American Baking Competition Review: Lacks Sweetness; Nothing to Savor
May 29 2013 09:13 pm CET

Wednesday featured the debut of the newest entry in the competitive cooking genre: CBS's American Baking Competition. However, the program is overstuffed, lacks any flavor or flair, and does not amuse the television palate.

The main problem with the show is the amount of baking that happens in a single episode. There are three challenges in one elimination cycle. The first challenge is a "signature bake," where the contestants make one of their favorite recipes. The second challenge tests technical skills, where there is an end product, a list of ingredients, and an incomplete recipe. The third challenge has the contestants filling a specific order: in this week's case, 30 tartlets. However, there are no consequences for winning or losing any of the challenges, aside from currying the favor of judges Paul Hollywood and Marcela Valladolid.

Although the judges are experts in their field, I found their interactions with some of the contestants bordering on condescending. During the signature bake challenge, they rotated through the cooking stations and offered unsolicited advice to the contestants, such as use spice in moderation and butter is helpful in cooking. Yes, the contestants are amateurs, but they must know something if they have made it on to a baking competition show. Host Jeff Foxworthy is equally useless, offering jokes and and polite reviews of "that looks tasty."

If you are looking for a program similar to Bravo's Top Chef: Just Desserts, ABC is not filling that role. There is no energy to this program, manic or otherwise, and the challenges leave the viewer asking "so what?" There was no connecting theme between the three bakes, no sense of how the players were stacking in the competition, or any drama in terms of who went home (spoiler: it was the guy who failed all three challenges).

Cooking competitions are incredibly difficult to televise, since the medium tested requires taste and smell and not just visuals. Showing panicked cooking or baking does not convey the talents displayed or tested, and leaves the viewer hungry. The American Baking Competition could use some more time in the oven.

Mike McComb –

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