Sometime in the early 1980s, I found Jeff Smith’s PBS cooking show and soon I was hooked. Eventually I would try Smith’s recipes and other chef recipes with varying results. Although I have not tried a recipe in months, my desire to watch baking and cooking shows remains constant.
The latest show I saw is School of Chocolate, hosted by French pastry chef and Instagram star Amaury Guichon. In this series, he teaches a group of eight chefs how to create realistic chocolate creations. In the first couple of episodes, he makes a pencil that he writes with on a piece of paper, and he lights a candle. Here is the kicker both items are one hundred percent edible.
Next, Guichon shows the chefs how he makes creations like these and how to do this chocolate work themselves, then he lets them lose in two challenges. The first is solo, and the second, he pairs chefs or two chosen chefs who did well from the first-round pick their team.
As the chefs work, Guichon or his two assistant chefs go around to check the contestant chefs’ work and offer help when they need it. If a chef does not do well after the first challenge, Guichon will ask the chef or two chefs to join him in a personal lesson rather than have this chef(s) go on to the second challenge. Usually, the chef or chefs master enough from the lesson, to move on to the next’s days challenges.
Another thing I like is how the eight chefs accept Guichon’s direct and push themselves to try to meet his standards. Three of the eight chefs who can work with pastry and chocolate are similar to Guichon right away, they are Chef Juan Gutierrez (Four Seasons Hotel Chicago), Executive Chef Thiago Silva, and Daniel Joseph Corpus.
The five other chefs struggle however, each improves and elevates their skills as the competition progresses. My favorites from this group include Pastry Chef Mellisa Root and Pastry Chef Tyricia Clark. Root does well leading a team and keeping each chef on task. She also has experience under her belt running and managing a restaurant until its forced closure in 2020. Whereas Clark lacks confidence but it grows through Guichon’s instruction leading to work improving by leaps and bounds.
By the eighth episode, there are two chefs left to go head to head for a big prize that includes teaching a master class and fifty thousand to start and open a restaurant. Their challenge: chocolate sculptors set in the dinosaur era. Gutierrez creates a prehistoric bird and Root makes baby dinosaurs hatching from eggs.
When Guichon judges each piece he offers plenty of praise to both chefs before letting them each know what he did not like. For Guiterrez, it was broken feathers on his dinosaur with wings and for Root, the base of the sculpture was too heavy compared to the upper portion and her chocolate did not shine.
I thought from other baking competitions where the judges nip pick that Root would win. For instance, in the latest Great British Baking Show competition, one competitor got kicked out from the kitchen because she could not do crisp decoration work and another one in the finale blew her chance to win when part of her showcase bake sadly did not cook like she thought it did.
However, this was not the case instead Guichon chose Guiterrez to win. When I think back the signs for his win got sown through the number of top finishes and Guichon’s affinity toward Guiterrez. While I do not agree with it I do have to remember I am a viewer of baking competitions, not a person in competition nor do I judge them.