Last night was the big finale of TLC’s Next Great Baker. Of course, I HAD to tune in. I actually submitted an application to be on this show, and was even contacted by the casting director to make an audition tape (which I did). I am totally not familiar with the casting process so I don’t know how far I actually got, but the show I thought I was auditioning for is NOT the show that aired. The casting call said there would be weekly lessons from Buddy with competition challenges. It didn’t say anything about having to move to Hoboken to work for Buddy if you win and totally didn’t say anything about a box truck. A freakin box truck!!!
I went from thinking Buddy was pretty awesome to thinking he was kind of a jerk. I couldn’t believe that the contestants they got are either bakery owners or are independent bakers so technically they are supposed to be Professionals, yet a lot of work they were doing was an embarrassment to cake decorating. And that Greggy guy? Ug. The whole cliche-flaming-gay-boy routine had to have been hammed up for the cameras, because no self respecting homosexual would ever make that big of a mockery of being gay on National TV without a lot of coaching from a director. He made me want to throw stuff at the TV at every “totes” and “ohmygods”, and Greggy, if you are reading, The Olson Twins called, they their headband back. Sigh. And that other guy, the plumber? I don’t even want to think about what jackass though it would be “Good TV” to bring that dick back not once, but twice. Needless to say, I was SO happy I wasn’t what the Casting Directors were looking for because I would have probably killed myself or others for such unprofessional, undignified behavior.
But then I had a realization.
This is literally the only baking show like this on TV. Shows like Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes, they show these people making these perfect fabulous monster creations out of cake consolidated to 23 minutes of TV time. What they never show is the 3 plus days it takes to make stuff like that, the 15 people working on it, the cracks, the mistakes, etc. And they never, EVER tell you how much those cakes cost. For example, did you know that Charm City Cakes has a $1,000 minimum? Most of the cakes highlighted on that show probably cost at least $3,000 or more. Celebration cakes at Carlo’s Bakery can be anywhere from $8 to $18 per person, and you can bet the cakes featured on the show are in the $18 range. What this has done is created an inflated sense in the general public of what the average baker/decorator should be able to do, how easy it must be, and a complete misunderstanding of the cost involved in creating those masterpieces. Top Chef: Just Desserts is was great, but the contestants were all seasoned executive pastry chefs, and they only did 2 (that I can think of) cake decorating challenges.
Which brings me to the Next Great Baker. I don’t know what type of show the producers thought they were putting together. Maybe they were hoping for their own version of Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts (which was a totally awesome show) with a sprinkle of Hoboken obnoxiousness. But what they ended up creating is a window to a world that TV has never really shown before: Little mistakes like forgetting ingredients or burning/overcooking the cake. Or bigger problems like putting on and taking off fondant 30 times because it keeps tearing. Or major problems like dropping a finished cake (which I just did for the 1st time last week and yes, I bawled like a 13 year old girl) and having to completely remake it in a fraction of the time it should take. The horror of having a vision that no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t come out the way you see it in your head, the sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are letting down your client. And the working thru the night hoping to get it right.
So for that, I appreciate the train wreck that Next Great Baker was, I have a new respect for each one of those poor people that had to suffer the humiliation of riding in a box truck, and am so SO glad I was not offered the opportunity to be on that show. I’d probably make an ass out of myself too.
One final note – one of the contestants that did not make the finale, Brian Stevens or Crazy Cakes, is actually all kinds of awesome. Here is a cake he made for Blizzard Entertainment as well as a Gollum cake, both melts my brain from it’s bad-assness. Click on either pics to check out his website.