Why would a human rights lawyer trade his revered black robe for a flour-dusted apron? The alchemy that bestowed his challah just the right twist, also bestowed a twist of fate when Corey Shefman was selected as a contestant for CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking Show, launched Nov. 1.
What’s tradition to you?
I was raised traditionally. My Mom kept a kosher kitchen, working for weeks before the holidays. She made all my favourites and I knew what to expect. I associate traditions with the food that came with them.
The catalyst for baking seriously came about three years ago. I was busy with my law practice, looking to try something new. My cousin mentioned his sourdough starter. I did research. Shortly afterward, I was invited to Shabbat dinner at Anachnu, the LGBT organization run out of the JCC in Winnipeg where I lived at the time. For the occasion, I baked my first challah.
What’s baking to you?
I love indulging my sweet tooth, but I also enjoy other people enjoying; watching them bite into one of my chocolate chip cookies. I get to share the fruit of my labour. I’ll bake the birthday cake or the challah for Shabbat. It’s gratifying to be able to contribute to traditions, not just those of my family, but others as well.
Art or science?
Baking is a blank canvas to which you can apply artistry. The
base has to meet chemical requirements to do its work, but then, it’s open for creativity. Even challah – I use different honeys. As a lawyer, I apply a specific kind of creativity, making arguments and interpreting laws. Baking is a different creative outlet. It’s important to start by hand, feeling the bread, contrary to the idea of baking as an exact science.
Why the show?
I loved the British series. When I heard about this show, I thought, wouldn’t it be cool, so I applied. When the producer called for an interview, I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to tell people I’d been interviewed? When I was called to audition, I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to remember I auditioned? When I got part, I laughed. This is the kind of thing that happens to other people. Unlike other reality shows, there’s no prize. From the beginning, it was simply about being best.
What was the studio like?
The atmosphere was friendly, heimish, always helping each other. I became best friends with all the other contestants. The show was shot under a tent. We had to deal with the elements – nothing messes with a meringue like humidity! It was great to have an endless supply of bowls.
Describe your kitchen
An enormous counter. Baking is just a hobby, but it’s so important. In my previous kitchen, I made my first round challah for Rosh Hashanah. I went a bit overboard; it was so big it pushed the oven door open!
Baking and work?
My firm was very supportive about giving me time to shoot the show. I work primarily with First Nations. I visit clients and communities. It’s interesting to eat with them. Our culture has food-centric traditions; so do theirs. I love their food traditions. You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted moose meat; kosher by the way. I’ve incorporated their flavours and ingredients into my cooking, like traditionally harvested wild blueberries and wild rice, important to the Anishinaabe.
Law will always be my first passion, helping people in a meaningful way with my skills and knowledge, but I’m going to keep baking. I bake for my partner Keith, for my family, friends, co-workers. It’s my release. I’m not opening a bakery any time soon, but I’m interested in branching out. Let’s see what comes from it.