It was odd.”
Another friend—Derrick Calvert, Marks’s former roommate in Mississippi—remembers a late-night call in which Marks blurted out, “That woman is Satan.” Calvert had no idea who he was talking about and, more disturbingly, “had never heard him talk like that.”
To the surprise of his friends in Mississippi and family back home, Marks suddenly announced that he was quitting his job and moving back to Chicago to pursue a career in cooking. That he wanted to switch careers wasn’t terribly surprising, but it wasn’t like him to do things in such a rash way.
There was more. Marks said that he had met and fallen in love with someone and, after only a few weeks of dating, they were engaged. Mitchell was taken aback: “I felt like he was acting in haste.” Within a few months, Marks would break off the relationship.
When Marks returned to Chicago, any hope that his erratic behavior was an anomaly vanished. One day in January 2013, while at a culinary event in Washington, D.C., Marks called his mother to say that he felt he was battling evil spirits.
The next morning, just before dawn, he settled into a chair, turned on a video camera, and began a rambling 11-minute soliloquy. In the video, framed by the golden drapes of his hotel room, he rocks back and forth, a ski cap pulled down to his eyebrows. “I’ve got a great story that I’m going to tell,” he says before abruptly shifting to a new topic. As he talks, he holds his hands a few inches apart and parallel, like a fisherman showing the size of a catch, as if trying to force himself to stay on track. Suddenly he announces that he will sing “Amazing Grace.” Instead, he launches into a half song, half chant that he apparently makes up on the spot: “Songs unto the L-o-o-rd. Songs unto the L-o-o-o-rd. Songs unto the L-o-o-o-rd.” He sways and grooves and closes his eyes, as if sitting in a church filled with a singing congregation. For the last 40 seconds of the video, he simply stares past the camera, almost in a fugue state. Finally, he silently leans over and turns it off. Continued below
Things got worse the next day. Having returned to Chicago, Marks was involved in a serious crash that involved several cars. Writing about the incident in his iPad diary, Marks described what seemed like a straightforward accident: “I was approaching a yellow light, [and] as the light turned red . . . a car going eastbound struck the vehicle and catapulted the car into a parked car. Thankfully I escaped the accident with a big scratch on my head and several stitches. I was transported by ambulance and received treatment from Cook County Hospital in the trauma center and stayed there overnight for my aches and pains.”
The reality, says Mitchell, was far more disturbing: Her son admitted that he had blacked out just before entering the intersection and blown right through a red light. “When he came to, he was sitting in the car, and police were coming at him with guns drawn and were yanking him out of the car.” That he had escaped with only a gash on his head was “by the grace of God,” his mother says. “The car was completely [totaled]. The front end pushed in, dashboard cracked in two.” According to the police report, Marks was “yelling, screaming, and attacking” paramedics and was not answering questions “rationally.”
Also absent from Marks’s account is his bizarre behavior in the hospital, which was troubling enough that he had been strapped to his bed and placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. That evening, his mother recalls, with her on one side of Marks’s hospital bed and his sister Dana on the other, “was a battle. He was telling me that my father, who is still living, was dead, that Gordon Ramsay was dead. He was saying that he [Marks] had an inheritance. He was babbling things that weren’t rational. I was just holding his hand and rubbing his forearm.”
Later that night, Mitchell says, she spoke to a social worker at the hospital about the options available to Marks, who had no medical insurance. After some phone calls, the social worker was able to arrange for a short stay at Rush University Medical Center. But with no insurance, Marks’s time there would be limited, and then he would essentially be on his own.
A psychiatrist at Rush, Michael S. Eaton, broke the news to Mitchell at the end of Marks’s stay: Her son was bipolar and experienced episodes of psychosis. On January 17, Marks was sent home (at the time, he was bouncing between his mother’s and Dana’s houses) with a prescription for lithium and instructions that his family keep a close eye on him.
