Food Network Canada’s second season of Recipe to Riches is close to crowning its $250,000 winner, a prize sure to change the life of one very lucky finalist. One of those hopeful finalists is Burnaby’s Don Harquail, who took top spot in the candies and chocolates category for his delectable Triple Nut Toffee.
“I have been making my Triple Nut Toffee for close to 25 years,” explains Harquail who originally acquired the recipe from a member of the Vancouver Orchid Society, where he is a member and regularly displays his work.
“She didn’t provide me with the proper baking instructions,” he explains. “On my first attempt I ended up with a pile of burnt sticky mess. The whole house was in smoke.”
Despite the setback, Harquail’s tenacity kept him pursuing the recipe, when most would have simply waved the white flag. “I figured I had made a mistake, tried again and got the same result. I could not contact her as she had passed away.”
But even a faulty recipe couldn’t keep him from conquering the dessert. “I eventually figured out what was wrong and missing. It gave me the opportunity to adapt the recipe and add new ingredients. Pine nuts, almonds, maple syrup and chocolate – from trial and error it became a success.”
It is this drive that has also clearly helped Harquail through more challenging times. Having fallen ill several years ago, he used baking as a form of therapy on his road to recovery. But a reality show? Anyone who watches Recipe to Riches, or any other reality competition show for that matter, knows that it’s most fun to watch when the clock is ticking and the task seems virtually impossible. So how did Harquail handle all the pressure? Like a pro, of course.
“I could not believe I was in such a large industrial size kitchen,” he recalls. “Making a thousand portions of my Triple Nut Toffee in just three hours was such a rush. At times I didn’t think I would make it, but I kept telling myself, just keep going and you will make it.”
And make it he did. With his product launched in stores across Canada this past weekend, the reception has been quite positive, much like Harquail himself.
“I love baking,” he tells us. “My dad was a chef, and my mom was an exceptional baker. My dad was a big inspiration for me, he was such a great man, and very funny. He believed in treating everyone the way you wanted to be treated – and constantly reminded us of that. I never forgot.”
Besides his father, Harquail says he is inspired by Recipe to Riches season one winner Glo McNeill, the 84-year old grandmother who took home the top prize for her coveted Luscious Lemon Cakes.
“She has such a great personality and made the show one that I wanted to watch every week. I wanted her to win so bad.”
So if Harquail wins the big prize, what will he do with it? Fly around the world? Buy a fancy car? No, his goals are much more modest, and ring true to his likeable and down-to-earth personality.
“My younger brother recently had major surgery. He isn’t working, and I would be so happy to help him out. Christmas is around the corner, so I will be able to spoil lots of people,” Harquail says. “Every year I donate to various causes that my family and friends are involved with because of various reasons. If I were to win I will be able to help out much more than I ever could.”
Speaking of the holidays, we had to ask what he’ll be baking up in his kitchen.
“Every year I bake thirty different cookies and candies,” he says. “I make up gift boxes for my friends and many people that have supported me over the years. I also have several appetizers that are superb. One is a bacon and onion jam that takes an entire day to cook. So good.”
Other than Christmas baking, what’s next for this blooming reality star?
“It’s hard to answer, but I have enjoyed doing TV work so much, who knows… maybe more of that. I may also work on a cookbook. I have so many wonderful recipes, ones I would be happy to share.”
Be sure to vote for Don as your favourite to take home the $250,000 grand prize from December 5 -7 on the Food Network Canada website and be sure to grab a box of his Triple Nut Toffee at your local grocery store that carries President’s Choice products.
The Food Gays
Together since 2009, The Food Gays are two Vancouver men who love food. Join them every two weeks right here on GayVancouver.Net as they bring you something tasty.