Seven years ago, Maggie Frith was working as a senior counsel at a book publisher in Toronto daydreaming about macarons and croissants.
Although she comes from a family of politicians, lawyers, and police officers – her father, Doug Frith served as Sudbury MP from 1980 to 1988 and served as a cabinet minister – it was then that she realized being a lawyer wasn’t her calling.
“I did an undergrad in political science and economics at Laurentian University, and then I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but I didn’t really stop to see if there was something I actually wanted for myself,” said Frith.
“It wasn’t until I was done law school and articling on Bay Street that I sort of started to question what choices I had made with my life. I realized that baking has always been a stress reliever and a creative outlet for me. I’ve had a sweet tooth my whole life and I grew up baking with my mom.”
After tragically losing her father shortly after becoming a mother for the first time, Frith decided to quit her job so she could spend time with her kids and focus on baking.
“I realized that life is just too short to be spending it on something you don’t love, and I wanted to show my kids that you can follow your passions in life. Now, they call me baker mom,” she said.
As a stay-at-home mom, she’s definitely busy but she makes time to bake every day and loves to involve her kids in the process.
Now, Frith is putting her baking skills to the test as one of 10 contestants on Season 4 of CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking Show, which she describes as “a bunch of amateur bakers in a tent or pavilion baking their hearts out.”
“The Great British Bake Off is one of my favourite shows, and then about four years ago, CBC announced that they were doing a Canadian version and I nearly fell off my seat. I was so excited. It’s something I’ve wanted for a really long time,” she said.
“I applied every year. I’m a lifer. When I got the call that I had made it on the show this year, I lost my mind. I may have sworn a few times. I am from Sudbury, after all.”
Auditions were a bit different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Frith had two phone calls and a Zoom chat with the production team before being selected as a contestant.
“I got to call my kids and my husband downstairs, and they got to hear the news firsthand, so it was pretty fun. It was definitely a family affair,” she said.
“My eight-year-old daughter is a baking aficionado, and her and I watch all the baking shows together, so she was particularly excited.”
The Great Canadian Baking Show features amateur bakers that take part in a competition that will test every aspect of their baking skills.
For eight episodes, the group faces culinary-themed challenges for a chance to win the title of Canada’s Best Amateur Baker.
Each episode features three rounds, including the signature bake, the technical bake, and the show stopper during which the bakers rely on their interests, baking styles, and cultural backgrounds to make delicious dishes for the judges.
Last season, 33-year-old administrative assistant Natalia Shevchenko of Edmonton took home the title.
“Being on the show was amazing and crazy all wrapped up into one. It was a surreal experience for sure. Meeting other amazing bakers who share the same passion as I do has been definitely the best part of this whole thing,” she said.
“When you’re all in the same tent, sharing the same goal, doing your best, and you’re being timed, it gets pretty intense. It’s funny, you watch these shows and think, I could do that, and then you get there. The time crunch is the most difficult part.”
Taking after her mom, who “made a mean pie crust,” Frith said she loves to bake everything, but her favourite thing to bake is pastry.
“I once made 13 pies in one day in one oven for family and friends. I love making pie. Pecan pie, apple pie, caramel tarts. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to make sure there are no soggy bottoms,” she said.
“That’s something I used to make with my mom when I was little. I spent years trying to recreate her crust.”
She also thinks there are some crossovers between being a lawyer and a baker.
“Macarons was one of the first things I tackled with all the skills I learned in law school. Most bakers, I think, have a little bit of a ‘type A’ personality. It’s different than cooking where you can stir things in, you have to be a little bit more specific with baking,” she said.
Although it’s been a while since Frith bought a chocolate chip cookie from Golden Grain Bakery in downtown Sudbury, she hasn’t forgotten her roots.
She still comes up north with her family every year to visit, and she’s excited to share this accomplishment with her hometown.
Frith hopes to find a way to eventually turn her love of baking into a business. She regularly posts photos of her creations on Facebook and Instagram @themagpiecakery.
Season 4 of The Great Canadian Baking Show aired on CBC on Feb. 14.
New episodes and Seasons 1 to 3 can be streamed on CBC Gem at bit.ly/2Zxqa2l.
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star