By Glenda McCarthy
Every Monday night at 10:30 p.m. you will find Chris Sheppard, his wife and two daughters glued to their television set, eagerly watching the Food Network’s hit series, The Donut Showdown. September 15 was no exception, but what was different this time, is they were cheering on Chris as he made his debut on national television.
Chris is the Cook instructor at the college’s Bonavista campus. He, along with instructional assistant Roger Dewling, made the trek to Toronto for the taping of The Donut Showdown where they duked it out with other competitors for a $10,000 cash prize.
It all started last year when The Donut Showdown put out a casting call on its website. Chris, who had competed in the Roots, Rants, and Roar’s Cod Wars competition, took the title of ‘King of Cod’ with his cod donut, thought the show might be right up his alley. They immediately responded to his inquiry about a spot as a competitor. All further correspondence referred to him as the ‘King of Cod’ – you might say it was his “hook” for getting on the show.
“I went through a series of interviews and had to do an audition tape,” Chris recalled of entering the competition. “It was just a basic video, so I had my students, who were with me last year, shoot the video here (at Bonavista campus) of myself and Roger.”
Chris and Roger’s students were some of the lucky people under the veil of secrecy surrounding his participation on The Donut Showdown. In addition to filming the casting video, they helped Chris and Roger practice for the competition. Chris and Roger spent 12 hours at the studio in Toronto completing various rounds of interviews, rounds of competition and judging of their creations.
“It was exciting and it was a great experience,” says Roger. “It gives you a lot of adrenaline when you get into that kitchen with the lights and the cameras on you and producers around. It was a very different experience and was hard to focus at first.”
“The experience was amazing and I loved every aspect of it,” Chris adds. “The competition was very quick. It’s like I said on the show – “it’s like time was speeding up”. We started making the donuts and when we looked up we had 10 minutes left. It was like we had just started the process. The time goes by fairly fast.”
Roger says they were very confident going into the competition, but started to get nervous once they learned the backgrounds of the people they were competing against.
“I figured for sure we won and had it in the bag. The money was spent and ready to go,” Roger recalls. “Then when we started conversing they started talking about their businesses and what they had done, we got a little deflated.”
Chris and Roger were up against a team whose family has owned donut shops in Cincinnati since 1965, and another team who had donuts nationally recognized in Vancouver magazines.
“Chris and I don’t make donuts. We’re chefs here at the college so we got a little deflated and even a little nervous because we don’t do this on a day-to-day basis.”
Sadly, Chris and Roger didn’t take home the top prize but they did come in second. When the younger contestants from Cincinnati were voted out he admits the remaining contestants were floored.
“I mean, that’s what they do! They go in every day and they make donuts,” Roger says. “On the opening day of their new shop they sold 7,000 donuts. When we found that out the four of us looked at each other and said ‘we’re done’. Seven thousand donuts – that’s the entire population of Clarenville, so that would be like the town of Clarenville coming out to your shop in one day, which would never happen. It’s as simple as that.”
Chris announced via social media on Sept. 1 they would be on the show, though he admits it was hard to keep that secret for months. To celebrate the airing last night, he had a donut party at his house.
“My kids really wanted to have people over and have a donut party. We had friends over and we made the donuts from the show. It was live action – as we made the donuts on the show, we were eating the same ones from TV,” he said. “My kids were so excited. The night before I don’t think my youngest daughter even slept. It was like Christmas and they were gone crazy, just over the top excited.”
Roger and his wife stayed up to watch the show but their two and four-year-old kids watched it the next morning.
Chris says while the prize money would have been great, he went into the competition for the experience and believes his personality certainly shines through.
“I think that it turned out amazing and it was hilarious,” Chris says. “I was nervous leading up to it because you say so much and you don’t know what’s going to air and what’s not. But I was pleased with the show.”
Meanwhile, Roger admits he was a tad upset they didn’t take the top prize.
“I was a little bitter. It took me a couple of hours to get out for some socializing because I knew what energy we put into it, and to see that go was disappointing. I’d do it again for sure – at that moment probably not,” Roger says with the chuckle, “but I’d do it again.”
Chris says the response to the show was been great, especially on social media.
“That was the funny part. I had all these catch phrases and people would hashtag everything I said. So there were #thesetwosuckersaregoinghome, #tasteslikeweiners and #timetogotothebar (on Twitter). I think everybody enjoyed that aspect, and for the most part my personality came through on the show and you could see we had a good time.”
If you missed Chris and Roger in action visit www.foodnetwork.ca/shows/donut-showdown/video/#donut-showdown/video and select the “Circus” episode. In the meantime, here’s one of the donut recipes from their 15-minutes of fame on national television.