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American Baking Competition Review: Series Premiere

It must be summer because the new crop of reality shows are here! One of CBS’s offerings is its jump into the food competition genre: The American Baking Competition is meant to be a take on an apparently popular show in Britain.

Now, I’ve never seen the British version and I’m guessing most of you haven’t either, so I don’t know why CBS decided to make this show scream “America!” From the title,…to Jeff Foxworthy as host (such a foodie, y’all)… to the oddly draped American flag bunting, this show does NOT want you to forget where you are. And, of course, the first challenge is pie.

American Baking Competition Host

As always in a first episode, we get to know the contestants but none of them seem to be stand-outs. Everyone has a quirk, from a guy “loving to clean” to a grandma with a sweet classic car. I’m hoping we’ll get to dive a little deeper into their personalities so I can avoid calling them things like Bearded Guy and Southern Blonde 1.

Most of them make classic pies like peach or lemon meringue, but Francine decides to add bacon to her chocolate peanut butter pie, earning a scrunchy face from judge Paul Hollywood when the judges make the pre-bake rounds. Clearly bacon has not hit its peak in Britain, but I’m not surprised when he deems it a great pie in the end.

The second part of the pie challenge has them making a savory pie from Paul’s personal recipe collection. It sounds like the instructions are purposefully lacking – tricky, tricky Paul! Considering hot water crust is not a common way of making pies here, it’s definitely a test of their skills.

Their pies all look pretty good at first glance, but Paul’s a stickler against soggy bottoms, and even though they have the same recipes the filling flavors are different. Brian’s in the top group and he’s pretty cocky about it. A little early, dude!

Finally, they need to make 3 dozen tartlets in 3 hours. Jeremy messes up his custard but instead of pressing it through a sieve to save it, it tosses it and starts again, essentially ruining his chances. He knows it and pretty much cries. Trying to show the softer side of firefighters? It seems early in the show for tears, but hey, there are only 10 contestants.

Predictably, Francine is the star baker of the week – they love her Southern gal personality and how it comes through in the pies. I’m betting she’ll be a fan favorite as well, although her sugary sweetness might backfire in the end.

I feel bad for Whitney, being the youngest contestant automatically puts her at a disadvantage in both experience and expectation. Luckily, she squeaks by, as does weepy Jeremy, whose issues were blamed on time management.

Carlo ends up being the one sent home, partially because his Italian dessert recipes didn’t win in flavor, and partly because his savory pie was almost a hockey puck of crust. Sorry we didn’t get to learn more about your Italian influences, Carlo!

Overall, I hope the excitement is amped up on this show. Although the contestants are all “home bakers,” there is $250,000 on the line – perhaps even more of a prize for amateurs. We’ve already had two guys tearing up but the stress levels aren’t coming through. With only a few weeks in the entire show, I’m not sure they’ll have enough opportunity to make this a show people will want to see again next summer.

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