David Rousseau’s path to the world of pastry has been an unconventional one.
Originally from Brittany, a region in northwest France known for its medieval walls, Rousseau roamed the globe working in adventure travel before establishing both himself and his patisserie, Ollia Macarons & Tea, nearly eight years ago in Calgary. Recently, his past and present collided when he was presented with an opportunity to partake in a new adventure as a judge on Wall of Bakers, a spin-off of Food Network Canada’s successful competition series Wall of Chefs.
Wall of Bakers features amateur bakers from across Canada, and 24 renowned Canadian chefs who appear as judges on the Wall, with 12 featured each episode. The skill and nerves of Canada’s home bakers are tested as they battle in the Wall of Bakers kitchen, under the towering shadow of the country’s best pastry chefs.
“When you look at the judges on the show it’s a very interesting mix of famous, iconic people from the culinary world, as well as up-and-coming businesses from the four corners of Canada,” says Rousseau. “I believe the profile of Ollia was appealing as an up-and-coming business and I got convinced to do the show. I thought it would be fun adventure.”
As a “feel-good Canadian baking show”, Rousseau says joining as a judge was a perfect fit given his reasons for starting Ollia. “Early on we created an atmosphere that was supportive, where people would thrive.” Over the years Rousseau and his team have focused on not only building the business, but also on building community.
“When you have a business you have a voice that is followed, and you can do good with this voice. You can have a positive impact in the community. So we have been using Ollia for a force of good in the community by supporting The Leftovers Foundation, as well as LGBTQ+ and environmental associations around town.”
In each episode of Wall of Bakers, four amateur bakers face-off in three rounds of sweet competition. In the first round, they prepare the desserts that have made them famous at home, their crowd-pleasers. In the second round, they are challenged to think on the fly to create a dessert using two ingredients that are staples in the home pantry of one of the chefs on the Wall. In the final round, the last two home bakers are inspired by another chef’s signature dessert to make their own bakery-worthy creation.
Through all three challenges, the Wall is watching with the chefs offering commentary and expertise while tasting, judging, and eliminating one home baker in every round. After a final deliberation, the last home baker standing wins the $10,000 cash prize.
“The interesting part of the show is we get to talk quite a bit with the other judges and discuss what is being made in front of us,” says Rousseau. “And the feedback we give is constructive and positive.” He adds that the intent of the show is not to discourage but to inspire the community of home bakers.
“We’ve had a lot of time during COVID to pursue hobbies and passions, and a lot of people have been baking and cooking because maybe they didn’t have the time before, but we do now,” he laughs. “I think the show is going to inspire people that they can do it too or do it better. It’s the domino effect of the show.”