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Surrey physicist bakes his way to TV stardom

Is cooking an art, baking a science? Kwantlen prof puts the maxim to the test

Kwantlen Polytechnic University applied physics instructor James Hoyland prepares a cake recipe as part of The Great Canadian Baking Show, which will air starting Nov. 1, 2017.

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Courtesy CBC

Kwantlen Polytechnic University applied physics instructor James Hoyland prepares a cake recipe as part of The Great Canadian Baking Show, which will air starting Nov. 1, 2017.

James Hoyland, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University applied physics instructor, remembers his first time baking using the scientific method.

It was in Grade 5 or 6 in England, where he's from, and a teacher asked him to bake a series of Victoria sponge cakes — each time, omitting one ingredient, then to observe the results.

"I was fascinated by the experiment," he recalled in a phone interview, "beecause you could see what each component did to produce the filnal cake. That’s always stuck with me.

"One of the fantastic things about baking is there's only about half-a-dozen different ingredients … but when you put them in different orders or use different techniques, you get a massive variety of different end products, which is quite incredible!"

Hoyland is one of 10 amateur bakers set to face off on CBC television starting Wednesday, launching The Great Canadian Baking Show.

Having mastered bread making and an array of cakes, he said it's one of his favourite family activities.

"We have always loved to just cook from scratch," he explained, "but I particularly enjoy baking because I enjoy eating baked goods.

"I'm still an experimental person — there’s physics and chemistry as well. People say cooking is art but baking is science. There’s some truth to it, but there's still art involved. It’s more like enginering."

Baking, he mused, offers some ability to "play with recipes," but only if you get the chemistry and physics right. If not, "it just won't happen."

So when his wife heard CBC was producing a Canadian version of one of their favourite TV shows, The Great British Bake Off, she suggested he apply.

"We've been fans of the show for years," he said. "The whole time I've thought, 'Maybe I could do that,' but I thought I wasn't quite ready.

"Well, I didn't expect to get into it, but I brought a cake to my audition and made some things for them, and that was it."

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