Hamilton baker appearing in CBC holiday special

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Published November 24, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Mahathi Mundluru is eager to help spotlight the diversity of Canadian baking culture, while also representing Hamilton on national TV.

The Hamilton home baker will be featured in The Great Canadian Baking Show holiday special, which airs on Sunday (Nov. 27, 8 p.m. ET, CBC/CBC Gem). Mundluru, 26, who strives to blend Indian flavours into traditional Western desserts and also draws inspiration for dessert creations from her hobby of scuba diving, baked her way into the final three during the series’ 2021 season.

“I love the holiday episode because it is so inclusive,” Mundluru says. “You watch it and it’s just not about Christmas, or just Thanksgiving. It is about all the cultures that exist in Canada, about all the ways people celebrate. It shows how diverse Canada is.

“With food, one of my goals is to tell a story,” adds Mundluru, who is a marketing specialist in the tech sector. “And sometimes that is the story of my background, or a story from my travel, Or sometimes I’m trying to take someone back to their favourite childhood memory, one of the goals is to make them feel nostalgia.”

Mundluru hails from Markham, east of Toronto, but she and her husband, Vineeth Bhogadi, settled in Hamilton in June. Mundluru relates that the move has helped her expand her circle of like-minded bakers, while she and her spouse have got to know the Hamilton food scene

“We are right in the heart of downtown, so we try to explore the food scene around here,” she says. “We spend a lot of time on James Street and around King (St.) … I have been pleasantly surprised by how much diversity there is. Not speaking necessarily of the baking, but there are so many cuisines here, and so many that I personally had never tried. You have vegan bakeries, vegan stores, plus so many cuisines — Nigerian, Jamaican, Mexican — just within a small radius.”

Online learning

Social media gave Mundluru her entry point and encouragement to get experimental in the kitchen. That led her inot becoming a close watcher of Love Productions’ The Great British Bake Off, which airs on the BBC and is widely exported. Mundluru also took to watching The Great Canadian Baking Show, before applying through the CBC to be a contestant.

“I started to getting really into food at the time that tasting videos were big,” she says. “I would watch something and go, ‘that looks easy.’ I would try it and I would fail, but that was the catalyst for me to keep trying — ‘I want to do better, how do I make it better? I mastered those recipes and just kept trying others.

“The challenges they have on the British version of the show and the Canadian version are really cool. They let me see how how can I push my boundaries, made me want to be better, and that created this love for baking.”

After being accepted as a contestant, one of the first things that Mundluru baked was gulab jamun. It is a traditional Indian dessert of soft berry-sized balls made with milk solids, flour and a leavening agent, and soaked in rosé-flavored syrup. Mundluru has adapted that recipe into cupcakes.

“I’m very proud of my Indian heritage, and a signature aspect of my baking is that I try to fuse a lot of non-traditional flavours together,” Mundluru says. “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to incorporate those Indian flavours into desserts that are maybe a little more traditional here.”

Mundluru takes orders and requests to teach through her active Instagram (@bakingwithmahathi). There she shares many of her bakes, including a cake she made in 2021 that showed how climate change is affecting marine life in the world’s oceans.

 

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A post shared by Mahathi Mundluru (@bakingwithmahathi)

“If my mind isn’t on baking, it’s usually on travelling and diving,” Mundluru says. “What I wanted to do with that cake, what I wanted to do, this message, this is what our coral could be, and this is what they are turning into because of what is happening to our oceans.”

Returning to a national TV spotlight, to understate it, is a rush for Mundluru. She says she is grateful to sense “so much love” from fellow bakers and foodies who are enthused about her appearance on TV this weekend.

She also figures she has doubled the depth and range of her baking since she first set her sights on being on The Great Canadian Baking Show.

“From the point that I started prepping for the show the first time compared to today, I had around 50 per cent of the skills I have now,” Mundluru says.

“Being on the show pushed me to develop a lot more knowledge and skills than I ever knew even existed… I’ve made a huge community of baker friends, and connected with other alumni of the show. Being part of that community has taught me so much about the science of baking and décor techniques.”

(Photos by Darren Goldstein / CBC.)

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