Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cake Boss's Next Great Baker: Round 1

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

When any competition show starts, there is just SO MUCH going on. You have to learn about each competitor, why they're there, where they're from, and what their skills are. You have to see how people work as teams for the first time. You see attitudes start to come out and personalities begin to clash. And that's before you even have to think about the actual competitions and whatnot going on! I really enjoyed Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker last year, though it's such a difficult time of year to tune in for a 10-episode season. I recall that I struggled with keeping up with this show last year because of the holidays and how it just didn't stop running. Hopefully I will have a bit easier of a go this year, but we'll see.

I thought that this was a good starter episode, though I wouldn't have guessed that Sara was going to be the loser through most of the episode. I don't like Minerva, Heather M. or Nadine, have mixed feelings on Wesley and Tony, and have picked Carmelo and Jasmine as my early favorites. We'll see how long those picks last, but let's go ahead and take a look at the competitors... [I think there are a few too many who want "new starts in life," but maybe that's just me...]
Credit: TLC/Walling McGarity
First, let's remember that Buddy himself chose 12 of the 13 competitors. The final one, Heather G, was chosen by America's voters.
Heather G, 31, Knoxville, TN. She has a 14-month old daughter. She bakes in her home and does 5-7 cakes in a weekend. [sounds busy!]
Marissa, 24, Pompton Lakes, NJ. Didn't want to go to college so she started making cakes through culinary school. Has a mouth, an attitude, and a temper. [not the greatest opener...]
Megan H, 38, from Pittsburgh. A paramedic who brings happiness into people's lives through cake. Needs a new chapter in her life. 
Heather M, 32, from Las Vegas. An exotic dancer with a five-year-old daughter. Does cakes out of her home and wants to make that into a real career.
Chad, 43, Dallas suburb, TX. Coaches HS basketball and then works at a bakery after school. An emotional guy. 
Minerva, 43, born in New York, raised in Puerto Rico, considers herself from Cutler Bay, FL (aka Miami). Considers herself a show-off. [well that's usually not good...]
Wesley, 28, Fayetteville, NC. He's in the army and may get deployed before the season is over. [not thrilled with that idea...]
Sara, 38, Cedartown, GA (an hour north of Atlanta). Her bakery uses a lot of alcohol. [is that really worth mentioning? Did she think that was a big plus or something?]
Carmelo, 42, Worcester, Massachusetts. Goes by "Melo." Was a cop but stopped when he got a lot of death threats. He was an artist that moved into bakery. [WEIRD background...]
Tony, 23, Fort Worth, TX. He stands out and says people don't really understand him. His grammar isn't the greatest, and he's kinda a nervous guy. [kinda like last season's Greggy, only jumpier...]
Jasmine, freshly 20, Los Angeles. She feels that she's often underestimated because of her age. [if she was 19 when she was selected for this show, I'm really impressed.]
Ryan, 30, North Providence, RI. He was doing construction and electrician work, then went to help his wife at her bakery one day and loved it. Two years ago, they opened their own bakery. [that's a cute, "we beat the recession" story.]
Nadine, 27, NYC. She likes to be bubbly and positive whenever possible. 

Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker "It's Go Time!" (S02E01): The Next Great Baker gets 4100,000 plus a spread in Brides magazine. Each week there will be 2 challenges. First, the Baker's Challenge: Make something that shows who you are - your best dessert. The winner will get an advantage later in the episode. The competitors get 2 hours and can use any ingredients or tools they see. Buddy and Mauro judge the following:
Heather G: She makes her granny's almond pound cake. Buddy says it has too much almond oil/extract.
Marissa: She does banana bread pudding with chocolate ganache. There's a dry piece of bread in Buddy's piece.
Megan H: She does raspberry cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. [her cupcakes were short. and they don't even sound that great...] She isn't happy with her cupcake in appearance, taste, etc. Buddy warns her that raspberry can taste like cough medicine. Plus, she used frozen, not fresh for the berries. Buddy says that it does taste like cough medicine.
Heather M: She does a lemon bar with a cookie dough crust. Mauro says that the raspberry was too strong, and Buddy says that the flavors fought too much.
Chad: He does Proof-in-the-Pudding. Buddy likes the layers of the whipped cream, chocolate pudding, cream cheese, shortbread. Mauro liked it but thought maybe it could use more pudding. [I'd like to try this one!]
Minerva: She does a triple layer carrot cake. Mauro and Buddy say that the grain or texture is messed up... something tastes off about it.
Wesley: He makes his mom's rum cake, which includes boxed cake mix in the recipe. Buddy says that it tastes like a cake mix, and, when asked, Wesley admits that he used one . Mauro reminds him that they use 5,000 pounds of flour each week, so there's no need to not bake from scratch. [um, if the best thing you make is from a boxed mix, I'm worried for you...]

