From skills challenges to master challenges, the Best Baker in America must conqueror it all in the kitchen. The new Food Network competition is confectionary perfection.
Finally, the Food Network has a new show that is about food. Best Baker in America is about baking. Yes, the competitors bake, share baking knowledge and everyone talks about food. By the end of Best Baker in America, everyone is craving a delicious baked treat.
The hosts for this new Food Network competition are Adam Rapoport, Marcela Valladolid and Jason Smith. Fans of Food Network Star have been eagerly anticipating Jason Smith’s first show after winning this summer’s Food Network Star. The “Country Bling” food personality didn’t disappoint. His vibrant personality was on full display. But, even more importantly Smith conveyed a strong culinary knowledge. Smith had won Holiday Baking Championship before Food Network Star. That man knows his way around a stand mixer.
Best Baker in America judge Jason Smith, photo from Food Network
The host and judge, Adam Rapoport is huge food name, even though some viewer may not recognize his face. As editor of Bon Appetit, Rapoport has a wealth of culinary knowledge and experience. Plus, he is extremely personable. While this statement is bold, I think that Rapaport would be up with Alton Brown great food programing hosts.
Lastly, Marcela Valladolid is the third judge. While she has been a Food Network personality, I had no idea that she was a strong baker. I associate her with Hispanic cuisine. During the first episode, she provided a good balance between Smith’s exuberant personality and Rapaport’s calm demeanor.
The group of eight bakers competing in Best Baker in America might seem a little familiar. Several of these bakers have previously appeared on Food Network baking competitions. While none of them won, many of them had great success.
Even more impress than their television experience, these bakers have a laundry list of baking accolades. From baking/confectionary competitions to best of lists, these bakers are on the top of the baking industry. Still, their skills will be challenged in the Best Baker in America.
Best Baker in America, photo from Food Network
Each Best Baker in America episode will feature two challenges. The skills challenge begins each episode. The test focuses on a very specific skill. Second, the master challenge will be a larger scale test of each baker’s skills. It was refreshing to hear that both challenges affect the elimination decision. Who doesn’t hate to see a contestant get eliminated on just a single bad challenge?
The first skills challenge had each baker create a six individual upside down cakes. Many people are familiar with the classic pineapple upside down cake. As the cake is flipped, the perfectly caramelized fruit appear. That single moment of truth can be baking success or failure.
An upside down cake is an American classic. I’m willing to bet that most people have had an upside down cake at least once. As the first challenge, the bakers are really put to the test. This skills challenge has no room for error.
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What is quite telling in this first challenge, the upside down cakes aren’t boring, plain cakes. While pineapple was a big trend amongst the bakers, the cake flavors were quite elevated. These upside down cakes weren’t the kind that grandma makes.
The majority of upside down cakes were successful. Dwanye, who made a dark caramel upside down cake, won the skills challenge. His decision to create a slightly smoky caramel put him on top. While two bakers were less successful, Margarita and Susana, no one was called out for an upside down disaster.
The master challenge could make any baker cringe, a wedding cake. While creating a decorating, large scale wedding can be quite time consuming, the bakers had to make a wedding cake in this challenge. The decorated, wedding cake had to serve 50 people or be double barrel (a particular style of wedding cakes, stacked on top of each other). Also, the wedding cake had to be lemon flavored. Did you think that this challenge would be easy?
As the master challenge began, the judges gave some judging criteria considerations. These little tips, like all the other tips and tricks throughout the show, are amazing. Foodies watch these shows to learn about baking. While it is a competition, the at home baker can, and show learn (not just get hungry).
Best Baker in America, judges, photo from Food Network
In this master challenge, the key was to balance delicious flavor with sophisticated decorations. For the decorative aspect, a few bakers achieved this appearance. Chery’s muted greens and candied basil was simple perfection. Even a few modern twists, like yuzu, were thoughtful as well.
But, decoration alone cannot guarantee a win for any baker. Taste is the ultimate deciding factor. The majority of these bakers created delightful lemon flavored wedding cakes. Working with lemon can be a difficult balance. The lemon needs to be forward, but not overpowering.
Many of the cakes incorporated other citrus flavors with the lemon. But, lemon had to remain the primary flavor. Unfortunately, a few bakers didn’t find the right balance. If the judges couldn’t taste the lemon, then the master challenge wasn’t successful.
Looking at the bottom two bakers, Margarita and Susana, these two cakes failed in the decorative aspect. Susana stayed true to her traditional Mexican roots, but the colors were too bright for a sophisticated wedding cake. Still, staying true to herself is important.
Margarita faltered because her double barrel cake didn’t seem finished. Although she prefers the more “naked cake” look, the overall appearance was lackluster. Her flavors were creative but the cake overall didn’t compare to the other bakers.
This week Cheryl won the master challenge. Her cake was a lovely balance of lemon and basil flavors and was visually stunning. Unfortunately, Margarita was sent home. She faltered in both the skills and master challenges. Maybe culinary competitions aren’t for her.
As a new Food Network show, it is hard to determine what the season will bring. Next week’s episode is meringue. To create a perfect meringue is quite a feat. The stiff white peaks with the touch of burnt is a picture perfect dessert.
Who will ultimately be the Best Baker in America? Tune in this season to see more.