I’m going to get really deep into the weeds here so if you have no interest at all in The Great British Baking Show, scroll on to another post and find something more interesting.
Further, if you are a fan of the show (like me!) and don’t want to have the latest episode, which aired last Friday on Netflix, SPOILED, then avert your eyes, watch the show and catch up, then read on.
All right then, you’ve been warned.
To being, I love the damn show. Unlike the American/Food Network shows that feature chefs competing against each other -and there are so many of them!- The Great British Baking Show is generally pleasant and deceptively placid. Deceptively because there is tension beneath the surface but it is like watching, of all things, professional golf: The contestants are truly competing with themselves to do the best they can. They have no control over what the others do so their struggle ultimately is with themselves.
Yes, the same thing happens in the American shows but there always seems to be a more raw edge to the competition, a dog-eat-dog in-your-face tension and sweat and the smell of cigarettes (or worse) in the air.
Here, its all so pleasant, so quant. So very British.
As I said, I love the show.
Way back in one of the show’s earlier seasons and I believe during a quarter or semi-final episode, the judges (the incredibly named Paul Hollywood and, at that time, Mary Berry -seriously, can two people have more awesome names?!) wound up booting a very young contestant from the show. I thought they did so not so much for what she did that particular episode, but because they got to the point in the late stages of the season where they felt she didn’t deserve to go to the finals rather than performed poorly enough in the given episode.
But before I get to the whys of this, let me explain what the show is about.
Each episode of The Great British Bake Off features three “challenges” which are…
…a signature bake, which tests the bakers’ personality and creative flair; a technical bake, which tests experience; and a showstopper bake, during which the bakers are able to showcase their depth of skill and talent.
The first two challenges are considered lesser challenges but do, of course, figure into the ultimate judgment at the end. The final bake, the “showstopper” is graded much more strongly and, in various episodes has times saved or condemned chefs who were on the proverbial bubble.
Which, is as it should be, if each episode was graded strictly.
Back in that early season episode I mentioned above, this very young chef (she was, if memory serves, maybe just turning 20), was at times inconsistent in her baked deliveries but clearly tried very hard. No, she was not the very “best” of the chefs, especially in the show’s early episodes (it sometimes takes a bit for a chef to start to shine), but each week you could see improvement to the point where I began to feel she was a legitimate contender for the finale (again, if memory serves).
So in this particular episode, and if memory serves, she does decently in the first two rounds and quite well in the showstopper round. I felt -and this was obviously my opinion and nothing more- her overall performance, based on what the judges said, was better than at least one if not two of the remaining chefs.
And further, I felt one of the more consistent chefs, one of the ones that looked to be a shoo-in to the finale, should have been booted at that point instead of her.
Yet she wound up being the one removed.
The family and I -we really need to get a life- argued about the choice and I felt, rather strongly, that the judges at that point essentially chucked their grading guidelines in favor of allowing what they felt was the overall better chefs to continue to the finale instead of adhering to their grading guidelines.
Welp, the very same thing seems to have happened again this past Friday with Episode 8 of Season 12, Free From Week.
In this episode, we’re down to the five chefs, Jurgen Krauss, a soft-spoken chef who hails from Germany. He’s easily the most consistent chef of them all, winning star baker 3 times (which means in the 8 episodes aired, he “won” 3 of them) and received Paul Hollywood’s famed handshake (if you know the show, you know what I’m talking about) once.
There’s Giuseppe Dell’Anno, a very pleasant guy who hails from Italy. He’s easily the second most consistent of the chefs and my youngest daughter’s favorite to win it all. He’s had 2 wins and 1 handshake.
There’s Chigs Parmar, a young and rising talent who started a little rough but over the weeks got his act together and created some very beautiful bakes, and according to the judges tasty, bakes. He’s won 2 star bakers and gotten 1 handshake.
There’s Crystelle Pereira, another incredibly pleasant chef who’s won 1 star baker and gotten 1 handshake. She can be very, very good but at times flounders.
Finally, there’s Lizzie Acker, the most inconsistent of the remaining bakers. She tends to impress with her flavors but often presents bakes that simply do not look all that good.
Yes, these bakes are graded for flavor and presentation!
The rundown of the final five I’ve given above was done very much on purpose: I’ve given you who I believe is in the #1 position through who I believe is in #5 position.
So, logically, Lizzie Acker is the one that would seem to be the one most at risk.
True to form, she was the one cut in this latest episode.
However… (redux times two)…
The fact is that in this episode she didn’t do badly at all. In fact, she did quite well -at least according to the judges- with her “showstopper” bake while Giuseppe Dell’Anno, the man I feel is the #2 position… most certainly did not.
The first two rounds were, it felt, something of a wash. Crystelle Pereira did the worst on the technical round and Lizzie Acker, if memory serves, was in 3rd place. The first round, frankly, escapes my memory but I believe everyone did decently enough.
So like previous episodes of the show, to me and the family it seemed like the “showstopper” round would be the one to decide who goes forward and which of the five would get cut.
Here’s where the trouble comes in: Every one of the contestants did very well in the showstopper round, including Ms. Acker… except for Giuseppe Dell-Anno. His bake, the judges felt, was a failure, both in how it looked as well as how it tasted.
Once the reviews by the judges were done, the family and I (I repeat: We gotta get a life) got into an argument over who we felt was about to be kicked out.
My youngest daughter, who wants Guiseppe to win, was disheartened. As much as she felt he was the one who was going to win in the end, she acknowledged that based on his showstopper performance, things weren’t looking good for him.
It seemed, frankly, like we were about to witness a HUGE upset: that one of the two top chefs in this season’s show was about to go down.
And here’s where, IMHO, the judges decided to chuck their rules.
In the conversation Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith (she took over for Mary Berry), the show’s hosts talked with them about who looked to be a potential star baker and who was in danger of elimination (they do this, by the way, every episode and just before the judgment is rendered).
Paul Hollywood, at this point, says something to the effect of “Guiseppe did well enough in the first two rounds to make it to the next.”
My jaw, frankly, dropped.
He effectively gave Guiseppe a pass for a rare (it was!) failure in what should have been the round that determines who stays and who goes: The showstopper!
Again: That’s not the way it should be. The showstopper round is supposed to be the single biggest determinant of success, and Guiseppe plain and simply failed while everyone else, including Ms. Acker, did well!
By all rights, and though it would have been an incredibly shocking development, Guiseppe wound up staying while Ms. Acker was booted!
It’s annoying, to say the least, and it shows that, at least on The Great British Baking Show, sometimes your previous successes guarantee your future ones.