Sara: She does beer cheesecake. Buddy likes the cheesecake but not the ganache.
Carmelo: He does Cuatro Leches, a play on Tres Leches. Buddy and Mauro like it. [I like his attitude - "I don't care what he thinks about the other contestants' dishes" - he knew that the judges liked his.]
Tony: He does Sponge Moons, but uses coffee instead of vanilla at the last minute. The sponge is good, the mousse is okay, but the flavors of strawberries and coffee don't go together. [...I think I like the idea of that combo, LoL.]
Jasmine: She does red velvet cupcakes, which Buddy and Mauro like. Mauro likes the hand-painted decorations on them as well.
Ryan: He does a white chocolate cranberry biscotti. [interesting choice...] Mauro says it's a little overdone. Buddy says that it was too complex, and maybe white chocolate wasn't the way to go. Ryan thinks that Buddy might have been wrong, and if it wasn't the first week, he would have said something.
Nadine: She does a three-tier macaroon cake. Buddy likes the creams and the pistachio. [I thought that it lost something in aesthetic appeal. just me?]
The bottom two were Megan's raspberry cupcake (mostly due to flavor) and Minerva's carrot cake (mostly due to texture). Even Wesley's box mix was better than theirs! The top two are Melo's cuatro leches and Jasmine's red velvet cupcakes (which win!).

The Elimination Challenge is next. They will be broken up into teams to make theme cakes. The cake has to be 4 feet tall, and they have 8 hours. Each person will draw a theme from a box (from a gold cannoli in the box, actually), and those with the same theme will be on the same team. Many people are happy with what they drew, others don't care about the cake but are worried about their teammates. Tony doesn't want girly, but gets fashionista. [haha.] Here's where Jasmine's advantage comes into play: after the teams and themes are named, she can pick which team to join, and goes with the fairy tale team. [not a big fan of this "advantage."] She went with that one because Carmelo was on there. [I'll talk about the teams and their cakes after a few bits that took place during the challenge...]

Buddy stops the clock at just over 3 hours to go, and has everyone follow him to the freezer, which is set to 3 below zero Fahrenheit. There's a bouns endurance challenge - the person who stays in there the longest gets immunity (cannot be sent home this week) AND a team advantage. BUT, the clock will restart, so you have to choose whether to stay in the freezer or work on the cake. Wesley and Tony are the only ones left after 13 minutes in the freezer, and Buddy makes them hand over their chef coats to up the stakes. At 40 minutes in the freezer, Tony thinks he needs to stay in there for his team, and Wesley thinks that Tony is a little crazy. [short sleeves in below-zero temperatures for that long?!? yeah, I'd think they were a little crazy, too!] At 65 minutes, it's more or less a stalemate, so they ask Buddy for a compromise - Wesley gets the immunity and Tony gets the team advantage. [interesting way to handle that...] Buddy has them shake on it and they're out of there. The team advantage is that Dana, the winner from the first season of The Next Great Baker, will help them for one hour. [nice prize!]

Also, after the time completely runs out, Buddy surprised the teams by telling them that they have to deliver their cakes to Carlo's bakery, via delivery trucks. They just need to get the cakes down to the docking bays. Once they get to Carlo's, Buddy's family as well as customers are there to judge - each person can put a ticket into the bucket next to the cake they like the best. Mauro, Buddy, and Buddy's mom are the final judges. While the fairy tale cake got the most votes overall, Buddy thought the Under the Sea was a better cake. [interesting!]