“I was bewildered,” Mitchell says. Before these incidents, Marks had never shown the slightest sign of anything resembling a mental health problem. In fact, he was the rock of the family. Now he had been diagnosed with a severe disorder that his mother knew almost nothing about.
‘He was very quiet, very withdrawn. You knew something was working in there, but you didn’t know what was going on.’
Her first step was to find out what they were dealing with. “I started Googling it,” Mitchell says. “I bought a book for myself, and I bought a book for Joshua.” Everything she read resonated. People with bipolar disorder, for example, experience dramatic swings in mood and activity levels. They can be bursting with ideas and energy one day and nearly paralyzed by depressive thoughts the next. That was Marks lately. His mother also researched psychosis. The condition, she learned, included a number of symptoms—hearing voices, having hallucinations, experiencing paranoid delusions.
The information was helpful, but it led to the far bigger and thornier questions of how and where to get Marks help—and how to afford it. She set off on what would prove to be a confusing and frustrating search for treatment to address the complex set of long-term psychiatric issues that come with such a diagnosis.
Making matters worse was the fact that funding for mental health services had been slashed dramatically. From 2009 to 2012, Illinois cut $187 million, or 32 percent, from its mental health budget. Only three states—South Carolina, Alabama, and Alaska—axed a larger percentage, says the advocacy group National Alliance on Mental Illness. (Illinois did restore $32 million of those cuts in 2013, blaming an administrative error.) According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Illinois’s per capita spending ranked 36th nationally as of 2010 (the most recent year for which figures are available). In Chicago, meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel outraged the city’s mental health advocacy community in 2012 when he abruptly closed fully half of the city’s outpatient facilities.
Mitchell knew her son needed further treatment, but “every place I called said that without insurance they couldn’t help.” The number of institutions that turned her down grew so large that she began keeping a list: Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Hartgrove Hospital in the western suburbs, the psychiatric rehabilitation center Thresholds, and the University of Illinois medical center, among others. One facility was so overcrowded, she says, “that I was told it was run like a jail.”
Occasionally, such as after the January accident, Marks’s mother was able to plead her way into getting a temporary hospital bed for him. But then he would be sent home with yet another set of prescriptions (“I had bags of medications,” Mitchell says), cocktails of drugs that would sometimes seem to stabilize him and other times leave him “like a zombie.” Any improvement was temporary, and family members would soon find themselves in search again of lasting solutions.
Mitchell eventually discovered CountyCare, a new Medicaid program operated by Cook County that is an outgrowth of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. It covers everything from X-rays and laboratory tests to prescription drugs and mental health services. To qualify, Marks needed to be at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, live in Cook County, and not be eligible for regular Medicaid. But even after he was approved, there were problems. Because the program was so new, many providers had yet to start accepting the insurance.
Despite his spotty care, Marks would have stretches when he acted perfectly normal and lucid, and during one of those periods, in February 2013, he made a public service video for the Make a Sound Project, a suicide prevention organization. “Me, personally, I have bipolar disorder,” Marks says on camera. “I get a little anxious sometimes, and how I cool out is I listen to music.” But as spring and then summer arrived, it seemed nothing could stave off Marks’s psychotic episodes.
One evening, he asked his mother out of the blue, “Do you hear all these voices that are in my head?”
“I’m sorry, Josh,” she answered. “I don’t hear the voices.”
“I’m getting a lot of noise,” he said. “I need to go lay down.”
Arriving home with his mother another night, Marks burst out of her car and started screaming. His mother watched, terrified, as he took off running. Not sure what else to do, she called 911. When officers approached Marks, he calmly lay down on the sidewalk. A police van took him to St. Bernard Hospital, where he underwent yet another examination. Once again, he was sent home with a handful of prescriptions and a mother scrambling to figure out what to do in the long term.
