Best Baker in America: A show in search of an identity

Judges Jason Smith, Calra Hall, Gesine Prado, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 4. Photo courtesy Food Network
Judges Jason Smith, Calra Hall, Gesine Prado, as seen on Best Baker in America, Season 4. Photo courtesy Food Network /

When it comes to baking competitions, the image almost every foodie thinks of is The Great British Baking Show. Stylistically, it has become the default for what a baking show should be in most peoples’ minds. Relaxing, without drama and above all else, fun to watch. Unfortunately, it seems the folks at Best Baker in America didn’t get the memo.

Instead, in Season 4, the Food Network has given the format of the show a complete overhaul in the hopes of creating something that will feel more like Tournament of Champions. The greatest bakers in the country fighting it out for the title of Best Baker and $25,000! Be there!

Which would be great except that a format like that doesn’t really work for baking. And when your entire audience is hoping for The Great British Baking Show without the accents, it can also be a bit jarring to watch.

The result is a show that, while amusing and interesting, doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be and how to go about getting you to care about what happens.

Carla Hall is the perfect host for Best Baker in America.

The one thing Best Baker in America has going for it is Carla Hall, who joined the series as host this season. While she is no Guy Fieri (and really, who is?) she does a great job building the tension as best she can and keeping things moving along.

As for her fellow judges, I’m wasn’t familiar with Gesine Prado but she was funny and engaging so she gets a thumbs up from me. However, I am not a fan of Jason Smith. What he seems to think is humor instead just comes across as obnoxious. A little of him goes a long way and by the first commercial break, I had had enough.

The other problem are the contestants themselves. None of them are lacking in talent or ego, that’s for sure. They all went on and on (and on) about all the famous people they met and at least three mentioned how they had baked for Barack Obama. News flash: if everyone has done the same thing, it’s not that special anymore.

Does all this mean Season 4 of Best Baker in America isn’t worth watching? Thankfully no. By the end of the first episode, there are a few bakers who grow on you and you can root for. And watching people bake under pressure is always fun, especially the new Bake Off that sees the bottom few bakers try to avoid elimination while everyone watches.

Best Baker in America will never be confused with Tournament of Champions no matter how much it may want to be. And it will never be thought of as an American version of The Great British Baking Show. Its identity will lie somewhere in between and I really hope they can discover it over the course of the new season.

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What are your thoughts about the premiere of Best Baker in America Guilty Eats Nation? Did you enjoy it or tune out after the first hour? Leave a comment below and let us know or join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.