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Anna Olson on Her New Cookbook and Baking in a Pandemic

Anna Olson on Her New Cookbook and Baking in a Pandemic

Like many, Anna Olson turned to baking to get her through the pandemic, but, of course, she was already a big fan of the activity before quarantine. Known as Canada’s baking sweetheart, Anna is one of the country’s most recognizable television chefs having hosted Food Network’s Bake with Anna OlsonFresh with Anna Olson, and Sugar. She has also published several bestselling cookbooks including Bake with Anna Olson, Set for the Holidays, and her latest, Baking Day with Anna Olson.

Most of Anna’s on-camera appearances these days are on her increasingly popular YouTube channel, Oh Yum with Anna Olson, which now has nearly one million subscribers. During the pandemic, she created and launched a 30-part series for her channel called “Anna’s Occasions”, which called for some innovative thinking in order to film it safely.

Speaking with The Globe and Mail on her experience baking and launching a new cookbook during a pandemic, she said: “We bubbled as a crew of 10, and I had a Zoom call each morning with my makeup artist, whom I’ve been using for years. She’ll tell me I need a little more here and there, like a paint by numbers. Then I go to set with full makeup. It’s a bit like decorating a cake, actually.”

Anna’s book tour for her new cookbook, Baking Day with Anna, also went virtual with a video podcast series instead of the traditional in-person nation-wide tour. While it was an adjustment, she leaned into the positive aspects that a virtual event provides — flexibility. She said:

“My book tour this fall is going to be virtual– I’m not getting on a plane. I’m creating a video podcast, Baking Day, which is going to come out on my YouTube channel first. A guest will choose a recipe from the book, and we’ll each bake it in our respective kitchens. This has, wonderfully, allowed me to access guests from around the world, so I’m recording episodes with vegan cookbook author Lauren Toyota and Malaysian chef Ili Sulaiman, who happens to be celiac, so we’re making my gluten-free potato bread.”

Being a big fan of baking herself, Anna wasn’t surprised that baking became a go-to hobby for many during this difficult time. She herself dug into it when creating her new cookbook. “It’s soothing, with a productive outcome,” she said, “there’s something to say for it at the end. I mean you could do a puzzle — I love puzzles — but when it’s done you just break it apart and put it back into the box.”

For now, Anna is happy continuing her baking journey at home, filming her cooking series, playing and tweaking new recipes, hosting virtual cooking events and demos for audiences across Canada in her in-house studio. She said: “We have a pretty good camera setup here, and I give full credit to Michael [Olson, Anna’s husband], who is often the director of photography or sound guy… When editing for television, the producer really has to pick and choose. Now, the real moments — the earnest conversations, the mistakes — they all make the cut, because we want to see how it really plays out, not just the perfect moments.”

Whether demonstrating and teaching her cooking methods to others, or sharing a keynote on topics such as the importance of eating local, Anna Olson never fails to impress.

If you’re interested in booking Anna as your next keynote speaker or for a virtual cooking demo at your next event, please contact us for more information.

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