Sitting in front of an art-deco bistro table on a Hollywood sound stage, Dan Levy drinks a glass of champagne and shakes his head at the amount of syrup in it her Instagram feed. “Most of my content is syrup dripping from a pile of French toast, or bread baking, or delicious recipes being prepared that I will never make myself,” said the Schitt’s Creek said the star. “But I really liked the idea of watching them, and I was like, ‘Well, there’s a show here.'”
What started as a passing thought as Levy fell asleep one night has now become The big brunchan HBO Max cooking contest that will begin on November 10 and will be organized and judged by the Emmy winner.
In many ways, The big brunch is a return to Levy’s reality TV roots. (He started by hosting a The hills after an MTV show in his native Canada.) But the actor-producer-creator actually sees Brunch as the perfect fusion of its unscripted experience and Schitt’s, famous for its general positivity. “I’m inherently attracted to well-meaning things,” says Levy, whose passion for reality TV was reinvigorated after watching The great British pastry fair and hosting the first two seasons of The Great Canadian Pastry Show. “I thought it was this revolutionary idea,” he says of pastry fair“the fact that you can put people together in a ‘competitive situation’ and it’s not a competition between them. It’s a competition between a baker and his own potential.”
Levy made sure to bring that mentality to Brunch, which meant casting was key. When he describes how they chose the chefs who will compete over eight episodes of season 1, he is intentional in saying that they found “10 good people” and not good “chefs”: “I think the stories that we’re going to tell, that our 10 chefs are going to tell, is really going to warm people’s hearts,” he says, though he promises, “the whole thing is like a nice warm hug without ever feeling saccharine, because I I have a real aversion and phobia to false sentimentality and undeserved warmth.”
All that said, Brunch is a competition – and to help him judge the dishes, Levy recruited the chef Sohla El-Waylly and restaurateur Will Guidara. “Sohla and Will offer such strong culinary prospects, from a business perspective,” says Levy. “I think it’s a rare alchemy to have an enthusiast, a chef and a restaurateur who coexist in a way where we really appreciate each other. I think that as a trio, we are able to offer a truly full of criticism, of constructive criticism.”
“If our role is to help them grow, you have to criticize,” Guidara says. “But it can be constructive criticism [as opposed to] destructive criticism. Investing in people is just as entertaining and can even be very heartwarming. And isn’t that a choice we prefer to make?”
“I didn’t know I was going to invest myself so much in the candidates,” says El-Waylly, joining his fellow judges at the bistro table in the Brunch set just minutes after the Season 1 finale was filmed. “I don’t have feelings, but I almost cried,” she jokes as she sees the winner crowned. “They’re all nice people who supported each other from the start. You don’t see that often in competitions — even until the end they supported each other.”
“You don’t have to cut people with a butcher knife to get people watching,” says executive producer Sarina Roma, with fellow EP Andrew Fried adding that the Brunch the team “approached it more from a point of connection rather than conflict”.
“It sounds new age and hippy dippy and all that kind of bulls—,” adds Levy. “But it’s really true.”
Still, there’s $300,000 at stake – a hefty prize amount, according to Levy, was “a crucial amount of money” because “I wanted to make sure this show wasn’t performative. And I wanted to m ensure that when someone wins, it was money that will actually change the foundation of their life.”
To do that, the judges had to set aside the contestants’ stories…most of the time. “Food always comes first,” says El-Waylly. “We want people who will be culinary technical enough to be able to do something with that money.” Guidara adds: “What’s on the plate is one thing, then the impact that [the chef stands] dealing with that is also part of it. The idea was to try to invest in someone based on their talents and also based on what they could go out into the world and do with those talents.”
“That’s what it’s all about – it’s really about humanity,” Levy sums up. “Even if it’s brunch, even if I’m screaming about a cinnamon roll or about yummy kanji, there’s this nice balance,” he adds, taking another sip of his champagne. . “And there’s an open bar, so things get wild.”