From competing on Spring Baking Championship to bucking stigmas of men in the kitchen, Aaron McInnis is serving up sweets fit for royalty
For Aaron McInnis, a self-taught baker and specialty cake designer who has made waves as the first Canadian to ever compete on the internationally televised Spring Baking Championships, the sweeter things in life have always come from a passion to create.
“I’m always up for a challenge,” McInnis says in an interview with The Herald. “My wife always jokes that there’s not very many things that I can lay my hands on that I’m not good at. When it came to saying I could make these cakes, she never doubted for a minute that I couldn’t. That’s just the way I operate and that’s where it stems from with cakes. I get in the kitchen and I am determined, that if I have a plan in my head, and if I have 10 fails getting to the final product I will deliver what I promised I would deliver. That’s the way I’ve always been.”
McInnis has been baking in some capacity since his kid years, helping his mom craft sweet edible eats for bake sales and markets.
“I say I’m self-taught, but I guess you can say I’m a mom-taught baker,” he jokes. “That’s where this all started. Growing up my mom was a phenomenal baker and cook and always was the baker in our family.”
RELATED: FOOD Meals on Wheels with Johnny & Mae's Foodtruck Ross Larkin of Top Chef Canada Todd Perrin – For the Love of Food
Moving from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland for university at 18, McInnis soon found himself turning to baking as a means to earn some extra income.
“Looking for a way to bring in income, you go to things that you somewhat know,” he said. “How could I bring in money with the skill-set that I already had? What can I bring to the table to make money while trying to go to school? Baking was the first thing I turned to. A lot of the recipes I had when I started this journey would have been mom’s recipes.”
HAPPY BELLY CAKERY
From there things snowballed at a rapid clip. Today, McInnis is the proud operator of Happy Belly Cakery based out of Conception Bay South, as well as a successful food blogger with Man Versus Cake.
But it was McInnis’s entry into the most recent season of Spring Baking Championship that has people talking.
“It was absolutely a once in a lifetime experience,” he says. “ Going into it I was trying to see myself as a top baker and you go into it with self doubt. I had these moments where I’d think, what did I get myself into? I never should have done this! I’m not cut out for this. This is before it all even started, knowing I was going in competing against people who were professionally trained.
“When I got there it was a whole different story, meeting the contestants and with me not coming from a culinary background where working in a kitchen with other people or their attitudes, I didn’t know if they’d be pompous or how they’d deal with working with someone not coming from a culinary background. Everybody was so incredible. We hit it off immediately and became really great friends. We still all talk to this day. The opportunities that it has opened for me since has been quite incredible as well and it has given me a new drive and more push to want to better myself in this field.”
Though he didn’t walk away with the coveted title, the invaluable experience has made McInnis a more well-rounded and seasoned veteran of the kitchen.
“We go into this knowing it’s a competition. We know it’s not going to be just ‘bake us a cake’. There’s always going to be a twist and something they’re asking of us. What that did for me, personally, was allowed me to think outside the box and allow me to get creative. It opened up a world of creativity that I really didn’t know I had. When I came back from filming it really set me on fire to wanting to get in the kitchen and explore new flavour combinations, try new techniques and try new things, all because of the experience I had when I was there.”
SWEETER SIDE OF FOOD
The exposure gained from the series, as well as his internationally regarded blog, has allowed McInnis to shed new light on the role of men when it comes to the sweeter side of food. A father of three, McInnis has always preached the idea that his children can grow up to be, and do, anything their hearts desire.
“At the end of the day I want my children to pursue whatever makes them happy. Man Versus Cake was created because men in the kitchen is not seen as an issue if you’re a cook. The savory side of things are dominated by male chefs. Then you look at the pastry side of things and 90 per cent of the time it’s dominated by females, and certainly in the cake world.
“It’s the stigma that men sheepishly do this,” he adds. “I get comments from other males in the industry who say thank you for being their voice. They appreciate me shedding light on this and showing that men can do this just as well as women can. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in doing that. It’s not about having grease on your hands – my father was a mechanic, father in law was a carpenter. They worked from five in the morning until eight or nine o’clock in the evening to bring home what it took to support their families and it didn’t matter what they were doing. We still looked up to them for that. It didn’t matter what it was they did to support us, we just appreciated the fact that they support us. That’s where Man Versus Cake was born from. It doesn’t matter what you do or what is on your hands at the end of the day, as long as you’re doing what you love and are doing what will support your family in a productive way, then go ahead and do it.”