We've been watching Food Network since early 1997, when our cable company did a fiber optic upgrade. For me, it was pure happiness, because it meant I didn't have to wait until our PBS channel's Saturday lineup for the Frugal Gourmet and Justin Wilson's Cajun cooking. I had a great prime time line up every night, with Sara Moulton, Ming Tsai, and Emeril. The only redeeming value of watching Bobby Flay was that Jacqui Malouf was funny.
Over the years, FN has evolved and changed and for the most part, we've been happy with the new stuff. I still miss Sara Moulton's Cooking Live and Doorknock Dinners, but if it means I get Triple D and Iron Chef America, I suppose it's okay.
Three years ago, Food Network added Ace of Cakes and the three foodies in this house were HOOKED from day one. The staff of Charm City Cakes, without fail, are entertaining and talented people, creating magic and happiness out of butter, sugar, flour, eggs and fondant. That they do it in Baltimore is just the cherry on top. Ed and I frequently see footage of places we've been and miss.
This year, TLC decided they had to have THEIR reality show set in a bakery, too. This one is based in an area that we're not as familiar with, being from the other side of the river. The potential for another show where we could cheer on the staff as they create the impossible from cake was one we looked forward to. Alas, the show does more to tick us off than endear us much as the fifteen at CCC do each week.
First up, the name of the show. Buddy Velastro says HE's the Cake Boss, but really? Mama Velastro calls all the shots in this bakery. If Mama's not happy, nobody's happy. Recently, they showed Buddy riding a motorcycle. Mama found out and she went ballistic on a 40 something guy about it. Give me a break. When you're an adult with kids on your own, if you're letting Mama tell you whether you can ride a motorcycle, you are NOT a boss.
Then there's the siblings. His sisters all are the whiny, gum cracking stereotypical women that people think of when they thing of New York and New Jersey. Week after week, his sisters take control of the bakery workroom, when they should just be running the shop downstairs. So, no, Buddy is still NOT the boss.
I have nothing but sympathy for the staffers who have to put up with the family infighting from Mama, the daughters and Buddy. Yes, there's a lot of Buddy's "Mia Famiglia" working at Carmines, but there are many who aren't related by blood and they just get stuck in the middle of the crap that happens on this show.
The sad thing is that it's pretty clear that they have to come up with contrived conflicts half the time to make a show. A couple offers to paint the bakery in exchange for a cake. Sister Mary (the shrillest sister of all) tells them they should make it pink after Buddy gave clear directions on what he wanted done. What, the cakes and the artistry aren't enough to keep audiences interested?
Then there's the cakes. Every time they're making a cake sculpture, it's of pound cake. I'm sorry, when you bite into a wedding cake, do you want a dense cake, or something light and fluffy? I have never had a pound cake served at a wedding for the main cake or the groom's cake. Yuck.
Recently, we got an Ace of Cakes book and Good Eats 10th anniversary book. It has been fascinating to see that 120 hours of tape is recorded each week that gets turned into a 22 minute episode of Ace of Cakes and yet, there are no contrived scenarios, no yelling, no buffoon who goes around saying he's the boss. In fact, the owner of Charm City Cakes defers to his staff when they know more than he does about something.
When you watch Ace of Cakes, it is 22 minutes of FUN, because it comes through how much these people truly enjoy what they're doing. Cake Boss is a complete contrast, because their show just leaves us with stress, anxiety and agita. I suspect that it does the same for the staff that does the baking at Carlo's, too.
For that reason, I suspect that several years from now, like the Good Eats 10th Anniversary book, there will be a similar tome about Ace of Cakes.
And Buddy Velastro?
He's probably still going to be arguing with Mama and the sisters and still complaining about all the people who come to buy cakes from him every week. Off camera of course, because his show can't stay the distance when the guy isn't the boss of anything.