Nearly a decade ago, Aurora resident Steve Levitt made a complete lifestyle change.
While he jokes that if he could get all the nutrition he needed from hot dogs and chocolate chip cookies alone he would happily do so, he started eating properly, hit the gym and, content he was keeping the weight off, decided to re-introduce some sweets to his diet in strict moderation.
A self-confessed chocolate chip cookie aficionado, he reasoned if he was going to indulge in his favourite treat, it had to be the best chocolate chip cookie he ever had – and, in addition to hitting the gym, he hit the kitchen to make it happen.
It has been a long and fulfilling journey and this Sunday it is set to culminate in an iconic white tent when he takes his place on the latest season of CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking Show.
Now in its fifth season, Levitt, who lives in the community with his wife and two daughters, has been a long-time fan of the show – and its long-running British counterpart – since its inception and first auditioned for the program when it was first announced by the network.
“I thought I was a good enough baker and that’s why I applied,” he says. “I had only been baking maybe a year or so at that point and I did get a phone interview… but I realised I didn’t know half the things they were talking about!”
He challenged himself to step up his game and although he didn’t audition for the second season, the third and fourth seasons were a decidedly different story – with the fifth turning out to be the charm.
Between his first application and nabbing a spot this year, he challenged himself to bake something every week he had never baked before, and maybe had never even eaten before.
“Lo and behold, either they were sick of hearing my name or I really did something to impress them!” he jokes about finally securing his place in the tent. “It was a virtual audition [due to COVID]. You’re baking in your own home and they’re (the producers) are watching you. It’s a live bake-a-long. I had my wife holding up the selfie stick, I had an iPad, and it was like a three-camera deal going on. The producers are talking to you, asking questions, all the while you’re trying to bake, all the while you’re trying to do it in the time allotted. It is like being in the tent already, but you have the good fortune of being in your own home. Just from watching it, they could tell if I did something wrong, they had an idea what it would taste like, and they could see what it looked like – but my kitchen was a mess!”
He demurs when asked what he baked for this virtual audition, so perhaps it is something he will be asked to bake on the show. Stay tuned!
Following his successful audition, he was able to set foot in the tent. For Levitt, the excitement was first palpable not when he was inside but from the very moment he saw it on the horizon.
“I could literally hear the theme music in my head and I got all goose-bumpy,” he says. “That is when the reality sort of sinks in. Then I walked in and it took it up 10 more levels at that point. It was amazing to me and, honestly, it was better than I could have imagined. The feeling of walking in there – I was like a little kid!”
Levitt, a partner in the promotional products company Tri-Versa Global, has always loved to cook.
He says he jokes with his mother that he learned how to do so out of sheer necessity “because she didn’t and couldn’t. So, if I wanted to survive, I had to learn how to cook!”
Once he achieved his perfect scratch-baked chocolate chip cookie when he decided to indulge again, he asked himself, “How hard could it be to make a cake?”
“There is something so soothing about baking,” he says. “Baking is science. To make a cake, you’re putting liquid into a pan and into the oven and pulling out a solid. I fell in love with the process, the meditative aspect of just being in the kitchen doing my thing.”
Throughout his Baking Show journey, Levitt says he learned that he’s “kind of a fanboy when it comes to something like this. I am 55 years old and still in awe of things, which I like.” He also learned he is able to roll with the punches and thrive under pressure – a characteristic he attributes, at least in part, to his love for yoga.
As the clock ticks down to the season premiere of The Great Canadian Banking Show, he says he is excited to see the first episode because once he started baking it was “a complete blackout” in his head.
“Now I can’t wait for the show to come on because I need to see what I did! Then I want to see what everyone else did because you’re so into what you’re doing you don’t have the time to look around and see what other people are doing and have a coffee! I really want to see these other nine bakers bake because they’re jaw-dropping, unbelievable bakers. It’s quite remarkable and beyond that they’re amazing people. It is amazing how quickly we became close friends.”
Season 5 of The Great Canadian Baking Show airs this Sunday, October 17, at 8 p.m.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran