Food Network’s Recipe to Riches is Nuts for Don Harquail

Don Harquail has always been the famous friend with the designer desserts. But now, thanks to reality television, this Burnaby hobby chef’s life has just gotten a lot sweeter.

That’s part of the premise behind Food Network Canada’s latest reality show Recipe to Riches. Returning for its second season, the series pits home based cooks against each other in separate categories – all for a chance to win the grand prize of $250,000. The Canada-wide competition is fierce, but Harquail is headed to the finals after winning the Candies and Chocolate category last month for his Triple Nut Toffee. Voting and viewing of the final episode starts tomorrow (Dec 5, 2012).

Judges Laura Calder (French Food at Home) Tony Chapman (Capital C), Dana McCauley (Janes Family Foods) and host Jesse Palmer are not easy to please. But having come this far, Harquail has already won the privilege of having his product packaged and put up for sale in select stores as part of the prestigious President’s Choice product line.

The yummy yellow box is perfectly packaged and also carries a caricature of Don himself complete with delightful depictions of his favourite hobbies (orchids, bowling, cooking). With the added innovation of pine nuts and sesame seeds, this toffee is outright delicious. You’d have to be “nuts” not to like it.

Still, winning the hearts of minds of the public is only part of the equation. The highest standards of all, and the ultimate final word, comes from head honcho Galen Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw Companies. He will figure prominently in the upcoming finals as Harquail faces off against his 6 other competitors to go for the cash.

So, with the sweet smell of victory in the air, does Harquail have the right mix of ingredients to take home the big money? Tune in tomorrow and find out. Link: Recipe to Riches

By Catherine Barr

Interview with Don Harquail – inventor of Triple Nut Toffee and winner of the Chocolates and Candies category on Season Two of Recipe to Riches (Food Network Canada)

CAT: How much fun was it for you to compete in R2R? Did you feel a lot of pressure to win or were you just happy to be participating?

DON: I had so much fun, I think you can see that in the episode, I was having a blast. From the moment I submitted my Recipe to R2R I have been excited. I did not feel much pressure in winning because my main goal was to have fun. I had watched last year episodes several times to familiarize myself with the show. I was a bit nervous before Galen Weston announced the winner – I’m a big Presidents Choice fan and he’s the real deal!

CAT: Where did your original recipe idea come from? Did anyone special help you perfect it?

DON: That is a funny story. I have been making my Triple Nut Toffee for close to 25 years. I acquired part of the recipe from an elderly member of the Vancouver Orchid Society which I am a member. She had not provided me with the proper baking instructions. On my first attempt I ended up with a pile of burnt sticky mess. The whole house was in smoke. I figured I had made a mistake and tried again and got the same result. I could not contact her as she had passed away. I did not give up. I eventually figured out what was wrong and missing. It gave me the opportunity to adapt the recipe to my liking. I added many new ingredients such as pine nuts, cashews, almonds, sesame, seeds, maple syrup and a dab of chocolate to satisfy the chocolate lover. From trial and error it became a success.

CAT: Are you a big dessert person normally or are you also a good kitchen cook/chef? What other things do you like to cook?

DON: I am definitely a big dessert person. I love baking, every week I bake something different for my Bowling Team or my friends at the Vancouver Orchid Society.  Every week it’s a surprise. It could be anything from French Macarons to a Five Star Super Chocolate Chip cookie. It gives me a lot of pleasure to see how they enjoy it. Just before going to Bowling or the Orchid society meeting I take a picture of my treats and post it on my Facebook page so they can see it before they get there. It’s so funny to see them run and try to find me.

CAT: What was it like being on a reality show? What was the worst part? What was the best part? Tell us one good behind-the-scenes secret.

DON: Being on a reality show was amazing, what a rush it was to be part of that, it takes a lot of work and a lot of people to put such a show together. You have no idea how hard these people work. The worst part of it was having an incredible secret and not able to say anything to anyone for what seemed like forever. I just kept on focusing. My friends were very nice and stopped asking me questions, The best part on being on this show is that I have made myself two fabulous friends, the two other competitors, Robert Armatta and Lucie Dion. We have been in contact several times, I even went to visit Lucie and her family last summer. We had such a good time, we made Sucre à la crème together.

CAT: How has winning this competition changed your life (has it changed your life)?

DON: Winning and participating in this show has given me a lot more confidence in myself. I did not think I could ever do anything like that. It proved to me once again not to stop just keep on going. Don’t let the Impossible be Possible [sic]. Not only have I done this I have won the Candies and Chocolate category. Amazing!

CAT: What’s up next for you?

DON: This is hard to answer. I enjoyed doing television so much maybe a new door will open there. I have so many wonderful recipes, I may write a cookbook. One thing is certain, I want to try to inspire people not to give up when faced with difficult medical challenges, there is always hope.

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