If you are a fan of British Bake Off, Zumbo’s Just Desserts will feel very familiar. Streaming on Netflix now, it's a show where 12 non-professional bakers compete in a number of sweets-centered challenges over a number of weeks. The baker’s dozen... errr, dozen bakers are competing for $100,000 in prize money and the title of champion. Fans of the famously charming British backing competition may want to check it out, but it’s important to note that it originally premiered last year, on the Seven Network, in Australia. So, if you don’t want to know who wins, be cautious when Googling.
The judges aren't Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood of British Bake Off fame. Instead, Zumbo's Just Desserts is judged by Adrianao Zumbo and Rachel Khoo. Zumbo, the show’s namesake, is a successful and celebrated patissier (pastry chef). He’s the author of a number of cookbooks as well as having opened up several of his own stores. As for television, he’s appeared as a guest judge on MasterChef Australia and was the subject of a documentary series titled Zumbo as well.
Rachel Khoo is Zumbo’s co-judge and a wildly talented chef in her own right. According to her website, after receiving a pastry degree at Le Cordon Bleu, she worked and continued to hone her skills at the culinary bookstore La Cocotte. Since then, she’s written five different cookbooks and is working on a sixth. Besides that, she works as a consultant for restaurants and hotels, writes for a number of journalistic outlets, and has appeared on a number of different cooking shows. Before appearing on Zumbo’s Just Desserts, she was a guest-judge on My Kitchen Rules.
And in the role of host, instead of the hilarious duo of Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, Just Desserts’ has Gigi Falanga. Although, maybe not as witty as Sue and Mel (a tough ask), she is undoubtedly qualified. According to Stuff, her culinary experience is international. Originally from Brazil, Falanga has her own high-end cake design business, as well as a degree in hospitality, and experience at the five star Shangri-la Hotel in Sydney as a pastry chef. On the show, she’s the official timekeeper and also goes to the contestants while the time is ticking to check in with how their creations are progressing and to support them.
As for the contestants, Zumbo himself has spoken very highly of the dozen competing on this first season of the series. Despite none being baking professionals, he apparently thinks that some could end up becoming exactly that. In an interview with Selector Magazine, he explained. “In the day time, they’re an insurance broker, or bricking, and then they twilight as these pastry chefs and home bakers, and a lot of them have amazing skill,” he said. “Some of them can even take it to the next level. So you can see where they’ve got their inspiration from, but they add something to it.”
The contestants come from diverse professional backgrounds. However, as Zumbo pointed out, none are professional bakers or chefs. Their jobs run the gamut from car salesman to technical writer, and from financial analyst to stay-at-home-mom. If, before you’d watch you’d like to know a bit more about each contestant, you can check out this piece from Dailymail.
So, if you need a new show to watch while you dream of baking TV-worthy creations, Zumbo’s Just Desserts seems worthy to put in your queue. While it doesn’t add much to the conventions of these food-based competition shows established by Masterchef and British Bake Off, it doesn’t need to. This show is comfort food at it’s finest and something that, no doubt, many will be happy to indulge in.