Sunday, Oct 2022

Pastry chefs Tara O’Brady, Anna Olson, and Domenic Giammarella represent the Niagara region on Canadian TV screens this year as judges on Food Network Canada’s newest show, Wall of Bakers.

The series premiere of Wall of Bakers is on Monday, March 28 at 10PM ET/PT. Watch and stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows anytime, live or on demand on STACKTV and the Global TV App. Visit the Where to Watch page for more information.


Serving a little slice of Niagara to Canadians across the country

Devoted foodies have long recognized Niagara’s potential to become a burgeoning food fusion centre. Some go for the wine. Others go for the exquisite bakery scene that brings visitors from across Canada to the region for a tastebud-tantalizing culinary experience.

This year, that potential — as well as the culinary accomplishments of those who call it home — is being celebrated nation-wide. In the spirit of serving a little slice of Niagara to Canadians across the country, three Niagara pastry chefs are representing the region as judges on Food Network Canada’s newest show that promises sweet, televised competition among home bakers and aspiring pastry chefs.


The Ultimate Canadian Bake-off Competition

Chefs Tara O’Brady, Anna Olson, and Domenic Giammarella join two dozen of the country’s best pastry chefs who will be judging the work of contestants on Wall of Bakers, the ultimate Canadian bake-off competition where home bakers from across the country vie for the title of show champion each episode and a $10,000 prize.[i]


Chef Domenic Giammarella | Photo credit: Food Network Canada  | Chef Domenic Giammarella is the pastry chef at Restaurant Pearl Morissette, located in Jordan Station. He developed an interest in pastry at Ottawa’s Le Cordon Bleu after leaving the beginnings of a bio-chemical engineering degree — a background he says allows him to take a very scientific approach in baking and developing new culinary creations.[i]


Getting to represent Niagara — a part of Canada that is replete in great bakeries, fresh produce and farm-to-table dining — is an honour, says Giammarella.

“Niagara [is] a microclimate that produces some of the best fruits and vegetables in Canada,” he says. “There’s a lot of beautiful food that comes out of our region, and I’m so happy to represent this part of Canada and help shed more light on everything this area has to offer.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Olson and O’Brady, who add that Niagara is brimming with culinary talent and innovation, its success “rooted in the bounty of the work of the farmers and producers of the region,” as O’Brady puts it.  

There’s no doubt about it — Niagara chefs know good food when they taste it. Wall of Bakers promises stiff competition, mouth-watering visuals, and high stakes for its contestants. But what makes a champion baker?[i]

Reveal Magazine asked O’Brady, Olson and Giammarella to weigh in on that question ahead of the show’s premiere.


Practice and creativity (sort of) make perfect

They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice for a person to become an expert in their craft. In the world of baking, perfection doesn’t exist, agree the bakers. But with practice, you can get pretty close.  

“A lot of baking is muscle memory and the more you can rely on those routines, the better prepared you are for the unexpected,” says O’Brady, a food writer and baker from Niagara.

In each stand-alone episode of Wall of Bakers, four amateur bakers compete in three rounds of competition. The battle begins with the Crowd-Pleaser round, where home chefs prepare their own signature desserts for the judges. Those who move onto the next round compete in Baker’s Pantry, where they must create a dessert using two staple ingredients from one of the judges’ pantries.

But the final, Bakery-Worthy round — where two home bakers face off to create their own bakery-worthy treats inspired by a chef’s signature confection —[i] demands more than just practice, says O’Brady.

“A balance of creativity, originality, and attention to detail is important, too,” says the pastry chef who, when she isn’t working as the food and cultural consultant on CBC’s Run the Burbs, is the culinary host for the Globe and Mail travel program.[ii]

Throughout the season, the home bakers push their talents and pastries to the limit as they navigate complex pairings like tahini and dark chocolate, black sesame paste and bananas, and apple butter and rosemary, among others. Each round requires creativity on their part as they’re tasked with challenges like re-inventing a classic dessert, whipping up carnival treats, and experimenting with unusual flavour combinations.

“At the end of the day, pastry has a lot to do with chemistry, and if something goes wrong, it can only be for a small number of reasons,” he says.

And while the road to master baker is paved with a laundry list of potential confectionary faux-pas’, the key to driving it is rolling with the punches.


Chef Anna Olson | Photo credit: Food Network Canada  |  Chef Anna Olson is a celebrity television chef who has hosted numerous Food Network Canada shows, including Bake with Anna Olson and Great Chocolate Showdown. Her recipes have been published in magazines and best-selling cookbooks. Her latest cookbook is called Baking Day with Anna Olson.[i]


Keep an eye on the clock

The competition on Wall of Bakers promises to be stiff. Contestants aren’t just competing against other people — they’re also competing against the clock. And like cinnamon or vanilla essence, their allotted time must be measured carefully and with precision.

Good time management means keeping your hands busy, says Anna Olson, a Welland television chef and host of Food Network Canada’s Bake with Anna Olson, Fresh with Anna Olson, Junior Chef Showdown and Sugar.[i]

“As an apprentice, I was advised that a good baker always has something in their mixing bowl, on their worktable and in the oven,” says Olson, who also hosts Great Chocolate Showdown, a chocolate baking and confection-making series that was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award in 2021.[ii] “That means you are maximizing your time with your use of tools and space.”

Giving yourself more time than you think you need and structuring your time into chunks — the mixing, the baking, and the decorating, for example — can keep you calm and collected under the pressure that the dwindling minutes impose.  

“These home bakers are really testing their skills under a tight timeline, and under the watchful gaze of 12 professional bakers,” says Olson. “I commend the courage it takes it do that.”



Chef Tara O'Brady | Photo credit: Food Network Canada  |  Chef Tara O’Brady is the author of the bestselling cookbook Seven Spoons and the founder of the award-winning website of the same name. She is a contributor to The Globe and Mail and Epicurious, and her work has been featured in numerous publications, websites, and radio programs, including The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Bon Appétit.[i]


Put out fires with pizazz

If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you’ve seen it on television — buttercream that never quite thickens, cakes that stick to the bottom of baking pans, and crumbly, overworked modelling chocolate that turns would-be masterpieces into culinary flops. Part of the baking process is understanding that things don’t always work out the way you want them to, says Giammarella.

“At the end of the day, pastry has a lot to do with chemistry, and if something goes wrong, it can only be for a small number of reasons,” he says.

And while the road to master baker is paved with a laundry list of potential confectionary faux-pas’, the key to driving it is rolling with the punches.

“Being able to react to problems is one of the biggest skills one could possess,” says Giammarella. “What really makes the difference is not panicking and figuring out the solution to the problem, [because] most problems can be solved with a little know-how and some patience.”

Ready to see home bakers from across the country compete under the watchful eyes of Canada’s finest? Tune into Wall of Bakers’ sweet debut March 28 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.











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