Then came the night of July 28, 2013. Earlier that day, Dana had noticed Marks struggling. “He was saying that he saw other people outside of himself, and this person was telling him that he shouldn’t live, basically,” she says. Marks was supposed to stay with his mom that night, but the hour grew late and he wasn’t responding to Mitchell’s calls.
Mitchell would later learn that Marks had parked his car in Hyde Park and apparently wandered around for hours. At some point, in what the family believes was either a suicide attempt or an effort to quiet the noise in his head, Marks shot himself in the ear while sitting in his car. (The family won’t say how they think he got the gun.) At about 4 a.m., he used a University of Chicago emergency phone. The responding campus officer found Marks with cuts all over his face, which turned out to be bullet fragments. When the officer asked what was wrong, Marks attacked him, wrestled him to the ground, and tried to take the officer’s gun. A second officer arrived at the scene and beat Marks with a baton and doused him with pepper spray. Marks broke free, but three other officers helped tackle him in a nearby backyard. Throughout the incident, Marks babbled incoherently, at one point saying Gordon Ramsay had possessed him and turned him into God.
The officers took Marks to the campus hospital and then Mount Sinai for treatment. He had suffered a hematoma and a broken jaw, which required surgery. Authorities charged Marks with aggravated assault against a police officer—a felony. The judge set his bail at $150,000, which meant the family would have to come up with $15,000 to get him out. His jaw still wired shut, Marks was put in the general population at Cook County Jail for a couple of weeks until his mother was able to cobble together the money.
On top of that, she needed to hire a lawyer and also a psychiatric expert who could explain the role Marks’s bipolar disorder likely played in the incident. In the psychiatrist’s case, Mitchell would be responsible for an $800 retainer plus a “$100-something per hour” fee. “My back was against the wall,” she says. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Local and national media outlets ran with the story, including the syndicated tabloid television show TMZ, whose report featured a narrator with a nasal French accent, cartoon sound effects, and the head of Gordon Ramsay sprouting devil’s horns and laughing maniacally in a lake of fire. “It was a crazy altercation,” says the narrator, with no hint of irony. Meanwhile, Marks’s mother says, she and her son were “drowning without a life preserver.”
Then came a glimmer of hope. After Marks’s release from jail, Mitchell learned that Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in the South Loop would accept CountyCare insurance. The hospital agreed to provide a two-week inpatient stay, followed by eight weeks of outpatient care, at no cost to the family.
The treatment seemed to slow Marks’s decline a bit, if only because he was so heavily medicated. “He was very quiet, very withdrawn,” his mother says. “You knew something was working in there, but you didn’t know what was going on.”
Upon his release from the hospital, however, Marks was hit with something unexpected. His discharge papers included an additional diagnosis: paranoid schizophrenia.
He was shattered. “He couldn’t bear the thought of another diagnosis,” his mother recalls. Adds Dana: “It was like, ‘How can I move forward in my life and adjust to what I need to do if I never know what am I dealing with?’ ”
Knowing how upset her son was, Mitchell took him to live at her father’s house near 97th and Peoria on the city’s Far South Side. There, at least, he could be watched around the clock.
With Marks whipsawing between periods of restlessness and anxiety and those when he did nothing but sleep, the tormenting voices spoke more loudly than ever, the noise roaring constantly in his ears. At times “he would just stand and stare,” his mother recalls, “and I would say, ‘Josh, is there anything I can do for you? Can I help you?’ He was like, ‘No, I am just thinking about something.’ I wanted to help him so badly, but I didn’t know what do.”
She did the only thing she knew—just be there for him, offering any gesture she could think of to show love and support. Sometimes that meant holding his hand or lying down next to him in his bed and speaking in a soothing voice until he drifted off. Other times she would take him to get something to eat. Nothing fancy, just the kind of comfort food he grew up with, street food like gyros and Al’s Italian Beef. “We would be laughing because he would eat it so fast and he’d be enjoying it. I was like, ‘Josh, you really smashed that sandwich.’ That’s how we would say it: ‘You really smashed that.’ ”
One October day as Marks was walking down the hallway of his mother’s home, Mitchell reached her arm up to give her son a high-five. It was a silly gesture, a mother being playful, but when their hands met, she felt a connection. “Let’s do that again,” she said. They did. And for a moment, Mitchell says, they both seemed to just admire their hands together, palm to palm. But the moment passed, and her son was gone again.
