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Culture fusion proves fruitful for Victoria doctor on televised baking competition

Langford baker bumped from the tent in The Great Canadian Baking show
Langford resident, and UVic staffer, John Fowler was sent home during the Nov. 6 episode of The Great Canadian Baking Show. (Carmen Cheung/Courtesy CBC)

Zoya Thawer is officially a star baker as she continues to keep her promise, fusing culture into her creations on The Great Canadian Baking Show.

The Victoria doctor is among the final four of the CBC television show and was named the star baker on the Nov. 6 episode on the same night fellow Islander John Fowler of Langford, was named bottom baker.

The televised competition started with 10 people making and tasting in a tent for judges – and celebrated pastry chefs – Kyla Kennaley and Bruno Feldeisen, as they whittle down to one winner.

Ahead of the season, Thawyer told Black Press Media she would share the flavour of her faith, Ismaili Muslim, and culture with East African roots and a touch of India. “I think that’s a big part of it for me. It’s always extra meaningful when that shows through. That is always where my focus is,” she said.

The bakers do three – signature, technical and showstopper – bakes each episode. For the most recent, pastry night challenged the bakers with traditional chimney cakes, mango rose tart with shortcuts and finally baklava.

RELATED: Family, culture influence flavours for Greater Victoria bakers in T.V. competition

“We were lucky enough to try each other’s bakes and everything was so different. It was cool to see how that concept merged into five completely different concepts,” she said.

Traditionally the desert consists of nuts, syrup and phyllo – a dough most recipes suggest purchasing.

“I thought it was super fun. I’m always one of those people who will plan out a bake over couple days and do something super complicated,” she said.

She made two flavours and variations – one a saffron and almond square and the other a cherry pine nut bracelet –presented on a dramatic tower based on the Gardens of Paradise in the Quran, with platforms of the sweet treats staggered to the top.

Thawer remains the lone B.C. contestant, the recently departed Fowler shone during botanicals week. Those remain his favourite bakes of the season as well – particularly the spruce tip cookies with hibiscus jelly. “I really do love those,” the University of Victoria administrator said.

The Oct. 23 episode also happened to be the night his fiance Martin Cockerill surprised him with a viewing party with friends including Thawer.

While the episodes were filmed months ago, “I was pretty emotional last night watching it and my partner was as well,” Fowler said the morning after his departure episode aired. “You still get wrapped up into the show. It still makes me want to bake every time I watch it.”

“It’s you against the ingredients or the time or yourself really and the other bakers are there as support and sometimes helpers,” he said, noting the hosts and judges were similarly supportive. “They’re there to critique you but they’re also there to make you a better baker as well.”

Fowler said he left the tent more confident than when he arrived, something the judges also noticed.

“We’re sending home somebody who came into the tent with strong skills and he just kept growing and improving challenge after challenge. I know that John is leaving here full of inspiration and ready to keep on baking,” Kennaley said at the end of the episode.

Thawer is among the four remaining bakers as the semi-final episode airs on Nov. 13.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay baker kneaded a win to make dessert on CBC


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Victoria doctor Zoya Thawer, who recently moved here from Edmonton, was named star baker in the Nov. 6 episode of The Great Canadian Baking Show. She’s among the four final bakers. (Carmen Cheung/Courtesy CBC)

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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