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One of Our Fave Edmonton Bakeries is on a French Reality TV Show!

Cheer on Duchess Bake Shop as they compete on the newest season of ”Le Meilleur Pâtissier-Les Professionnels.’

When you think of Alberta’s capital, “cool” isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But that doesn’t bother Giselle Courteau: “For a lot of people across Canada, there’s not a whole lot happening in Edmonton,” says the co-owner of Duchess Bake Shop. “We’re not only proud to be Canadians, but we’re proud to be from a city people think isn’t cool.”

That public opinion may change, however, thanks to a popular French reality television show. Season two of Le Meilleur Patissier-Les Professionnels—a series that puts 16 professional pastry teams through gruelling baking challenges (think The Great British Bakeoff)—has just begun, featuring Duchess Bake Shop as the only North American competitor.

(Giselle Courteau (middle) with Duchess Bake Shop’s Sarah Gallagher and Jacob Pelletier.)
So how, exactly, did Courteau and her team—fellow Duchess co-owner Jacob Pelletier and kitchen manager Sarah Gallagher—earn a spot on the show? They received an out-of-the-blue call from BBC France early one morning (just one week prior to Thanksgiving) asking that they apply. “My knees almost buckled and gave way,” recalls Courteau. “I almost fainted.”

The producers then requested a trial video for the selection process—easy enough, right? Except that the deadline was set for Thanksgving Sunday—a holiday that’s not so big in France, but would obviously prove difficult for the Canadian bakery. Nevertheless, Courteau, Pelletier and Gallagher quickly got to work and managed to find time for filming between baking tarts, macarons, and éclairs, and the submission went off without a hitch.

(Photo: Carey Shaw.)

After some time, the network contacted them and arranged to have them flown to Montfort-l’Amaury, France, where the show would be filmed at Château de Groussay. Upon arriving, sleep-deprived and jet-lagged, Courteau and her team were immediately thrown into the first task of making 150 lemon-themed cakes—they would be competing against three other teams and had just three hours to get it all done.

“We had quite a few things against us,” remembers Courteau. Aside from their obvious mental disadvantage, much of the ingredients and equipment were different from what the team was used to at home. “We had to take our recipes and try to scale them appropriately to fit in these ovens. I had a hard time just turning [the oven] on, “Courtea laughs. “It was really tough…we kind of had to figure it all out on the fly.” And as if that wasn’t enough, the Duchess Bake Shop team also had to deal with freezing temperatures (the castle the show is filmed in lacked central heating) and language barriers—except Courteau, who is fluent in French.

(Photo: Carey Shaw.)

Yet, against all odds, Courteau and her team persevered to the second round which tasked them with revamping a classic pastry dish, complete with a giant chocolate sculpture. Since only one of the season’s four episodes have aired, that’s as much as we’ll tell you (we’re not down with spoilers here), but you can watch how it all plays out online. A new episode will air every Monday—unfortunately, without English subtitles though. Duchess Bake Shop will also be hosting their very own (free!) viewing party of the premiere episode—complete with translations—on June 11. See here for details.

Win or lose, the Duchess Bake Shop team is proud to have represented Edmonton on a global scale. “We really differentiated ourselves from the other teams,” says Courteau. “We were really happy with the results that we had—I’m always proud of what I make.”

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