The American Baking Competition Series Premiere Recap

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On Wednesday night CBS premiered its latest reality-competition series, The American Baking Competition. Unlike most cooking shows, which feature professional chefs, The American Baking Competition pits 10 amateur bakers against one another. The prizes: a cookbook publishing deal and $250,000.

Each episode—including this week’s premiere, “Pies and Tarts”—has three components: a “signature bake,” in which contestants are free to cook up a personal recipe; a “technical bake,” in which contestants are given a recipe with missing steps and must figure out how to complete their dishes; and a “show stopper,” which is like the signature bake, but fancier, I guess. This week’s challenges, everyone had to make a savory chicken and vegetable pie for the technical bake, and 36 tartlets for the showstopper.

Right away it’s easy to see there are some problems with the show’s format. The season started with 10 contestants, meaning that, after the three rounds, the audience has seen a total of 30 pies or tarts. That’s a lot of content to cram into 42 minutes, especially once you add in all the personalities and drama that make a competition show actually, you know, fun to watch.

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