It’s been coming all year… and the most recent promos have been infecting your synapses with a Paul Mac-orchestrated version of the song you most likely remember from the end credit of There’s Something About Mary. Not familiar with it? Check out the current promo for The Great Australian Bake Off…
10 amateur cooks of various skill & background are put in a tent in semi-country Victoria in the middle of last summer to bake their way to fame and partial fortune. GABO (not Bake Off like their twitter handle promisingly suggests)is ably hosted by Shane Jacobsen and Anna Gare and the contestants judged fiercely but fairly by Kerry Vincent and Dan Lepard.
Most Aussies would recognise both hosts from their various TV roles – Anna especially for her ever repeated vita-wheat ads and season co-hosting Junior MasterChef. Jacobsen is entirely affable in the hosting role, joking with the contestants while working with his co-host to keep the show running. There’s no layers to Gare’s hosting ability… it’s all on or all off and this reviewer finds it distracting.
It’s the judges that are by far the stars of this sausage roll of “sauce-ery”. Dan is an Aussie who’s made it big in the UK as a baker/author and his effervescence bubbles off the screen. Though his default position seems to be blatant optimism and encouragement he’ll still point out faults and call a cake a dud through the warmest smile seen on TV in ever. Kerry has been promoted as the “Simon Cowell of cake”, a crown she seems well pleased to wear. There’s a brusque matronly air to Her Vincent-ness that belies a warm creamy centre. Her eye and palate, like Dan’s, do not miss a thing as they wade through cakes, biscuits, pies and all manner of baked goods. Kerry has form, too – she founded and judges the biggest cake decorating competition in the US as well as cast her eye across all manner of creations on a number of US cable food shows.
It takes a couple of episodes for Kerry to take control of the Tent, but once she does – it’s priceless. She glides around the tent, snooping in fridges and discarded parcels on the bench on a whim and it’s this sense of calm amidst the flurry mixed with her uber-cool self-confidence that has the contestant intimidated out of their minds. Kerry’s not heartless, she “is too old to waste her life on bad calories”.
You don’t want the judges to be short of an opinion and both Dan and Kerry deliver with both barrels… just with slightly different techniques.
The series starts with ten contestants and each ep includes three rounds that sees someone triumph each week and someone exit the reality cooking competition. The personalities of each of the ten shine through well and viewers will very quickly connect with their favourites and celebrate their victories and cry with them in their exploding cakes and pies. It’s a pressure cooker environment where creativity is key and few remember there’s a moment for humour (in a challenge where the contestants have to make gingerbread houses on poor soul can’t keep her mini-houses together, but misses the chance to make a fondant Yeti that could have been responsible for the destruction).
Don’t confuse GABO with MasterChef. They’re light years apart. Styled on the Great British Bake Off which has been a food icon in the UK for the last three years The Great Australian Bake Off is the lightest of entertainment and very enjoyable. It looks stunning too: from the art deco SMEG refrigerators to the styled tent set. It’s all about the baking and the successes and failures therein, and while it won’t be everyone’s accompaniment to their cup of tea it, surprisingly, is very easy to consume & digest.
[No spoilers – you may want to keep up with the show and some of the press around the show via one of the contestants Maria’s blog.]
The Great Australian Bake Off – Coming even sooner than we thought, Channel 9.