Fairy Tale: Carmelo, Jasmine, Minerva, Chad. They build a base of books, then plan to put a fairy princess on top. Minerva's corners are droopy. [Carmelo has only been doing cakes for a year and he thinks he can fix anything?] Minerva stays in the freezer for a little bit, but decides that she was being selfish in staying for immunity, so she leaves. [she may have had a point there.] Carmelo had never worked with modeling chocolate, but he volunteers to do the princess sculpture. [this strikes me as pretty strange...] He makes her a bit too large and muscular, though. [it was a big manly.] When the time is up, Jasmine likes the end result. Melo describes his cake, and named Chad the leader of the group. [interesting. I didn't really see that, I guess.] Buddy's mom thought it was interesting, had a lot of detail, etc. Mauro thought it could have have covered things up a little better, particularly with the turntable. [that's a good point.]
Under the Sea: Megan, Wesley, Heather G. Heather thinks she's the leader of the team because she drew that group first. [that's just about the worst reasoning I've ever heard in my life!] Wesley got upset that Heather wasn't paying attention to what he had to say. [that sort of thing always frustrates me!] The team isn't meshing well. Megan is worried that the cake will crumble. Heather likes the end result. [what was with the lights?] Wesley names Heather as the person taking the lead, and tells the judges that she didn't listen to anyone else. Buddy's mom liked the coloring. Mauro thought it was good but could have had some more 3D aspects. [excellent point!] Buddy thought that the sugar work was "just okay."
Ultimate Man's Cake: Nadine, Ryan, Marissa. The girls are thinking working out, drinking beer, and Ryan was thinking a workbench. They go with Ryan's idea, but the teamwork isn't the greatest. Nadine is focused on her own part only. [She seems like a big ditz.] Ryan is a little upset that Marissa chose to stay in the freezer for a while - he felt like everyone needed to work on the cake. [and that's reasonable. There was a sacrifice to be made.] Marissa ends up leaving the freezer to help her team. [...I guess that's a good thing?] It's a heavy cake but it seems pretty mobile. Marissa likes the end result. Buddy says that they missed the theme - it was too carpenter to be for the everyman. [I guess the beer and gym idea was better after all...] Mauro said it could have used more sports. Buddy says it wasn't the best or the worst cake.

Fashionista: Tony, Sara, Heather M. Heather wants a lot of luggage, shopping bags, jewelry boxes, etc. After Tony wins them the help of Dana, Dana works on some small details, since he knows that those impress Buddy. The cake isn't stable enough to really move... it starts tilting almost immediately. Heather is relieved that it just got put together, though Sara doesn't like the finished product. They get it into the truck and transported just fine, but it topples while they remove it from the truck. [awww. that sucks.] Heather talks about the fashionista cake, and says that it was her design. Sara mentions that it looked a bit tacky in the end. Buddy's mom notes that the concept was nice but it was missing some work. Mauro thought that it needed a better structure. It becomes clear that the person going home will be from this team. Buddy won't send Tony home because he took one for the team and stood in the freezer for an hour. [so Tony kinda got both parts of the challenge prize anyway...]
Credit: TLC/Walling McGarity
This leaves Sara and Heather M. Buddy asks them each why they should get to stay... Sara says she should stay because she wants to save her family from the failing town. [first, that contradicts the idea that she'd build a better business in the town. second, that doesn't say anything about your talent and why you should stay in the competition... that only says why you think you should win in the end!] Heather says that she doesn't want to go back to exotic dancing... she wants to get her life back on track. [again, talk about your skills and abilities and why you should stay! NOT why you deserve the money!!] Buddy deduces that they are a leader who made bad decisions and a follower who didn't speak up... leaders are needed, so Sara is sent home. In the box truck, Sara says that she's the wrong person to go home, though it was her fault for not speaking up.
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