Having so far survived cake, cookie, celebration and bread weeks, just how far will Dartmouth’s self-professed ‘baking nerd’ go in season five of The Great Canadian Baking Show? Sworn to secrecy, 31-year-old mental health researcher Dougal Nolan isn’t telling. Instead, he says you’ll have to tune in to find out.
A fan of the show from its beginnings in 2017, this season was not Nolan’s first attempt at acquiring a spot on the CBC reality show based on the original British version.
“They have a lot of very talented people that apply, so I was absolutely thrilled it happened this year,” he says.
Calling it a surreal experience after getting the call to appear this season, it took time for the reality to settle in.
“It didn’t really set in that day or the next day,” he says. “It didn’t really even set in when I was there. It almost felt like it was still some kind of elusive journey.”
Once getting the word, Nolan began preparing for the show in which he and nine other home bakers vie each week in three tests of their baking prowess. At the end of each episode, one contestant becomes “star baker,” while another gets eliminated from the show. The prize for being the last baker standing at the end is bragging rights and the coveted Great Canadian Baking Show cake stand.
“We’re given some heads up about what the different challenges will be and we have time to prepare before we go,” he says.
And while the contestants can also glean a lot from previous seasons, Nolan wasn’t expecting how friendly and supportive everyone was while taping the show in their bubble during the pandemic.
“The comradery and the love between the contestants and everyone involved is just like you see on television,” he says.
A largely self-taught baker, with the help of YouTube and shows like The Great Canadian Baking Show, Nolan’s love for the craft came into its own during his time at grad school, where he used baking as a stress reliever.
“I’d put on the headphones, turn on the music and just do a little baking project,” he says.
Perseverance and those little baking projects have paid off as Nolan watches the drama unfold alongside family, friends and his seven-year-old nephew. “He’s my number one fan,” Nolan says with a laugh.
While the amateur baker isn’t giving anything away as to how far he makes it, the experience is something he not only will cherish but has also given a more solid base on which to build.
“The challenges are things I will absolutely carry forward and use them in my life,” he says.
The Great Canadian Baking Show airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC and streams live and on-demand on the free CBC Gem platform.
Editor’s Note (1 November 2021): This article was edited to correctly identify Dougal Nolan had completed three episodes as of 31 October 2021 and not four as previously reported.
Editor’s Note (12 November 2021): This article was edited to update the number of episodes in which Nolan has completed to date.