The 'Schitt's Creek' star leads a new HBO Max cooking series with judges chef Sohla El-Waylly and restaurateur Will Guidara.
A self-described food enthusiast, Dan Levy tells ET, "I am the voice of somebody who just really likes to eat." So, it makes perfect sense that he would follow his Emmy-winning turn as co-creator and star of Schitt's Creek by hosting the all-new unconventional cooking competition The Big Brunch.
Using the popular dining experience as the "ultimate connector," the HBO Max original created by Levy is celebrating inspiring and undiscovered voices from all around the country by giving 10 chefs a chance to win a $300,000 cash prize. Over the course of the eight-part competition, Levy as well as chef Sohla El-Waylly and restaurateur Will Guidara will determine who among the "next generation of success stories in American cuisine" will receive the opportunity to share their story and pursue their culinary dream.
Inspired by his own friends in the food industry who just need that extra leg up, Levy thought, "Well, if I have these friends in my life, surely there must be other people across America who are in a similar situation where they're doing wonderful things for their community. They just need to be discovered."
And so, Levy created a competition where he could give them not only a platform but the chance to share their vision to the masses. "We have found the 10 most lovely, well-intentioned, loving people," he tells Denny Directo during a visit to the set, explaining that this series is "a very genuine thing."
"The most incredible thing about this show is that it celebrates who people are. We have chefs from all across the country who are showing and cooking everything from Cantonese to Korean to Ethiopian to Haitian to American baking and everything in between," Levy says. "It really is a celebration not only of brunch and cooking, but also where people are from."
Unlike other popular food competitions on TV, which are built around "people coming and fighting with each other over a stove," Levy notes The Big Brunch is more akin to The Great Canadian Baking Show, which he previously hosted for two seasons. "That's why I ended up doing the Baking Show. Because I watched the show, I thought, 'Well, this is the first unscripted television cooking competition that feels well-intentioned."
Keeping that same vibe, The Big Brunch is less of a food fight and more of "a place you want to spend an afternoon," he explains. "The intention is you want to turn the show on and feel like you're with us, sitting down for a lovely meal."
However, that's not to say there aren't tears. In any given episode, "there are big emotions and people are crying," Levy says, admitting that he gets just as emotional as any of the contestants as he and the other two judges whittle down the competition to one worthy winner.
"I'm a crier generally. But you don't want me crying through the entire season. I've got to save that till the end," the host shares, before later adding that with each elimination, "you just want to hug them and keep them close."
But all the difficult decisions aren't left solely for Levy to make. As previously mentioned, he's joined by two experts within the food industry, who understand what's needed to get to the next level. "Sohla is a wonderful chef. There is a technical expertise and her criticism is always really strong and constructive and covers the basis of how things are made," Levy says. "Will, of course, has a background in hospitality, so we have a voice speaking to the business side, the presentational side."
"Each of us has our own little perspective or superpowers… We're helping to, ideally, guide them in the right direction," Guidara says, while El-Waylly adds, "The coolest part is just seeing how much they've grown from the first episode to where we're at now. Everyone's really taking the feedback and learning and figuring out what their culinary voice is. That's been really fun to watch."
Of course, this is a competition and someone still has to go home each week. But Guidara says that it is "very rare that someone's not given us something that's worthy of praise in some way, shape or form." If nothing else, "they all came in with a lot of strengths that are worthy of celebration," the judge offers.
And like the Baking Show before it, The Big Brunch is a celebration that "leaves me feeling good at the end of the day," Levy says, explaining that he wanted "to add to that chapter of the culinary television world."
The Big Brunch will debut with three episodes Thursday, Nov. 10 on HBO Max, with three new episodes premiering Nov. 17 before season 1 concludes with the final two episodes Nov. 24.