Two episodes into the Food Network Canada’s new televised PC product development lab, it’s starting to sink in that things are going to be pretty much the same each week. Without a stable-but-narrowing set of contestants, Recipe to Riches repeats the same micro-narrative without any larger inter-episode story arcs. In fact, we sort of feel bad for the host, former football player and Bachelor star Jesse Palmer, who seems cursed to the same, somewhat stiff lines week after week. Still, the Cake challenge seemed to bring a slightly higher level of competition than the inaugural Sweet Puddings and Pies go-round. Our episode recap and tasting panel, after the jump.
If the lesson from last week was that you can’t beat a good story (like Glo McNeill’s post-war lemons), then this episode showed us—as if we needed any reminder—that the camera loves a looker. The looker in question, and the winner, was Jacqui Keseluk, your everyday tattooed rocker chick-cum-baking obsessive from Fall River, Nova Scotia. (Tony Chapman, the judge who specializes in the marketing side of things, could barely contain himself on first meeting: “I think that you are an unbelievable brand. You are going to be a superstar and we want to be part of making that happen!” He later worried about how the tattoos might play in the suburbs.) First to go was Crystal Peach of Kentville, Nova Scotia whose sumptuous looking Orange Chocolate Silk Cake lost some of its richness when she tried to scale it up to 20 portions (in her favour, we liked the way she bossed her professional helpers around in the kitchen). Calgary’s Melissa Lam’s Banana Chocolate Wow Cake (which became a cupcake) looked pretty tasty, and had a good back story (she’d invented it for her father after he had a stroke), but suffered from a confused concept. For her marketing challenge, she decided to target “today’s women, who can have their cake and eat it too.” That somehow meant showing up at Flirty Girl Fitness in King West dressed in little girl pink with some calorie-intensive cupcakes. Sadly for her, she didn’t stand a chance next to Keseluk and her graham-cracker crusted, peach- and brandy-bedecked cheesecake. When she emerged in a leopard-print tank top clutching a pinup poster of herself, the normally eloquent Galen Weston Jr. was left fumbling on his words.
That same leopard print was in full force on the Rock n’ Peach Bliss Cheesecake box, this time peeking out from under Keseluk’s dress (she’s also cradling a whisk like a guitar, naturally). Once again, our tasting panel was less than impressed, and once again, we had to wonder whether the mass-production and freezing did the cake any favours (this week’s ingredient count: 38). We followed the instructions for a two-hour thaw, and were rewarded with some fresh freezer burn (admittedly the box had been in the freezer the better part of a week). We let it thaw some more. It was generally agreed that peaches don’t seem to freeze too well, and that there was simply too much crust, although the cheesecake part of the dessert wasn’t bad. “PC makes good frozen cheesecake,” one staffer said. “Why would you buy this one?” A colleague was quick to reply: “The girl on the box.” Yet another summarized things nicely: “if that cake is rock ’n’ roll, then it’s a bit like an ’80s hair band—there might be talent under all the glittery makeup, leather pants, and bouffant wigs, but you’re so distracted by all the accoutrements you can’t really tell.” The verdict: keep shopping. Check out the cheesecake in our box-to-plate gallery »
Next week on Recipe to Riches: we take a break from the sweets with the Appetizer challenge, with Montreal’s Sara Bradeen, Riverview, New Brunswick’s John Grass and the GTA’s first representative, Diana Petrini of Woodbridge.
(Images: Jacqui Keseluk and Multi-Layered Peach Cake, Food Network Canada; tasting photos, Andrew D’Cruz)