As a Paso Robles surgeon who spends his off-hours baking cinnamon rolls and cupcakes, Dr. John Blaney loves a challenge.
“I like to do something new and different each time,” Blaney said, whether that means trying a new recipe, a fresh technique or a different style of decorating.
So when Blaney was invited to put his baking skills to the test as a contestant on “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” he predictably rose to the occasion. He’ll appear on the latest season of the show, which premieres Thursday, Dec. 6, on ABC.
Hosted by former professional football player Anthony “Spice” Adams and pop star Emma Bunton of Spice Girls fame, “The Great American Baking Show” is the American version of popular U.K. cooking competition show “The Great British Bake-Off.”
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“The Great American Baking Show” features a total of 10 contestants from around the United States crafting custom confections such cookies, cakes and pies. Each episode features a different baking challenge.
On the new “Holiday Edition,” they’ll create sweet and savory holiday fare designed to dazzle two judges. “The Great British Bake-Off” judge, celebrity chef and cookbook author Paul Hollywood will be joined this season by pastry chef and restaurateur Sherry Yard.
Although Blaney enjoys baking shows, he’d never dreamed of appearing on “The Great American Baking Show.”
“Doing a show like that was never on my radar,” said Blaney, 48.
A general surgeon who moved to the Central Coast in 2011, Blaney is one of nine partners with Associated Surgeons of San Luis Obispo, which operates in a number of local hospitals. Blaney does most of his operations, including appendectomies and gallbladder removals, at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton.
Blaney began baking five or six years ago on the suggestion of his wife, artist Karen Blaney.
“Being a surgeon can be stressful at times,” he explained, so, “She thought it would be nice for me to get a hobby.”
When John Blaney first started baking, he decided, “My stuff had to taste good. That was the most important thing.”
Over the years, he said, his wife has helped him fine-tune the appearance of his truffles, tarts and other treats. The couple’s children — 12-year-old Katie and 11-year-old Dawson — serve as taste testers.
Karen Blaney also encouraged her husband to start sharing mouthwatering photos of his creations via his Instagram account, docsconfections.
That’s how John Blaney’s baking caught the attention of the team behind “The Great American Baking Show.” Someone contacted the surgeon in May and invited him to try out for the show, he said.
Blaney flew to England in early August for filming at the famed Pinewood Studios near London.
Although Blaney can’t reveal what happened on “The Great American Baking Show” until the show airs, he said the experience was “very stressful but a lot of fun.”
He said his toughest challenge was completing each delectable dish in the time allotted. “I’m not used to (strict time limits) at home,” he said.
“My main goal was to make sure it came out the way I liked,” Blaney said. “It’s not often someone gets judged by a professional baker. Every time I had a bake I was hoping they would enjoy it.
Blaney relished the chance to get pointers from big-time bakers such as Hollywood and Yard.
“For me, it was a huge learning experience,” he said. “Being an amateur, my only goal was to improve.”
Blaney has no plans to open a professional bakery any time soon, he added. “Baking, for me, is just a fun hobby. It’s not a stepping stone to go anywhere,” he said.
However, Blaney is more than happy to share his baking secrets with fans who message him via Instagram — well, some of them.
“Some I’ll take to my grave,” he joked.
Watch “The Great American Baking Show” at 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, on ABC.