A new Food Network Canada series premiering February 4th, Project Bakeover, saves struggling bakeries on the brink of losing it all across North America by providing expert business and design advice—and with a generous helping of heart. Vancouver’s own Steve Hodge, renowned pastry chef, master chocolatier and owner of Temper Chocolate & Pastry, co-hosts with HGTV Canada design guru Tiffany Pratt. We chatted with them virtually about their dough-licious new show.—Catherine Dunwoody
Congrats! Did you shoot this in the past year, during the pandemic?
SH: We shot part of it, then were shut down for a while, and then could resume. What is so great about filming is that the safety standards and protocols are higher than normal, Tiff and I were in our own bubble, were constantly being tested, and the production company went above and beyond to ensure we all were completely safe and felt comfortable. That’s why we could complete shooting.
You filmed in bakeries in Kelowna, Toronto, Lynchburg, Virginia, and Danville, Kentucky. What was that like?
TP: Every episode is different. The idea is to give the viewing audiences a flavour of what bakery life looks like for different people, their menus and styles. The home baker will learn all these incredible pastry/chocolate combos to make at home, while a bakery owner will gain design tips and ideas they can implement for times like now.
It’s so important these days for customers to support local businesses. What survival strategies did you teach the bakery owners you featured?
SH: On my side, when I go in, I ask myself what products are they offering? Are there too many, are they too heavy in production, why do they have so much inventory on hand, are they losing money? I teach them tricks like rather than producing one cake at a time, you can redesign those into slab cakes, yield 60 slices out of it and cut your production time in half. Really most of these bakers are not trained professionals that have been in the culinary industry a long time, but instead they fell in love with baking, they make a great pie and want to open a bake shop. I teach them things through my experience that they don’t understand when they open a business, it is a different beast, with so many moving parts, and in order to be profitable you have to understand it.
TP: With each episode different bakeries need different things, and that is why the show is really timely. From a design perspective, it is always just really about driving foot traffic through that door, that experience starts before you even walk through it. That is an important message currently because we can’t just ‘walk through’ anybody’s door right now, so we have to have our façade, logos, take out containers, what we are doing on our sidewalks, how we are really envisioning our brand from a visual perspective—at the forefront. Focus on getting people talking, wanting to try your food, because it is all about social media and hype right now. We talk about that a lot in the show, you can have the best cakes in the world, but if you have a really dark, dungeon-y bakery in a strip mall no one’s ever going to see you or what you are creating in that kitchen, unless you have a strong design angle.