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Meet Gavan Knox, Toronto’s only Great Chocolate Showdown contender!

Meet Gavan Knox, Toronto’s very own, award-winning baker, writer, and food collaborator, soon appearing on Season 3 of Food Network’s Great Chocolate Showdown! 

Selected from thousands across Canada and the US, Gavan will be one of 10 home bakers to go head-to-head in the indulgent world of chocolate, vying for the grand prize of $50,000 in a range of creative and exciting chocolate-based challenges.

“I try to think outside the box – both in terms of flavours and ingredients. I’m all about bringing the unexpected! Quirky, interesting flavours and ingredients are something that I feel very passionate about. I want to make cakes and bakes which are more than just a sweet treat – I want to give the judges an unexpected talking point.”

Gavan has previously featured on Global TV news on Super Bowl entertaining and foods and has been featured in The Guardian’s travel section discussing the best places to eat in Ontario.

In the UK, his previous home until 5 years ago, Gavan guest appeared on daytime show, Mel & Sue (hosted by the original presenters of The Great British Bake Off), baking one of his signature “unexpected” flavour combinations (limoncello frosted blueberry, black garlic, and coriander seed cupcakes). 

In 2014 he walked away with The Guardian / Observer Food Monthly award for his quirky brownie recipe featuring chilli and chocolate covered, streaky bacon. Gavan has worked with the likes of confectionery company Hope & Greenwood, Station Cold Brew Coffee Co. and Red Tape Brewery delivering tailor-made recipes.

Delivering the unexpected not only in the kitchen Gavan is far from the typical image of a home baker with his mohawk and tattoos. A gay father of 2, Gavan is originally from Ireland and the youngest of 6. The kitchen is very much the hub of family life, and this has stayed with him, wherever he has lived. 

From Ireland he relocated to the UK and into fatherhood. After adopting his two children in 2012 he began flexing his baking muscle, remembering recipes, tips, and tricks he learned at his mother’s hip. Finally, in 2014 Gavan quit his day job in architecture to become a full-time baker, taking on the world one bake at a time with his unique take on flavours and ingredients!

We had a chat with Gavan to discuss his experiences with baking and The Great Chocolate Showdown! 

Bear World Magazine: What inspired you to make the jump from architect to full-time baker?

Gavan Knox: When we adopted our children in 2012, I tried juggling the whole working parent scenario and it was stretching me to the limit. Having the kids in Breakfast club and After school clubs, working an office job and doing a 3hr commute in London (UK) 5 days a week takes its toll, and not just on me. There were the kids to consider – it was an unduly long day for them as well.

In 2014, we were able to make the decision for me to quit my day job in architecture to become a stay-at-home parent to have more of a presence for the kids. It was through this that I started baking for bake sales at my children’s school. I’ve always had a passion and love for cooking and baking. 

Some of my earliest memories are of tinkering around in the kitchen under the watchful eye of my mom. I began flexing my baking muscle, remembering recipes, tips, and tricks I learned at his mother’s hip and weaving these together with my own adventurous spirit for experimentation in the kitchen. Numerous compliments and requests from friends and family led to my time as a baker gathering pace and it became more of a serious activity for me ending in me starting my home baking business. 

BWM: You’re originally from the UK, what inspired your move to Canada? 

GK: I’m a firm believer in the saying “the universe speaks…” and moving to Canada is one of those situations. I lived in London, in the UK, with my husband for 14 years after moving there from South-East Ireland where I was born and grew up. My husband and I had trivially contemplated “retiring” to Canada so it’s always been on the radar. 

One summer we decided to take a spur of the moment vacation to Toronto and whilst here my husband took in some business meetings. One of these resulted in an out of the blue job offer for him that led to us taking a leap of fate – and relocating here to Toronto in 2016. Six years later here we (still) are!

BWM: Are you currently working in any notable bakeries/chocolate shops?

GK: At the moment my baking is purely a home-based hobby for me which I feature on my social media accounts. While I lived in the UK I ran my own home-based bakery, so I’m no stranger to the world of baking to client demands and late nights! 

I’m hoping being on Food Network Canada’s Great Chocolate Showdown will give me exposure, putting my talents and my love of unusual ingredients on show for people to see and open some doors for me. The dream? My own TV slot and a book deal. All offers are welcome! 

BWM: What do you think sets you apart from the competition in the Great Chocolate Showdown?

GK: I’m all about the unexpected! My approach to baking is to constantly think outside the box with ingredients and flavours. I see a baking convention and stare down the barrel at it. No ingredient is off limits to me.

For me, the challenges on the show are not something to “make it through” but rather of ways to better myself whilst showcasing to the judges something they haven’t seen or tasted before. All the while thinking “chocolate, chocolate, chocolate” of course! 

My technical background in architecture allows me to examine a recipe, deconstruct it and think about what ingredients or methods could be substituted to add extra layers of interest. Every building has fundamental blocks that are needed for it to stand but how you add to those blocks and manipulate them is where you create something that sets it apart. In my view it’s the same for baking with recipes.

Like pretty much everything about me – even down to the way I look – I don’t think I follow the idea of what people typically think a baker should be and I aim to use that to my advantage.  Let’s get Cynthia, Anna and Steve talking.

BWM: How are you preparing for the competition?

GK: With a lot of nerves and a lot of books! I’ve never done anything like this before, so it really is an adventure for me. Working with chocolate is something that I don’t have much experience of and that’s my main area of concern – lots of study needed there. This is the Great Chocolate Showdown so I need to bring the chocolate big time! 

When I’m in the kitchen I run a lot on gut instinct. There’s not much room for that when it comes to the exacting nature of tempering chocolate- one degree off and you’re back to square one. Chocolate can be a cruel and demanding mistress. 

I’ll need to strike a fine balance between the fickle nature of working with chocolate and my natural bravado of pushing the boundaries. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve which I think will stand me in good stead in the competition. To find out what they are – You’ll have to tune in and watch, won’t you?

BWM: Any other details you’d like to add!!

GK: Being on Food Network Canada’s Great Chocolate Showdown is one heck of a ride! I’m bringing something that is 100% authentically me and laying it out there to be critiqued by professionals at the top of their game. I’m about to find out if the talent I have can stand up to the scrutiny of the judges. That’s equally scary and exhilarating.

Competing on the show also has an aspect of representation for me. I’m there as a parent pursuing their dream; A member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, and the only contender representing Toronto (in fact the whole of Eastern Canada!). I absolutely intend to bring my A game!

Photos taken from @crumbsinmybeardyyz. Courtesy of Food Network Canada.

Great Chocolate Showdown, Season 3 airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT beginning March 1 on Food Network Canada.
Follow Gavan Knox on Instagram @crumbsinmybeardyyz

BWM Staff

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