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Why the Great British Baking Show (and Top Chef)?

"Needs butter."

selfie with the judges

This is as close as I’ll ever get to “being” on this show. lol

I have a strange fascination with competition “reality” television. It’s not exactly the same thing as stopping to gawk at a train wreck, but it as close as you can get without leaving your house. There’s a lot of other “reality” TV out there, but they don’t have the same fascination for me was watching people cook under extreme pressure.

It’s actually kind of funny that I have been a Top Chef fan from the beginning and have never missed a season. My foodie daughter got me started watching and then she moved on leaving me as possibly the lone fan in the family.

On the other hand, I discovered The Great British Baking Show when it turned up in my Netflix feed and I had soon glom-watched all four seasons. And when that ran out, I then dove into The Great British Baking Show Master Class, which has Paul and Mary cooking the dishes they torture the bakers with. I went into this version with some hopes of maybe learning how to cook some of the goods, but quickly realized I’d have to do Math. In the metric system. Yeah, no.

While Top Chef and The Great British Baking Show are connected by food, they are very different in execution.

Professional chefs vs amateur bakers

Wide variety of foods and cook methods vs baked goods. British baked goods which are somewhat alien to this Yank.

Cutthroat competition vs huggy competition

On Top Chef they mostly cook in the Top Chef kitchen, though they change it up by putting them in extreme situations (last episode they made them camp out in the snow and cook, which was pretty hilarious).

The Great British Baking Show is in a fixed location. It is the weather that changes, sometimes by the hour, which as we all know can have a profound affect on baked goods. (Yeah, I’m a little surprised I knew that. Haha)

And then there are the judges.

Paul and Mary for the Brits, and Tom and Padma for the Yanks. Both sets of judges provide nice contrast and point of view to their judging. Top Chef also has famous guest judges that I have (mostly) never heard of.

So I’m back to the question of why? Why do I like these two shows? Well, I like food (though some of what they cook makes me shudder) and I love baked goods (with some exceptions).

It’s kind of embarrassing but I think the main reason is that I like watching then rise to, and or collapse, under pressure. On the upside, I do cheery them on, too. I’m not totally about their suffering, but about their overcoming, too.

Some people are nice to others no matter how rough their day. Others wouldn’t know how to get along with others with a step-by-step primer. This gives me competitors to root for and some to boo.

I tell myself that it is good research for my books and it is possible that all my observing has come out, or will come out when I run my characters through the mill. So far that is working just fine

My favorite quote from The Great British Baking Show is from Nadia (Season 3 winner): I will never again tell myself I can’t.”

I don’t have a quote for Top Chef because most of the good ones are filled with words not compatible with my family friend blog, but I did love this exchange:

RuPaul: [referring to Andrea’s dessert] Now is this low-cal?

Andrea: Yes, there’s no butter, there’s no saturated fat.

RuPaul: Everything is organic?

Andrea: Everything is organic, right down to the chocolate.

RuPaul: [tasting her dessert] Needs butter.

So, peeps, do you ever watch these shows? Glom-watch shows on Netflix or other streaming services? What are your favs? Any (family friendly) quotes you can share or lessons learned watching “reality” TV?

Perilously yours,


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