The Spring Baking Championship is back, Sunday nights on The Food Network, featuring a cast of pro-am bakers vying for a $50,000 prize (and potential for more appearances as a judge/commentator on the network.) It’s predictable, comforting, and sadly, forgettable. If you DVR it, you can watch it in about 15 minutes. But it’s no Great British Bake Off (find it on Netflix, You Tube, PBS.)
Our own Food Network has been obsessively cooking up food competitions.(It did import The Iron Chef, so it’s got a little cred.) The network is currently obsessed with professionals versus self-taught cooks and bakers. And it’s got the Pinterest Cutes. Cute kids, cute projects, cute chefs. They know their audience, I guess. But it gets exhausting. (Also, if you like background TV, which I do, it just gets so repetitive.)
Things I’d change about the show:
- The bakers are not given enough time to make recipes work. 90 minutes seems like enough time, but you have to bake AND cool before you can decorate. Game play is part of the process, but if all of the competitors present a mess, something is wrong with the game. (This doesn’t seem to be a problem this time around. But be on the lookout for a round that is a disaster for everyone. Why do that to the competitors just for failure drama?)
- The pretend surprise with the “twist.” There’s always a twist. And it can be gamed. Always make extra batter. Don’t relax into the time. Work fast. And be flexible with your flavors.
- The casting is predictable. They are: unprepared and overconfident home bakers, the fledgling business owners who are really good at one element, the Pinterest bakers (they’re the ones with perfect make-up and photo-ready presentations,) the folksy guy or gal, the Latina, the old one, the hot one, the competent pros who will be told there’s not enough heart in their baking. Remember when Project Runway had casting specials? I’d love to see one for the Food Network shows. Also, mix it up!
- The show never focuses on technique. I’d love to see a heat that’s pound cake or apple pie. Something simple that is still judged on taste, technique and style, but where we can see how skilled they are as bakers. And maybe a few rounds that are blind.
- The judges are fine, but three are too many for a small group of competitors. The judging goes on too long and gets painfully repetitive. Also, I really hate watching people taste and chew. I prefer a two judge panel. Or maybe two regulars and one theme expert.
- Bobby Deen was a surprisingly good host. Especially when he leaned into self-deprecating dad jokes. The new guy, Jesse Palmer, is a harder sell as the hot, distracting football/bachelor host.
I will watch and judge, though. Because baking shows are my background noise for life. And maybe I want a shot at $50,000 too?