Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Next Great Baker: No Frontrunners

The thing about reality competition shows is that the contestants need to matter to the viewers. Some people will tune into American Idol to hear anyone sing song after song, or So You Think You Can Dance to watch routine after routine, and some will even keep tuning into Next Great Baker just to see the process and products. But, it's just not as interesting if you're not rooting for anyone! Someone from your hometown, your alma mater, even someone with your name become great options. If you have no similarities there, you can go for the person you think is most attractive or most talented... but what happens when it's still "none of the above" ?? Three episodes into the season, I'm not partial to any of the teams (and this may be because they're teams and not individuals), though if I had to root for someone, I'd go with Blue, as Al & Lia because their Chinatown cake was impressive. Are you finding it difficult to pick a favorite this season, or are you on the sidelines rooting for a color?

The remaining teams [with my thoughts up to this point]:
Blue: Al & Lia of St. Louise, MO, coworkers at a fondant-free cake shop. [I'm gaining interest in them as they continue to showcase their abilities.]
Maroon: Kaiulani & Roxanne of Salt Lake City are niece & aunt perfectionists. Kai and her two kids are currently homeless. Other bakers are referring to them as the Kakedashians. [they're just kinda there.]
Black: Manny & Al of Woolwich, NJ, have been working together four years. Al has a family bakery. [they're getting snarkier...]
Brown: Jose and Aimee of Chula Vista, CA are coworkers. [take 'em or leave 'em.]
Pink: Danielle & Julie of Johnson City, TN, are a mother-daughter team. Danielle is the oldest of seven kids. Julie bakes for churches, and Danielle has only joined in the past six months. [let's get rid of them eh? they're out of their league.]
Tan: Don & Meredith, of Long Island, are coworkers, with him designing and her baking. She also was his kids' nanny. [nothing outstanding here.]
Purple: Bethany & Jennifer of Tomball, TX, who have known eachother for almost 20 years. [still just shrugging.]
Red: David & Elaine of Kissimmee, FL are husband and wife. She's full-time and would love a storefront. He's an amateur. [we see next to nothing of their work in this episode, so nothing new to add.]

Cake Boss: Next Great Baker "Desination Wedding!" (S04E03): Buddy picks four teams of four this time, and each will have eight hours to make a destination wedding cake. The twist is that they can only communicate as a team for an hour, because after that only two people will be able to work on it at a time. [so they appear to have only 18 man-hours instead of 32!] They get random destinations, and the Guest Judges are Sean & Catherine Lowe, of season 17 of The Bachelor. Some of the teams struggle more than others, but their dynamics aren't examined very thoroughly before there's only 3.5 hours left and the teams are allowed to re-combine. Let's look at them from best to worst...

Al & Lia, David & Elaine do Paris with intricate pressed linen flowers, an Eiffel Tower topper, and a gold Versailles arch. Al & Lia do 40-50 wedding cakes each week, so Lia is comfortable working away on the details, which results in a very clean cake. The breakdown is David & Lia, Al & Elaine, but the big problem is that their monument isn't proportional, though they still win the round and earn gift cards to buy kitchen accessories. [I agree that it was a fat-bottomed tower!]

Manny & Al, Jose & Aimee go big with New Orleans, planning a six-tier Mardi Gras wedding cake. Al doesn't like the bottom layer, so he changes it... and then Jose changes it again, then takes the lead on the project when the group combines. They have one problem after another, but the biggest issue is that the cake is leaning unintentionally. [did they not use dowels?] None of them want to be the speaker for the project, and Buddy can see there's a lot of cover-up work. Jose mentions to the judges that he wonders if the other team was trying to sabotage the project. [that wasn't great...]

Bethany & Jennifer, Don & Meredith have Hawaii as their theme and they do it well... except it's just tropical without a wedding flair. They have a five-tier, beach to water to sky natural progression, topped with male and female tiki masks. Don & Jennifer, Bethany & Meredith are the breakdowns, and they all use a lot of airbrushing and fondant flowers on the cake. The bamboo didn't dimensionalize well, resulting in a skyline effect. 

Kai & Rox, Danielle & Julie run with their Las Vegas theme, though the pink team has never been there. Kai takes the lead, and although they're going for sophistication, they don't get elegant, they get kitschy and sloppy. Rox & Danielle struggle when Kai & Julie had to switch in the middle of mixing the batter, so they have to guess if there are ingredients not in it yet! The end result doesn't feel like a wedding cake, so they lose out and have to deal with the possibility going home.

Elimination Challenge
: Make a dessert centerpiece that excels in both taste and visual appeal... in 60 minutes. Stick with the destination theme, but choose any of the four cities.
Kai & Rox: They choose Hawaii and bake a chantilly cake with coconut and Macadamia nuts. [of course. everything they do is Hawaii!] They also do sugarwork, which adds great height to the design. [I was wondering if they'd finish in time, though, with Kai being so distracted about being in the bottom!]
Danielle & Julie: They plan to stick with the Vegas theme, and bake cupcakes designed to be in a tower/stand formation. Julie bakes, Danielle decorates, and they have a great cookies-and-cream cupcake with raspberry ganache. However, they don't have time to make the structure work, so they only have a platter of cupcakes to show and lose. [same way Fred & Barry lost last time!]
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