A sign invites passers-by to help themselves to Jude Somers’ herb garden on Mitchell Street in Oak Bay.
Residents routinely snip, as suggested by the sign, or even just sniff, as they pass the rosemary, thyme and oregano. Somers snips too – most frequently when baking bread. Tonight the nation watches as those skills are on display during the bread challenge of The Great Canadian Baking Show.
Based on the British format, CBC show brings together 10 amateur bakers from across the country to compete in a series of themed culinary challenges as they celebrate their diverse backgrounds, families and communities. Each episode features three rounds including the Signature Bake, the Technical Bake and the Show Stopper. After the bakes are tasted and critiqued, the judges decide who is the week’s Star Baker and who goes home. The final three bakers compete for the Great Canadian Baking Show title.
A huge fan of the original British version of the show, Somers and husband Gord More have also dabbled in watching similar productions from Australia, Ireland and the U.S. That fandom came in handy during her first technical bake – an homage to the British original, they were tasked with a traditional teacake.
“That probably saved my biscuit last night because I knew what a Battenberg was,” Somers said with a laugh.
She entered the competition on a bit of a lark. She saw the call out online and filled out the forms. She and More – both retired from careers steeped in film production – enjoyed creating her video submission. After a subsequent phone interview, Somers got the call to audition in Vancouver. There she brought a “signature bake,” a giant cake carefully transported via ferry, and made a “mystery recipe” of scones. A simple recipe became less simple with all the rules, guidelines, unfamiliar kitchen and people. She made round scones instead of the requested triangles – a flaw that prepared her for the tribulations of television baking. In Episode One she missed the maple in her banana maple muffins, and faked her way through.
From the “floor ninja” scuttling about behind the counters to clear away clutter and dirty dishes, to the camaraderie of contestants, “there’s a whole learning curve,” she says. There are scads of cameras and unfamiliar baking equipment. In that 100-degree tent she dipped her hands in ice water – just to mould her chocolate decor – while keeping them out of the hungry hands of host Dan Levy.
A month after the Vancouver audition, she got the phone call that had her dancing in the basement and started the fibbing to friends. She did a lot of visiting that summer, including an “extended” visit back home with a friend in Salmon Arm as they both celebrated turning 60 this year.
“Keeping it secret until October was the hardest thing,” she said.
During the Nov. 1 debut, as expected a baker was cut, but Facebook the morning after was filled with positive comments. “I was pleased to see so many people say they were sad to see the dentist go, because they got the essence of Pierre. He’s a lovely man,” Somers said.
She hopes friends and fans will join her for Episode Two on Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. in the Sportsview Lounge at Oak Bay Recreation Centre, 1975 Bee St.