The next morning, Friday, October 11, Marks rose early. It promised to be a beautiful day—clear and sunny. While his family slept, Marks picked up his cell phone and, at 6:41, sent a text to someone he knew. “Can you bring the tool this morning?”
Mitchell, tortured with worry about her son, stayed home from work with him at her father’s house that day. Something told her she needed to be with him. At one point, she called Dana. “Joshua is not right,” Mitchell said. “He’s still very down. I want you to talk to him.”
When Marks got on the phone, Dana tried to keep the worry out of her voice. “Hey, Joshua, what’s going on?” she said.
“Oh, nothing,” he replied. Bad sign. Anytime her brother said he was fine, she knew from experience that he wasn’t.
“Mom is concerned about you, and so am I.”
“Oh, you guys don’t have anything to worry about,” Marks responded. “I’m going to be OK.”
His mother had to leave the house briefly to pick up Danielle from school and take her to the dentist. That’s where they were heading when Mitchell got a call from Marks’s uncle. A neighbor had seen Marks walking around an alley in her father’s neighborhood with a gun in his hand.
Mitchell raced toward her dad’s house. “Mommy, slow down!” her little girl cried. But Mitchell didn’t dare. She zigzagged through Englewood, down Halsted to avoid the rush-hour traffic on the Dan Ryan. Please, God. Please let him be sitting on a curb crying. Please.
She dropped her daughter off with her dad and began scouring the neighborhood alleys. Where is he? Increasingly frantic, she made one last turn, a mere block from her father’s house. She registered the clothes first: the familiar black Windbreaker with the red and blue stripes, the black jeans her son loved.
She found him lying on his back, staring sightlessly at the sky. A gun was beside him. She saw a small wound, a bullet hole, in his head. But there was so little blood. Maybe, she thought for a second. . . . No.
She stood over the body, trying to form words, but she couldn’t speak. Instead, she screamed.
Condolences poured in from friends and fans. Among those offering sympathies was Gordon Ramsay, who tweeted: “Just heard the devastating news about Josh Marks. My thoughts are with his family & friends at this tragic time.”
The family released a statement that disclosed the bare bones of what Marks had been up against. “Behind that huge smile, Josh was in the battle of his life fighting mental illness,” it read in part. The family refuses to fault MasterChef for having any role in his suicide. Yes, the experience was stressful. And that stress may have triggered something in Marks. But it was his mental illness that led him to take his own life.
Mitchell is less sanguine about her struggle to find help for her son. She says she is working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to create a foundation in Marks’s name that will raise awareness about bipolar disorder and offer assistance navigating the convoluted mental health care system. Says Dana: “Our hopes are to continue his legacy and to give hope to other people who are not only dealing with bipolar and schizophrenia, but whatever they might be dealing with when it comes to mental health.”
On a late-May afternoon, Marks’s mother struggles with her emotions as she tells her son’s story. She leads me to a table in the corner of the dining room of her Bronzeville home, where his ashes rest in a silver urn. She and Dana have layered pieces of Marks’s bloodstained T-shirt and dried roses from his funeral in with his remains. A locket with his picture dangles on a sheer ribbon from the urn like a medal.
In the dying light, Mitchell caresses the urn as if cupping her son’s chin. “I talk to him sometimes,” she says, looking away, as if she could not otherwise get out the words. “Not always. I can’t always take it. But I like to talk to him.”
