There’s power in the oven, and that power is joy.
For Creston teacher Loïc Fauteux-Goulet, who has been baking since he was a child, the power of baking is how it brings people together. And nowhere is that more to be found than on the Great Canadian Baking Show.
Loïc is a contestant on the iconic CBC baking competition, the seventh season of which starts on October 1. He is one of 10 bakers from across the country who are hitting the ovens, in a large kitchen tent in Toronto, to create elaborate, challenging, delicious bakes that are judged. In each weekly episode, the bakers run through a Signature bake (for which they can practice), a technical challenge (of which they are not informed until it’s time to create it), and a Showstopper (for which they can practice ). One baker is eliminated at the end of each episode, with the last three competing in the final episode.
The Great Canadian Baking Show (GCBS), is adapted from the Great British Baking Show. They are among the forefront of today’s top-flight televised cooking shows, immensely popular viewing around the world.
“I’ve been watching the show for as long as it’s been airing in Canada, and in other countries,” Loïc said. “The show has really been like a companion on my baking journey. When I first started watching the show, I would say I was more of a casual baker. Seeing every week that source of inspiration was really instrumental in getting me to try new things.”
Loïc’s appearance on the GCBS is actually following his second application to get on the show.
One fills out an application, he explained, where you talk about your baking. If subsequently you get called, and things go well on your short phone call, then usually you get asked to bake a couple of things to show an overview of your baking.
“The process culminates in a bake-along — a live bake-off, that looks like a challenge from the show. You have a set amount of time for the baked goods you have to make. Then the casting group asks questions and interviews you on a zoom call as you go. Mimicking what the experience looks like.”
The first time, Loïc made it all the way to the bake-along, but was not selected.
“I came back this year with tweaked skills, maybe a better understanding of what the show is looking for — and I got on.”
The GCBS has been only a recent part of Loïc’s life-long baking journey
“There are a lot of people who do a bake-along [with the show],” he said. “They will do all the challenges at home every week. For some seasons I did a partial bake-along — often the technical challenges. I would give them a try, bakes that I’ve never tried before. Since 2018, really, I’ve been having a baking season of my own that was synchronized with the show, where watching the show encourages me to bake more, bake new things, and explore.
“So that’s the companionship with the show.”
That companionship is what drew Loïc to the GCBS, not so much the spirit of competitiveness.
“The first thing that really attracted me about the Great Canadian Baking Show is the relationship that seems to be established between the bakers on TV. Now that I’ve lived through the process, I can absolutely tell you that this relationship building happens for real.
“I remember watching the show in 2018 and feeling joy. And seeing those bakers develop that relationship looked like so much fun, seeing them arriving tired in the tent and saying ‘we practiced all night long yesterday.’ Seeing that whenever they’re done [a challenge] and they’re a minute ahead, helping each other. That was really tapping into my values.
“That’s really what drew me into being a contestant on the show. I was not there to win, I was there to make friends. That’s really how I was approaching it. It was baking summer camp over competition.”
This, to Loïc, is the real power of baking, and he discovered it at an early age, growing up in Québec, where he started baking at around age six, with his aunt, or his grandmother.
“I would experiment with baking,” he said. “I was actually making my own birthday cakes throughout my childhood.”
Baking was always in the background throughout his high school years, and into adulthood.
“I often identify key moments of my baking journey being when I realized that it was a way to gather people together. When I was at university, I realized that if I brought a tray of baked goods to a class, then people talked to each other way more that if I didn’t.
“I witnessed the power of baking, in a way, how it really brings people together.”
Meeting the woman who became Loïc’s wife — also a baker — further improved his baking, he said. “When we met I was wanting to impress her. I was trying more difficult things, more extravagant things.”
And so getting into the Great Canadian Baking Show was yet another step on his baking journey, helping to take his baking to yet another level.
The challenges the bakers face every week on the show are intricate and complex — baking as high art. One would think one needs an encyclopedic knowledge of the craft — of recipes, ingredients, techniques … For Loïc, it begins with basic principles.
“The amount of knowledge that was accumulated and shared among the 10 bakers in the tent was phenomenal,” he said. “When we’re on set, when we’re not baking we’re brainstorming about how to make things better. It was incredible to have that massive baking encyclopedia at hand with the 10 bakers.
“I’m a teacher in my daily life, and the way I approach that learning is always by trying to boil it down to its simplest. For the last couple of years, I was ‘training’ to be on the show in a way. Whenever I made a recipe, I tried to boil it down to its simplest. If I make cookies — you usually have a half and half butter to sugar ratio; you add a third of dry ingredients; and if you want to add filling it’s usually half a cup.
“I kind of memorized those basic ratios, basic recipes, and I find it easier to build from that.
“And I think the knowledge that I brought, I had to work for it a lot. But it’s also about being strategic with what you memorize. I’m not memorizing recipes, I’m memorizing basic essentials.
“You’re always thinking on your feet in the tent. You have your recipe, but when something goes wrong … this is when your knowledge of the basics becomes handy.”
There is considerable pressure, of course, to compete on a nation-wide broadcast competition. But being in the moment is key to handling that.
“Once you get to get to the tent — the baking is important, but the attitude and vibe you bring, I find, is equally if not more important. There are a number of stressors, from being in a completely different setting, to time [limits], to cameras and different ovens. Everything is new.
“But I was really acutely aware that this was going to happen just once in my life. Each time you walk in the tent, you think, this could be my last challenge. So whenever I got too stressed, it was really important for me to be the one who tells people, ‘It’s really stressful, but look around you. You’ve been trying to get here for years. This is amazing. Let’s not stress about whether we do well or not.’
“That was my goal and I’m living that goal.”
Loïc grew up in Quebec, and has been living in B.C. for 10 years. Creston is now home, and the community — those that were in on the secret — have been incredibly supportive, he says.
“As I was practicing for the show, it was a secret. A few people who were on the inside circle of secrecy were so helpful. I have friends here who sacrificed in order to eat all the baked goods I met. I have an amazing seamstress who rushed my clothes before I left for the shooting. Everybody who knew, or pretended not to know, were so supportive and helpful.”
Season 7 of the Great Canadian Baking Show begins October 1 on CBC, featuring contestants Loïc Fauteux-Goulet, Andrew Evers, Andy Bui, Camila García Hernández, Candice Riley, Heather Allen, Kathy Neiman, Niv Saberi, Rainer Maksoud, and Sydney Hayden.