American Baking Competition: Will You Go Back for a Second Helping?

American Baking CompetitionCBS premiered The American Baking Competition last night, and I’m going to try really hard to not go the easy route and describe the latest entry into the reality-competition genre as half-baked. Oh, wait, I kind of just did. (I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.) (Okay, really, I’ll stop now.)

The show is built around the premise of gathering 10 great amateur bakers and tasking them with tackling three recipes per week: A “signature” dish they make at home for friends and family; a “technical” bake in which they receive ingredients and vague instructions — then have to rely on their own baking know-how; and a “showstopper” — where presentation sits in the throne alongside flavor.

The problem with the premiere episode, though, boiled down to simple math: 10 contestants x 3 recpies each divided by a 60-minute episode = not really enough time to focus on getting to know the players, getting a real insight into their baking philosophies, or even getting an “OMG that’s making me hungry” look into their various pies and tartlets.

Worse still, this week’s outcome was as predictable as the use of butter in a pie crust: I mean, no way were judges Paul Hollywood (that name!) and Marcela Valladolid going to send home firefighter Jeremy, a guy who makes his grandma’s sweet potato pie for his fellow bravest. Not when they could send home Carlo, the guy whose entire backstory could be boiled down in four words: “Italian dude from Connecticut.” Okay, maybe five more: “Dreams of pastry-shop ownership.” Not exactly a vivid portrait of the confectioner as a young man.

Nevertheless, the American Baking Competition premiere had a few sweet treats in store:

* Southern firecracker Francine, who made an unbelievably beautiful peanut-butter, chocolate and bacon pie that alternately terrified then delighted Mr. Hollywood. (Girlfriend’s chocolate-cherry tartlets looked like they came from a high-end restaurant as well.)

* Brian, a self-described “Male Martha [Stewart]” with a deep love of housework and a possibly scary competitive streak. (When the judges dissed his tartlet shells as tooth-shatteringly crisp, he instinctively snarled, “They don’t know what a pastry is!”

* The comic sadness of Carlo’s pastry-crust birds and the way he misguidedly compared them to the Sistine Chapel.

Anyhow, it’ll be interesting to see if American Baking Competition finds an audience — and whether future installments might take a few tips from various Food Network competition shows and put a little more emphasis on the actual dishes. After all, if dessert truly is the best course, then shouldn’t this show put more cakes, cookies and pies on viewers’ plates?

What did you think of American Baking Competition? Did you want more emphasis on the actual food? Did any contestants emerge as your favorites? Could you see Carlo’s exit from a mile away? And will you go back for a second helping? Grade the premiere episode in our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Give this reality competition series one season tops by CBS. :-(

  2. George says:

    I actually enjoyed it. It was WAYYYYY better than The Taste for one, and also the blind tasting made a bit more sense here. But i do agree with you Michael, thy need to show more of the actual food. Will keep watching tho

  3. Liam Tait says:

    Honestly the British show this is based on is amazing, however I understand why the format isn’t working. The UK show allows for a far slower pace and more time to really appreciate each of the bakers in a way that the US show hasn’t allowed.

  4. Martina says:

    I haven’t seen this but I’m addicted to “Great British Bake Off”, you get to know the contestants as weeks go on but you also get to drool at the cakes. While Paul has that Je ne sais quoi I prefer Mary Berry as a judge. My husband & I now bake something most weekends thanks to Bake Off

  5. skeptic says:

    I like that fact that there’s no time for manufactured drama, extended sob stories, bewildering contestant in-fighting. It’s just BAKING. And as people get eliminated, I’m hoping the extra time will be spent on baking and not stupid contestant drama. Since the only cooking shows I have TV access to are Gordan Ramsey atrocities, I’m loving this one!

    • Tim says:

      Ramsey atrocities? Please. As if Jeff Foxworthy has a stellar and impeccable record.

    • Lee says:

      I’m with skeptic. Although I think having 3 competitions in one episode is too much (I would cut it down to 2), I appreciate that this show is focusing on the baking and not the in-house drama like MasterChef U.S.

  6. Jay says:

    Why didn’t they call it ‘The Great American Bake Off’? The current title is terrible.

    • Shae says:

      Pillsbury has the rights to “Bake Off” for their competitions… Sadly, the American version couldn’t follow suit mimicking Britain’s clean title. I also adore the British version for reasons Skeptic said no drama, no sob stories, just baking. Their competition strategies over there is so funny because everyone is so PLEASANT! It makes for a fun watch. American reality competition is so cutthroat sometimes! And I disagree with Lee; 3 challenges I think works well here because baking is so temperamental and 2 items to bake isn’t enough to judge properly. The technical bake is the best one to watch! I like USA’s version because the narration will say something to make sure to do or not to do, and they will cut to a baker doing the opposite of that fact and it’s good. UK version doesn’t really direct it that way.
      It’s a good watch if you like food shows.

  7. Damn says:

    Were is Mary Berry?
    They should of kept her for this.

  8. Tahoe Mike says:

    Did you lose a bet or something Michael?? They made you recap this??

