Physicist bakes recipe for success
Vancouver — Science and baking is always an experiment. At least according to Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) physics instructor and amateur baker Dr. James Hoyland, who is competing for the title of Canada's next great baker on CBC's The Great Canadian Baking Show.
"There is a bit of a scientific process in getting the ingredients right, the temperatures, the level of moisture, particularly in bread," says Hoyland. "I'm an experimental kind of guy so I like making things, building things."
Whether it's baking bread to stave off the cold Canadian winters, or helping students build wireless sensors to measure crop moisture, Hoyland lives to create stuff. An applied physicist, Hoyland teaches and uses physics to solve real-world problems.
Born in the UK, Hoyland came to Vancouver over a decade ago with his son and his wife, who is originally from the Lower Mainland. The family then moved to New Brunswick. It was there during the harsh Atlantic winters that Hoyland's baking began in earnest motivated by long snow-filled days and an addiction to The Great British Bake Off, the format for the Canadian series he's soon to compete on.
"There was this primal urge to create heat," he says of living in New Brunswick. "I began to make a lot of bread and that's become a bit of my specialty."
After working for a few years overseas in Denmark, Hoyland and his family, now grown to four, moved back to B.C. and are currently living in Richmond. For the past three years, Hoyland has been teaching both introductory and upper-level physics courses at KPU, but his students weren't aware of his baking talents until recently.
"They know now that the announcement came out. They seemed really excited about it. They didn't know I was a baker; it wasn't something that ever came up in classes. They think the promos are quite funny," adds Hoyland.
The Great Canadian Baking Show premieres Nov. 1 at 8:00 pm on CBC. Hoyland and nine other bakers from across the country will whisk, whip and knead their way through a series of culinary themed challenges. After the baked goods are tasted and critiqued, the judges will decide who the week's winner is and who will be sent home. In the final episode, three bakers remain and will vie for the title of Canada's best amateur baker.
Each dish will be judged by pastry chefs Bruno Feldeisen and Rochelle Adonis. Hosts of the series are writer and actor Daniel Levy and actor Julia Chan.
"Although competition, it's very good natured competition," says Hoyland. "You're kind of competing against yourself more than anyone else, and pushing yourself to be better. "I'm still chatting all the time with the other bakers. There's none of that 'grrrr' competition."
Hoyland's best advice to would-be bakers is the same he gives his students at KPU, "push yourself to do better at what you're interested in, what fascinates you. That's how you get better, by pushing yourself. My baking certainly got so much better from being part of the show. It was stressful at times, but it was also fun."
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