“The Great Canadian Baking Show” judge Bruno Feldeisen finds simple comfort in loaves of bread

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      Despite being a judge on one of the most popular made-in-Canada television shows of recent memory, Bruno Feldeisen lives an impressively under-the-radar life in Port Moody. So much so that not even his next-door neighbour believes it’s really him on The Great Canadian Baking Show.

      “One day he said, ‘You look like the guy from the Baking Show,’ and I was like, ‘What? It’s me,’” Feldeisen recalls via phone. “The guy didn’t believe me! He was like, ‘Yeah, good try—you look and sound like him, but I know it’s not you.’ You know, I bumped into the mayor of Port Moody one day and she was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I live down the street!’”

      It’s all part of the down-home charm that makes the Frenchman (his accent certainly helps too) so lovable on The Great Canadian Baking Show, which premieres its seventh season in October. Modelled after The Great British Bake Off, Canada’s Baking Show sees hobby bakers from around the country compete in challenges that test their talent and intuition. It’s an interesting concept, as far as competition shows go, because the contestants are fighting for, well, nothing.

      There’s no cash prize, no key to their very own bakery—not even a new set of muffin tins. Which begs the question: why do these self-taught bakers travel from around the country to film in Ontario over a number of weeks, sweating away in the baking tent and enduring all that pressure, all of it playing out on television?

      “I think the fundamental way of cooking is about survival—you hunt, fish, or harvest to feed yourself and your family,” muses Feldeisen. “Baking is a bit different. You bake to share, to give, to celebrate. The act of baking leads somewhere else. It’s human connection. I think people want to be on the show because they want to give something—they want to give knowledge, they want to give story.”

      Born in the small French town Clermont-Ferrand, Feldeisen got his start in the dessert world as an apprentice at chocolate shop Les Palets d’Or, and went on to work as a chocolatier at Monaco’s Hotel de Paris (under the revered Alain Ducasse). He also served as the executive pastry chef at New York’s Four Seasons Hotel, and later on, Vancouver’s Four Seasons Hotel (RIP). These days, though, his favourite thing to bake is a simple loaf of bread.

      “There is nothing like the smell of a baking loaf of bread in the oven,” he says. “I think it brings something very relaxing into the house. It’s multipurpose—you can make toast with it; you can make a sandwich; you can drizzle it with olive oil; grate some fresh garlic; smear it with butter. It has a lot of applications to enjoy.”

      When he’s not doing the baking, Feldeisen—who fans can catch making an appearance at Vancouver Fall Home Show in September—frequently buys treats from Thomas Haas (who happens to be one of his best friends). His love for the craft and romance of baking is infectious; he is quick to mention a few other bakeries he admires around BC, including Vancouver’s Beaucoup, Richmond’s Daily Delicious, Port Moody’s Elmo Baking Co., and Tofino’s Ouest Artisan Patisserie. Then there’s Romania Country Bread in Steveston.

      “He only bakes one kind of loaf,” Feldeisen says, with a hint of what sounds like actual wonder in his voice. “I went last year; I stumbled into it, and I could not believe I could see such an old-style bakery in Richmond. He bakes 30 loaves a day, $20 a pop. That’s all he sells. When he runs out, he runs out. For me, this is beautiful.”

      Vancouver Fall Home Show

      When: September 28 to October 1

      Where: Vancouver Convention Centre West

      Tickets: $8 to $14