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Patrice Demers

Get ready for two outstanding shows on Food Network CanadaWall of Bakers and Big Food Bucket List.

Wall of Bakers, a spin-off of Wall of Chefs, tests the precision skills of Canada’s home bakers as they battle in three rounds of captivating competition, in front of a dozen of the country’s most accomplished As the hopeful home bakers rise to the challenge, they’ll set their sights on the $10,000 grand prize and the title of Wall of Bakers champion. The Corus Studios original makes its sweet debut on March 28 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.

Wall of Bakers

Wall of Bakers features an expert panel of 24 of the country’s biggest names in baking on rotation throughout the season. The pastry chefs offer their expertise in each round, all while tasting, judging and eliminating one home baker. Ultimately, they decide who takes the cake. The Wall of Bakers judges includethree Montrealers in these roles: Jo Notkin (Maison Zoe Ford),  Patrice Demers (Patrice Pâtissier) and Ricardo Larrivée (Ricardo Media Inc.)

Chef Jo Notkin

In each stand-alone episode of Wall of Bakers, host Noah Cappe (Wall of Chefs, Carnival Eats) leads four amateur bakers to face off in three rounds of sweet competition. In the first “Crowd-Pleaser” round, they prepare their own personal ‘signature’ desserts. In the second “Baker’s Pantry” round, they are challenged to come up with a dessert using two ingredients that are staples in the pantry of one of the chefs on the Wall. In the third and final “Bakery-Worthy” round, the last two home bakers are inspired by a chef’s signature confection to make their own bakery-worthy creations.

Throughout the season, the determined batch of bakers will push their pastry talents to the limit as they are tasked with using mandatory ingredients and pairings such as tahini and dark chocolate, black sesame paste and bananas, apple butter and rosemary and more. Each episode also incorporates themes to inspire creativity in their baked goods including re-inventing a classic dessert, carnival treats, spiced infusions and experiments with flavour combinations.

Jo Notkin started Zoe Ford Catering in 2009 so she could feed people the type of food she loves to eat at parties- Beautiful, simple and delicious. She considers sharing food to be one of life’s greatest joys. Jo named the company after her late grandmother (whose real name is Esther Finestone) from whom she inherited her fresh aesthetic, keen eye for detail, creative spirit and penchant for the art of hospitality.

Jo is a native of Côte Saint-Luc with ties to the seaside town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, near to where Zoe was born and where she spent summers growing up (and discovering the sheer magic of lobster parties and strawberry rhubarb pie made by hand). Beyond her role as a caterer, Jo has been many things: among them, a creator of jewelry for Aldo shoes while in her late teens, a champion oyster shucker in her 20’s, a designer and manufacturer of sustainable textiles in her 30’s, and in her 40’s a chocolatière, a chef and a contestant Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada Season 8 in 2020.

The idea to apply for the show was planted when the friend of a now ex-boyfriend suggested she do so. Almost as if it was a message from above, sometime later an application form from a previous season popped on her iPhone screen. She took that as a sign, went to the website and before you knew it was part of Top Chef. “It was an amazing experience,” she told me. “I work well under pressure. Being a caterer prepares you for that.” 

As for Wall of Baker, Jo noted, “it is so much more fun to be a judge. No pressure.”

Working with Chef Ricardo, she says, was a joy. “I adore him. He is so much fun; the ultimate optimist. He always had treats in his pockets for us.”

See my Video Chat with Jo

In this season of Big Food Bucket List, host John Catucci (You Gotta Eat Here!) is back to take viewers on an all-new food adventure across North America as he checks buzz-worthy, crazy, delicious food off his bucket list. In each episode, John visits the restaurants behind these must-eat meals and hits the kitchen to learn how the chefs make their mind-blowing creations. We’re talking sky-high lemon pie topped with clouds of meringue, juicy beef brisket barbecued right on the beach, outrageously stacked 100-layer lasagna and a Chicano burrito jam-packed with crispy French fries. John’s setting out to eat each drool-worthy dish and check them off his Big Food Bucket List.

This season features two Montreal restaurants  – Tropikàl Restobar in St. Henri, specializing in Caribbean cuisine and owned by Dollard native Jae-Anthony Doughan and trendy  Foiegwa (https://www.foiegwa.com/menu) in Griffintown.

Located in the space formerly occupied by La Belle Province in Saint-Henri, Foiegwa is a result of a joint effort between the Barroco Group and the Gauley Brothers. While the space is elegant and chic, the vibe remains convivial. Chef Jérémie Falissardwanted to create a restaurant where locals could meet up for dinner, brunch, or even just to enjoy a cocktail. I have walked and driven by this restaurant and often noticed lineups. After getting an advance review copy of Catucci’s Foiegwa visit (airing April 2 at 8:30 pm) I can see why. Catucci sampled the signature truffle parmesan spaghetti and some truffle bechamel fries.

John Catucci

“That truffle spaghetti dish is my downfall,” Catucci told me. “I usually eat in bites. But not with this dish.”

Catucci records 20 episodes per season, profiling three restaurants in each half-hour segment. That is 60 dining experiences across Canada and the United States. The show also airs on Hulu in the United States. It is a busy pace, keeping him on the road two and a half weeks per month. How does he stay in shape? “Because of this show and to keep me honest, I hired a personal trainer a few years ago,” he said.

The format is neat. At each restaurant, he is joined by regulars who sit with him and talk about the dishes.

Catucci’s visit to Tropikàl Restobar will air on April 9 at 8 pm. “I loved the vibe,” he said. “The food is so special, and Jae-Anthony is an amazing chef. He is one of those guys who really wants to feed you. I especially enjoyed his jerk chicken poutine.”

Here is my video chat with John.

Like me, you can watch past shows on the Global TV app if you subscribe to Food Network Canada