Chris Sheppard, who hails from Clarenville and teaches culinary arts at Bonavista’s College of the North Atlantic, appeared on the Food Network program Donut Showdown on Monday night. The 30-minute program brings three top bakers together to test their creativity and donut skills.
In each episode they are challenged to create donuts with surprise ingredients. They then have a limited time to present their creations to three judges.
After one competitor is eliminated, the remaining two must bake a new batch with a theme dictated by the judges, using a different secret ingredient.
The winner goes home with the grand prize of $10,000.
The episode featuring Sheppard was circus themed. He was pitted against a former daycare owner from Ottawa and a third-generation donut-maker from Cincinnati. Pink peppercorns were the mystery ingredient.
Sheppard and his children love watching Donut Showdown together. He would periodically check the Food Network’s casting call and when Donut Showdown announced a call his family urged him to compete.
He was hot off his win at the Roots, Rants and Roars King of Cod with a cod donut and was feeling confident and up to the challenge.
“I sent them(The Food Network) an e-mail and explained who I was and they contacted me soon after. I chatted with the producer for an hour and they seemed very interested in having me do something,” Sheppard told The Packet.
He went through a series of interviews and made an audition video with himself and his assistant, Roger Dewling, who has been his sous-chef for a number of years.
The program’s producers flew him to Toronto in February and the episode was shot in one day in a 12-hour period.
He was sworn to secrecy until airtime on Sept. 15.
With the results being public knowledge after the show aired, Sheppard spoke with The Packet to share his experience the following morning.
For his first donut, the mystery ingredient was pink peppercorns. He made a savory root cellar donut to highlight Newfoundland. It was made with parsnips and carrots with a cream cheese icing on top and deep fried beet chips as a garnish.
“It went over really well, the judges really enjoyed it,” says Sheppard.
The judges included pastry chef and television personality, Duff Goldman, also known as the ace of cakes; Eden Grinshpan, host of the Cooking Channel’s Eden Eats and David Rocco, famous for hosting the culinary themed television show David Rocco’s Dolce Vita.
Sheppard made it past the first round with his Newfoundland-inspired donut, shockingly beating out the third-generation donut-maker from Cincinnati.
When Sheppard first introduced himself to the other contestants in the morning, he was intimidated to learn one of the contestants had been making donuts since he was kid.
“He said his grandfather opened a donut shop in the 50s and now runs his own shop. I thought,‘Oh my God we are so screwed.’ He said when he was a baby they used to put him on the flour sacks at the back of the shop. So, it was really shocking when he didn’t win,” says Sheppard.
The second round was circus themed with corn dogs as the second mystery ingredient.
He deconstructed the corn dog, taking the crust off, chopping the wiener really fine, sautéing it with garlic and bacon, adding it to a savory dough and deep-frying the mixture.
He then added a light glaze on top and toasted the outer parts, adding a stick to make it look like a corn dog.
“That one was a huge hit. Duff Goldman said it was the best donut of the night and it should be on sale somewhere,” says Sheppard.
The next two donuts were a caramel corn donut and a candy apple donut. The candy apple fell a little short.
“I think that was our downfall; they said the donut didn’t have enough flavor,” says Sheppard, adding with a chuckle, “That was our only criticism of the night. One donut cost us $10,000.”
While some people might be discouraged or downright angry by narrowly missing such a tidy sum of money, Sheppard simply laughs off the misfortune.
“I wouldn’t change any part of it. We had some great catch phrases and had a lot of laughs.”
Sheppard has loved the reaction from friends and family.
“Twitter has gone mad. Everyone is so excited and thought it was fantastic. Everyone was excited to see us do our thing and we had a few quotes that went all over Twitter,” he says.
In his closing remarks, Sheppard told the camera it was time to go to the bar, which, according to Twitter, had Canadian viewers in hysterics.
While it brought a big laugh, he was serious in his remark and the six competitors all went out for dinner and drinks afterwards.
“At the end of the day it was a fantastic experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was so funny, and it made for good TV. My throat is sore from laughing so much.”
For those who missed Sheppard on the show, check listings for reruns of the episode on the Food Network throughout the week.
You can also find the episode at www.foodnetwork.ca/shows/donut-showdown/video/#donut-showdown/video and select the “Circus” episode.