When she does, his voice will rush back, like a good memory, like the ingredients of a favorite recipe. And sometimes she’ll find herself in the kitchen, like she did last Thanksgiving, thinking how Josh would put a twist on something she was making—the unexpected ingredients he would add to her sweet potatoes, say—and she’ll turn on a burner for a saucepan to simmer, until she can feel him there again, until she can feel her son’s warmth.
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MasterChef Canada (season 6)
Season of television series
Season of television series
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of episodes||12|
|Original release||April 8 (2019-04-08) –|
June 10, 2019 (2019-06-10)
|List of episodes|
The sixth season of MasterChef Canada aired its special 2-hour season premiere on April 8, 2019 on CTV, concluding on June 10, 2019 with Jennifer Crawford of Kingston, Nova Scotia crowned as the winner and Andre Bhagwandat of Scarborough, Ontario finishing as the runner-up. Crawford became the first non-binary person and the first person from the Maritimes to win the competition. In a new twist this season, each judge selected six home cooks to invite to the Top 18, with each member receiving personal invitations delivered via courier.
Except where noted, source for all names, hometowns, and occupations:
|Jennifer Crawford||37||Kingston, Nova Scotia||Senior Policy Analyst||Claudio||Winner, June 10|
|Andre Bhagwandat||28||Scarborough, Ontario||Hospital Housekeeper||Runner-Up, June 10|
|Joshua "Josh" Miller||34||Regina, Saskatchewan||Youth Care Home Manager||Alvin||Eliminated June 3|
|Cryssi Larocque||38||Thunder Bay, Ontario||Former Airline Agent||Claudio||Eliminated May 27|
|Chanelle Saks||28||Calgary, Alberta||Entrepreneur||Michael|
|Rozin Abbas||30||Toronto, Ontario||Digital Marketer||Claudio||Eliminated May 20|
Returned May 13
Eliminated April 29
|Jennifer "Jenny" Miller||32||Havre Boucher, Nova Scotia||Stay-at-Home Mom||Michael||Eliminated May 6|
|Alyssa LeBlanc||28||Tusket, Nova Scotia||Former Public Servant||Alvin|
|Anthony "Tony" La Ferrara||69-70||Whitby, Ontario||Soccer Coach and Retired Teacher||Michael||Eliminated April 22|
|Colin Buckingham||30||St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador||Car Salesman||Eliminated April 15|
|Cliff McArthur||39||Scarborough, Ontario||IT Support Analyst||Alvin||Eliminated April 8|
|Steven Lapointe||21||Acton Vale, Quebec||International Figure Skater||Michael|
- (WINNER) This cook won the competition.
- (RUNNER-UP) This cook finished in second place.
- (WIN) The cook won the individual challenge (Mystery Box Challenge or Elimination Test).
- (WIN) The cook was on the winning team in the Team Challenge and was directly advanced to the next round.
- (HIGH) The cook was one of the top entries in the Mystery Box Challenge, but did not win, or received considerable praise during an Elimination Test.
- (PT) The cook was on the losing team in the Team Challenge or did not win the individual challenge, but won the Pressure Test.
- (IN) The cook was not selected as a top entry or bottom entry in an individual challenge.
- (IN) The cook was not selected as a top entry or bottom entry in a team challenge.
- (IMM) The cook did not have to compete in that round of the competition and was safe from elimination.
- (IMM) The cook was selected by Mystery Box Challenge winner and did not have to compete in the Elimination Test.
- (PT) The cook was on the losing team in the Team Challenge, competed in the Pressure Test, and advanced.
- (NPT) The cook was on the losing team in the Team Challenge, but was exempted from the Pressure Test
- (RET) The cook was eliminated but came back to compete to return to the competition.
- (LOW) The cook was one of the bottom entries in an individual elimination challenge or pressure test and advanced.
- (LOW) The cook was one of the bottom entries in the Team Challenge, and advanced.
- (WDR) The cook withdrew from the competition due to illness or personal reasons.
- (ELIM) The cook was eliminated from MasterChef.
Season 6 premiered on CTV on April 8, 2019.