Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bakery Boss: Not that Interesting

This show is now far enough in that I can really give it a full critique. As a Valastro family fan (I've actually been to Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken - get the crumb cake!), I've followed all of Buddy's television shows. I've supported Cake Boss from the beginning, and find Cake Boss: Next Great Baker to be the best bakery competition show on television. I enjoyed Kitchen Boss as well, but didn't find it good article material. This series, however, I can't say I look forward to watching. Perhaps I'm not the target demo, as I don't watch remodeling shows, but seeing Buddy help out these small bakeries that need assistance doesn't really appeal to me. Having no other family members helping out may be a factor - imagine how much better it would be if a different person helped out each bakery - Joey could teach baking, Grace could help with selling, Ralph could demonstrate modeling, Mauro could assist with consultations, etc. I think that would bring a lot to this series. I like that not everyone is having the same problems, but the solutions tend to be about the same, so that also detracts from the show. What do you think would be the biggest help to this one?

Bakery Boss "Violet's Bake Shop" (S01E02): Buddy is in a historically Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Queens, where Violet, her husband Marty, and their grown son Michael, are trying to compete with three neighborhood supermarkets that have opened in recent years. They buy and re-sell a lot of their products, and Michael hardly helps because his mother doesn't trust him, so he has been working solely on challah recipe variations. [Challywood is a cool name, and I love challah bread, so I hope that gets picked up more nationally.] They store is very bare, the signs are difficult to read, and the place is uninviting. They're losing $3000 a week running the bakery, and they've put in $300k already. [yikes!]
Buddy finds the apple-cinnamon challah good, but the cupcakes tough, stale, and dry. [gross!] The salesperson didn't want promote the cupcakes, though Violet feels they are the best item and even pays to sell them in the bakery. The brownie (also from a vendor) has a bad aftertaste as well, but Violet doesn't think the bakers can handle making these items on their own. [seriously? cupcakes and brownies ain't souffles and chiffon cakes, lady!] Plus, everyone at the bakery seems to believe that pareve items (no meat or dairy) can be that good anyway. Buddy finds the Hungarian baked goods overly dry, but Violet believes her shoppe still sells better items than anywhere else. To convince her otherwise, Buddy sets up a surveillance camera in a supermarket and they watch Violet's bread customers buying other items from the store. [I assume he got consent to do so or something??] Then, they set up a taste-test in the parking lot between Violet's items and the supermarket's items. She STILL thinks her own items are better, even though NOBODY selects hers as the winner. [wtf, woman??] 

So, Buddy takes the time to show the bakers some basic decorating (including delicate designs), gets the place some new appliances, and works up a new kosher menu. [that's a lot of help, really!] He also watches Michael and Violet bake together, to show that they can work together if they compromise more on responsibility and input. The biggest challenge, however, is selling things, as Marty announces that if they don't sell $5,000 of product in a single day, they have to close. They wind up with a tally of $5,217, and, three months later, they're not buying any more cookies, and almost everything is baked in-house.

Bakery Boss "Kristi G's Cupcakes & More" (S01E03): In Texas, there's a little family-owned bakery in the Vista Ridge Mall, owned by Kristi and her husband, Kenny, who convinced her to start this business with his mother as a major investor. Kristi struggles to tell people what to do, and has fired her daughter from the store numerous times for reasons varying from not wearing her uniform to refusing to was dishes, but always re-hires her. [I can't stand that kind of kid!] They're losing $2500-3000/month, and think that a move to the food court would be the best choice to save the business. Buddy isn't big on the sign, logo, or window display, but thinks it's a great location near an entrance. [we don't see exactly where the place is in the mall, but I personally tend not to walk down the little halls that only have a few places in them before the door, and that appears to be what this is...] He also points out that a move requires a $500k remodel. Additionally, he doesn't think there's not enough products to sell - it looks more like a bake sale than a bakery. [agreed.]

Buddy tries some of the cupcakes, but finds the frosting to be too sugary and gritty, the strawberry to look artificial and taste like cough medicine (they admit to using drink mix in it), the frosting to be inconsistent, and the decorations to look amateurish. They also have items on the "specialty menu" that aren't actually available, like mini-bundt cakes, muffins, cookies, or brownies, and Kristi says that the employees don't follow her directions to bake other items. [fire them all and start over! there are tons of people looking for work!] Buddy tells her that she can freeze cupcakes and ice them as needed to help with the baking workload, but they don't have a freezer. [seriously??]

