People & Places

Local baker Jay Smidt heads into Season 3 of The Great Canadian Baking Show

It’s bake-off time! The Great Canadian Baking Show has announced the 10 amateur bakers who will be heading into the big tent for the third season. Cakes, breads, pies, and tarts are the name of the game as the avid bakers get down to it in a series of three weekly high-stakes bake-offs — the Signature Bake, the Technical Bake, and the always-outrageous Show Stopper.

Jay with the other competitors of The Great Canadian Baking Show. Photo by Geoff George, Courtesy CBC

City Bites will be cheering for Cantley’s own Jay Smidt, a government trade officer with a passion for elegant European-style baking… and rugby. 

With the program set to air Wednesday, September 18 at 8 p.m. ET, City Bites caught up with Smidt to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how he aced the tryouts and wound up baking for celebrity judges chocolatier Bruno Feldeisen and pastry chef extraordinaire Kyla Kennaley.

His (Roundabout) Journey to Ottawa-Gatineau
Smidt was raised in Indiana but left when he was 19, spending the next two decades  in Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco, where he met his future husband, a foreign service officer with Global Affairs Canada. “When Carl’s posting [in San Francisco] ended, I came back to Ottawa with him, so you could say I am a love refugee,” Smidt says.

The couple travelled to postings in Stockholm, Sweden, and Tel Aviv, Israel, and Smidt received his Canadian Citizenship in 2012. 

Discovering Baking in Sweden
As the self-described “trailing spouse” of a foreign-service officer in Sweden, Smidt began watching The Great British Bake Off. He quickly became addicted, tuning in every episode and teaching himself to bake. Croissant making became his obsession, baking his creative outlet.
 
Sweden had its own version of the bake-off format (Hela Sverige bakar premiered in 2012) and he and his Swedish friends were hooked. “Several of my Swedish friends encouraged me to audition in Sweden, but I just was too afraid to do so as my Swedish was sub-par and I was afraid of being tasked to bake something I had never heard of before.” Still, their faith in him planted the idea and when Smidt returned to Canada he decided to try out for The Great Canadian Baking Show

Acing the Tryout
Smidt wowed the judges by baking something completely different — a pan of Swedish semlor buns. The soft cardamom bun, which is filled with almond paste and whipped cream, is a popular treat eaten in Nordic countries at Lent.

Once he found out he’d made the cut, Smidt spent the next few weeks in the kitchen. He would routinely bake 5-6 hours a night, six days a week.          

The Watch Party
Smidt plans to host a watch party on September 18 with friends from work, as well as from the rugby team he manages. (Unfortunately, his husband is in the United States on business so will have to settle for joining the crew via FaceTime.)

And the Winner Is….
Obviously, Smidt can’t tell. The first question he gets asked now that the secret is out is “Did you win?”
“Of course, I can’t answer that question! You have to tune in each week to see! Being mysterious is part of the fun.”

Local Recommendations
City Bites couldn’t resist asking Smidt for his favourite baked goods around town. He offered up three picks: Adam Bakes at the Ottawa Farmers Market at Lansdowne Park — “The most amazing canelés I have ever tasted, and his flavour combinations are out of this world!”; Pipolinka Boulangerie in Wakefield; and Scone Witch.