From doughnuts to dollars: 'Donut Showdown' series offers winners $10,000

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TORONTO - Forget the traditional coffee/doughnut combination for culinary expert Maggie McKeown.

When it came to being a judge on the upcoming Food Network Canada series "Donut Showdown," the chef had to resort to an alternative chaser for the dozens of deep-fried desserts she had to consume.

"Tums! Well once you eat, like, 100 doughnuts. Or a treadmill, maybe," McKeown said with a laugh Wednesday at a media event to promote the show.

"I've got to tell you, that part was not easy. By the end of it I was like, 'Oh my God, not more doughnuts!'"

Series host Danny Boome took precautions to avoid that problem.

"I didn't eat a doughnut," confided the British chef and former hockey player. "My rule was I wasn't going to eat one doughnut, and it was really, really hard — really, really hard.

"My attitude was, if I work in a bar, I'm not going to be drunk. ... These guys were eating 10 doughnuts a day, so someone onset had to have some self-control. You should see (judge) David Rocco — he ballooned, he really did."

Toronto restaurateur Zane Caplansky of Caplansky's Delicatessen is the other judge on the Canadian competition series that premieres April 2.

Each 30-minute episode starts with three competitors making a batch of doughnuts using three unusual secret ingredients.

The judges send the competitor with the weakest doughnut home and then create a doughnut theme for the two finalists to run with. The winner gets $10,000.

The series comes at a time when doughnuts are "huge in the culinary world," said McKeown.

"I think doughnuts are popular because it's a food everybody can relate to," she added. "It's a food that every part of the world has some version of ... (and) doughnuts have a huge history in the food landscape."

A total of 42 competitors from across North America, including 12 from Canada, are featured in the show.

At Wednesday's event, three hopefuls from the series squared off to create a spring-themed doughnut display.

Rachelle Cadwell of Toronto's Dough By Rachelle won the $1,000 prize with an Easter egg "basket" made out of crullers and lemon curd-filled doughnuts resembling Easter eggs. Cadwell said it took about 10 hours to put the whole thing together.

Her competition included Grayson Sherman of Calgary's Jelly Modern Doughnuts, which plans to open up a shop in Toronto soon. He made a cherry blossom-themed tower of Madagascar vanilla glaze doughnuts.

Also in the running was Amanda Hamer of Toronto Barque Smokehouse, whose carnival-themed offerings included chocolate smoked maple bacon doughnuts, which are the most popular amongst her customers.

Sherman and Cadwell said maple-bacon is also the most popular doughnut flavour combo at their businesses.

"I don't think you can get much more iconic Canadian than maple and bacon," said Sherman.

"If we can throw a little beer in there and a hockey game, we'd have a real doughnut that was suitable for Canada."

For all the dippy depths doughnuts are reaching these days, they're actually quite simple to make at home, said the competitors.

"It's really easy, it's just like making bread dough, just a little bit of a different recipe and then you just cut them out, let them rise like you would a bread and then you just fry them," said Cadwell.

"The key to doughnuts at home are basically, follow your recipe and treat it with the respect that you treat any yeast dough, like making bread," noted Sherman.

Geographic location: TORONTO, Canada, North America Calgary Madagascar

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