To help convince the group of what needs to be done, Buddy sends Kristi's MIL on a mission to ask people who walked by their shop where a cupcake shop was, and nobody knows. [how big is this mall?] However, when she asks people where a candy shop is, everyone knows. Then, it's time to work on employee dynamics, so he brings in a drill sergeant to help Kristi's leadership abilities. [those younger girls constantly messing around got on my nerves SO BADLY!]

Buddy calls for a remodel that brings the cases closer to the front of the store, moves the ovens out into the open to utilize the freshly-baked smell to bring in customers, sets it up so they can decorate out in the open and have customers watch, brings in a refrigerated pastry case and freezer, and even change the color palette and the sign. [the random bunching of colors on the drawers bothered me.] There are new flavors of cupcakes on the menu as well, plus pecan pie, cake pops, and brownies. Buddy gives them a new strawberry cupcake recipe (the secret is to add cornstarch to absorb the water from the strawberries!), shows them how to add some strawberry jam into buttercream, and even gives them a cupcake mascot uniform to use to attract more people. Three months later, they are doing double their old sales!

Bakery Boss "Oteri's Italian Bakery" (S01E04): Buddy is in North Philadelphia to check out a 100-year-old family bakery with 60 employees, including fondant decorators. [that's a big operation!] They're "old-school Italian," and everything is made in-house, though they lost a lot of customers when the previous generation died out. [that's kinda random?] They vary from breaking even to losing $5-10K/week.  

Buddy thinks there's a very random assortment of party stuff inside, and has issues with several of their items. The cream puff is enormous for $2.75, but is filled with imitation whipped cream, not custard. [I agree that was crazy cheap for the size!] The German Chocolate Cake is old, the raspberry flavor is artificial, the biscotti are rock hard, and the cannoli cream is too sweet. That last one strikes a nerve with the family, however, as it's the original recipe. To try influencing the Oteris, Buddy agrees to a blind taste-test of cannolis, where Buddy wins by a landslide. [I honestly thought it would be closer, but I don't like cannolis so I find them all about the same, LoL.]

The owner of Geno's steaks comes in to ask the bakery to do a giant cheesesteak cake, and although they do custom cakes, a 24-hour turnaround time is nerve-wracking, so Buddy shows them how it's done. [this was a little more interesting than past problems.] They were clueless about the uses of modeling chocolate, apparently. Buddy gets the exterior re-painted, de-clutters the inside, and changes the menu a little (adding tiramisu, altering the German Chocolate Cake recipe, and shrinking the cream puff). He also gives them another cannoli cream recipe to consider. The suggestions work so well for the bakery that they soon open another location! [ahhh! if only I was back in Bucks!]

Bakery Boss "Baked Euphoria" (S01E05): A shoppe in Endwell, NY with a 1960s-70s vibe is the owner's third attempt at a bakery, and brings in $250 on a good day. [yikes.] The sign isn't visible from the road driving both ways, the front looks like they're selling lawn furniture, and when Buddy arrives, there's nobody up front. The cupcakes are hard, but the sugar cookies and scones are good. However, the decorations aren't the best, they don't sell slices of cake, and they freeze their cookies, so sometimes they thaw with weird tastes. [the doggie cookies were random.] They also have some cookies that they buy to re-sell, but they're crumbly and tough. Buddy challenges the bakery to see how many types of cookies they can bake in an hour from sugar cookie dough, and they come up with 20+ variations. [I thought this was a cool idea!]

They bake in home ovens, but the biggest problem is low morale. Buddy assesses that the problem is the owner's attitude and inability to lead, so he gets some former customers to cheer her up, then brightens up the walls, cases, floors, and exterior. He changes the consumer kitchen to be a professional kitchen, and even gets them a freezer, though they have to promise not to pre-bake anymore! The big interest item is a sheeter, and combined with some new techniques that buddy shows them, they should be in business to do a whole lot better! [I question the sheeter, though... how much fondant are they really using at this particular bakery?]
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