Who can bake good, and who will be baking bad? Our first look at the #GKBO contestants offers some valuable clues. Calum Hendersons ranks them.
Good news everybody: life is finally about to get better. Go outside and you can feel it in the air, an unfamiliar sense of hope. Everything is going to be OK. The Great Kiwi Bake Off is almost here.
Our very own version of the wholesome, heartwarming, extremely beloved international reality format will be hosted by the duo of Madeleine Sami, who was crack-up in that movie The Breaker-Uppers, and Hayley Sproull, who was crack-up in that Comedy Pilot Week show Golden Boy. Both the judges have surnames that sound like expensive kitchenware brands: “King of Baking” Dean Brettschneider and “Queen of Catering” Sue Fleischl. It’s going to be really good, you can just tell.
In anticipation of the show’s arrival on October 16, TVNZ have released comprehensive bios of each of the 12 bakers. This offers eager fans the opportunity to pick out an early favourite, maybe start fostering the first flutters of a Bake Off crush, or in our case, mercilessly rank them from worst to best.
These preliminary power rankings have been constructed using a combination of deep analysis of previous seasons of Great British Bake Off and Great Australian Bake Off, and intuitive reading of the overall vibe of each contestant’s online bio.
12. Jeff (49, New Plymouth)
Seems slightly against the spirit of the show to have to rank anyone last before a single brioche has been baked, but here we are. The international Bake Off history books are full of blokes with names like ‘Jeff’ going home in the first week. In his bio, the communications consultant is described as “a bit of a cowboy in the kitchen.” Jeff boasts, “I often don’t measure things or follow recipe details.” You know where this is going.
11. Jennie (27, Tauranga)
A registered dietician? On the Bake Off? No doubt Jennie will be stingy with the refined sugar, sub in coconut oil at every opportunity, edible flowers on top, that sort of thing. Sounds like a recipe… for disappointment.
10. Stacey (29, Invercargill)
Everything about Stacey rules a lot. The blue hair and sick tats. Body piercer by day, bodybuilder by night. From Invercargill. But… her bio doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in her baking ability. There’s a lot of talk about cupcakes. “I’ll just be stoked to make it past episode one,” she says. Could just be classic Southland humility, but it’d probably pay to not get too attached.
9. Clayton (39, Auckland)
“I’m just trying to make baking fun again,” claims Clayton on his reasons for entering Bake Off. When was baking ever not fun? Good soundbite though, something he would know the value of from his day job as… a bloody TV producer! Remember when that woman who was writing a thesis on reality dating shows went on The Bachelor? This feels a bit like that.
8. Shannon (41, Wellington)
According to his bio, IT analyst Shannon earned the office nickname ‘The Cake Guy’ after bringing a chocolate cake he made into work one day. How many cakes do you reckon a woman would need to bring to work before she became known as ‘The Cake Lady’? It’s not Shannon’s fault that everyday sexism exists, of course, and he looks like he might actually go alright here. His bio uses “bakes” as a noun, in the same way Grand Designs hosts always talk about “builds”.
7. Hannah (33, Wellington)
If there was a Bake Off video game Hannah would be one of the stock playable characters for sure. Mum of three, loves baking with the kids, describes her style as “homely with a twist” – she seems wholesome yet always up for a bit of banter, the kind of contestant this show was built on. Whatever the challenge you know she’ll be giving it heaps, very liberal with the icing sugar, whatever it takes to put something delicious on the trestle. Never write off a Hannah type.
6. Joel (28, Hamilton)
No New Zealand reality show is allowed to go to air without at least one cast member who can be characterised as the “typical Kiwi bloke.” Joel certainly looks the part – he’s got a beard, hair, wears a shirt etc. Plays rugby and works as a landscaper. Call it a hunch but I reckon he wouldn’t be setting foot in the Bake Off tent if he wasn’t also a deceptively skillful baker.
5. Annabel (19, Timaru)
There’s no way a 19-year-old can actually win the Bake Off, right? No one so young has done it on #GBBO or #GABO, but I reckon Annabel could have what it takes to become the Lorde / Lydia Ko of baking. “I love making macarons,” she says like it’s no big deal. “I’m most proud of my chocolate fondants.” Langbein is going to hit the roof when another Annabel hits the cookbook shelves, I’ll tell you that much.
4. Ana (28, Auckland)
The phrase “self-proclaimed perfectionist” probably tells you everything you need to know about how Ana will go on the show. She’s going to absolutely nail it for weeks, then with the final in reach something’s going to go horribly wrong and cause a full on Bake Off meltdown. There could be a joker up her sleeve, though: “[Ana’s] baking is heavily inspired by her Serbian roots,” reads her bio. How many New Zealanders know what Serbian baking is supposed to taste like?
3. Sonali (44, Auckland)
This is easily the greatest narrative of the season, and probably the most evocative sentence ever written in a New Zealand reality TV bio: “[Sonali’s] biggest regret is not joining the Bombay College of Catering in 1992.” It’s a ready-made story of determination, redemption, validation. If you don’t want Sonali to win you are, in my opinion, barely human.
2. Vanessa (48, Auckland)
If you’re a betting person you’re straight up rigging the office sweepstakes to make sure you pull Vanessa’s name out of the hat. She’s technically proficient, boasting “a good understanding of the chemistry of cooking” as her biggest strength. She’s experienced, calm under pressure, but perhaps most importantly exhibits a refined palate, reeling off a list of “citrussy” delights as her signature dishes. “Lemon meringue pie, lemon curd, tarte au citron…” these are the kinds of classy dishes that can win you a Bake Off title.
1. Larissa (22, Christchurch)
Two words stand out in Larissa’s bio: “mechanical engineer(ing student).” That seems like a huge advantage for a competition like this – what is baking if not a series of equations and formulas? You’d be surprised how often load-bearing dynamics come into play over the course of a Bake Off season. Look, Larissa’s clearly got her shit together, and she would look great on the cover of a just-in-time-for-Christmas cookbook called something like ‘Larissa Bakes It All’. Winner.