The dessert-making skills of a budding Surrey baker are showcased on an elimination-type TV show devoted to chocolate treats.
Newton-area student Jujhar Mann, 21, is among 10 “home bakers” competing for a $50,000 grand prize on The Food Network’s “Great Chocolate Showdown,” billed as “an ooey-gooey, decadent chocolate dessert competition series.”
The second-season show is another step toward a pastry-chef career for Mann, who says he wasn’t encouraged to bake as a child, but always admired the art of baking and cake decorating. He dreamed of becoming a pastry chef and having his own bakeshop one day.
“My parents never said no, it just wasn’t the norm for a South Asian boy to bake,” Mann said Friday (March 19).
“It just wasn’t encouraged, and it was difficult because I kind of felt trapped, not doing what I wanted to do,” he added. “I only really started baking in 2018, three years ago. I’ve always been a creative person, hands-on, working with my hands, but I never baked at home. I’m not like other contestants who say they’ve been baking since age four, or whatever.”
As a creative outlet, Mann started baking after completing a stressful first year of business studies at Simon Fraser University. Last year, when classes went online during the pandemic, he applied to appear on “Great Chocolate Showdown,” was selected, and flew to Toronto to film the eight-episode series, which airs Mondays.
Meantime, he was also handling inquiries for the online bakeshop he’d launched “for fun” as an Instagram page in August 2018.
“It was so much fun being on the show but also intense, because I was a full-time student with four classes and it was all supposed to be a secret, too, me being on the show,” Mann recalled. “I didn’t take any orders during that time, because I just couldn’t.”
Launched as Jujhar’s Dessert Bar, Mann’s business is now known as Mann & Co Bakeshop, a portal for custom cakes, dessert bars and more. His plan is to open a storefront location in Newton later this year.
On the TV show, the Kwantlen Park Secondary grad said he’s up against competitors from Texas, Portland, Philadelphia, Toronto and other North America cities, with all desserts judged by Anna Olson, Steve Hodge and Cynthia Stroud.
“I watched the first season (of the show) last year and I contacted the contestants to ask them about it, the experience, and then I applied to be on it,” Mann recalled.
“People talk about how COVID stops them from doing things,” he added, “but for me it was helpful, because I could do online school and the show, and after the filming I attended a pastry school in Las Vegas.… I just returned from there last week. My business degree ends next month, and now I am a pastry chef as well. My dreams are becoming a reality.”
Those dreams now include expanding his business and doing more TV shows – maybe doing his own one day, too.
Online, Mann can be seen in episodes of “Great Chocolate Showdown” posted to foodnetwork.ca.
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