  9. qj201 says:

    Jeff Foxworthy was cringe-worthy. His fake put on “okey” charm made me want to change the channel.

    And Mr. Hollywood…is a better looking Simon Cowell…but still a d-bag.

  10. Babybop says:

    I think you should do a recap for Next Food Network Star when it comes on… I love your commentary!

  11. Ann VerWiebe says:

    I enjoyed the show! They have a fair amount of instructional background (which makes sense if it’s British – see also The Great British Sewing Bee). I was very hungry by the end.

  12. Brent says:

    I think the production value of this show really did it in. Too many times there were shots of the pies and tarts that were just out of focus. Not to mention the editing was obscenely fast paced. They really did not need to make sure that ever contestant got equal air time. Especially so early into the competition. Find the few who gave good side interviews and who provide entertainment during the competition portions and stick with them. Less time with Jeff Foxworthy or the male judge. Why do all competitions feel the need to have somebody originally from outside the US on the judging panel? I blame American Idol and Simon V-neck.

  13. Pat says:

    I liked the premise. However, would have preferred a host who was more into the cooking. Probably will get to know contestants as more are eliminated. Not sure how they were chosen, but some seemed lacking in knowledge. I think it has promise. I’ll watch a few more. It is summer after all.

  14. Er Pie says:

    I like cooking competitions and looked forward to this one, Got a friend to DVR it for me so I could catch it but this show just came across as half assed. Everyone is limited to tiny soundbites including the host except there didn’t seem to be a moment in the first half when paul hollywood (who was recognized by one of the competitors and so must be a great authority) wasn’t nattering on like he was hosting his own cooking show on meth. At some points they actually interrupted his nattering to have him a clip of him talking to the camera about what he was nattering about.

  15. Sg. Grant says:

    I watched it, since there was nothing else my DVR was recording at the time. It was ok. It made me hungry, but since I can’t eat gluten, I couldn’t whip up something of my own.

  16. bouionice says:

    Worth watching just for Francine – she was great and that Peanut Butter/Chocolate/Bacon pie looked amazing!

  17. I liked the show , my only wish was that it was not positioned in a time slot against Master Chef , which is another cooking show I really like ,
    The nice thing about the American Baking Competition , is that they actually talk about cooking techniques so you can learn something which is similar to some of the Food Network shows ,
    I hope CBS puts it in a time slot that works and gives it at least 2 seasons to see if it can build an audience

  18. Cancel NOW says:

    No way! How this show got on network television I’ll never know. The contestants are boring and judge are not even likable. They just plan suck. They couldn’t get anyone better then those 2?

  19. Roxanne Andrew says:

    I think it has potential. Agree the show was too “full”, 10#s of stuff in a 5# bag. With that many contestants, should be a two item product, until they narrow the field down at least. Would have appreciated more contestant info, and focus on prep and baking etc. Synopses of contestants seemed haphazard and rushed. Like they threw things randomly and all at once to see what sticks! Worth a second like ok, so I’ve got it set to DVR.

  20. Cin says:

    I’d rather not waste the time getting to know the bakers. It’s about the cooking. However, are these really the best you could come up with?

  21. Vikki says:

    I want to know where Marcella’s accent went…on her Food Network show, she sounds like Speedy Gonzales.

  22. Lauren says:

    Love the show but Jeff Foxworthy is annoying

  23. Lauren Shaw says:

    Love the show but Jeff Foxworthy is annoying. He is not funny and humor is unnecessary. Should focus more on the baking.

  24. Karina says:

    I was watching todays show but i cant help being upset about the napoleon description. The classic original recipe has no chocolate ganash. Its a custard. I grew up eating napoleons as it was my father’s fav dessert. The best napoleon ive ever had was at a tiny restaurant in san diego’s little italy. It was a beautiful tasting banana custard napoleon. Craving now!

  25. Lisa says:

    Brian shouldn’t have won. He cheated in the beginning and should have been eliminated then. He hid a batch of bad cookies!

  26. Rob says:

    Show outcome very disappointing. Was it based on the last bake, the last week? He was so bad all along. Did they forget?

  27. emily says:

    I am so glad the someone finally made a baking contest show. It was great and I’m looking forward to next season. I love to bake and decorate cakes and have been praying a show like this would happen. Great job and keep it up.

  28. Pauette says:

    Is there going to be a cookbook with all the recipes that were on the show?? I REALLY want to try some of their baked goods.

  29. Dahlsbakes says:

    After watching this I did a bit research and found that this show is based on a BBC hit “The Great British Bake Off” which just started its fourth season. If you took a peek at the episodes you will see that “American Baking Competiton” followed the same production formula. The bigger let down was folks not knowing who the judges were (Paul Hollywood) maybe not well known here but has been a judge on British Bake Off and well known (just not in the US) since its first episode. Other than time scheduling there was too many unknowns (the host or letting the audience know that it was based on the British version in its marketing). Other than casting of the host and judges..being bland (Jeff Foxworthy?) it was a good show. Too bad CBS jacked it up…hopefully it will find a new home somewhere.