Canada’s homegrown tele-cook-off is a slow burn. The contestants aren’t around long enough to start hating each other, no one ever gets too frazzled, and the judges rarely behave like they’ve recently mainlined bath salts. The result is that Recipes doesn’t quite deliver the same high-stakes drama as its Food TV rivals, but it does deliver something else: real food.
Viewers can sample each week’s winning dish, which appears on supermarket shelves shortly after the episode airs. The television audience also picks the ultimate receiver of the aforementioned riches—specifically, $250,000—turning an otherwise hum-drum show into a nationwide taste test. For those who’d rather not clog their freezers with random frozen hors d’oeuvres, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to sample each week’s winning dish and publicize our findings. Here, the rundown on episode one.
Winning Dish: Actor Jesse Meredith’s Mini Raspberry Cheesecake Chocolate Cups
Runner-Up Dishes: Nineteen-year-old Erica Pauze ’s Maple Bacon Butter Tart and amateur bobsledder Brad Reinsch’s sugar- and gluten-free Co-Co Nut-Nut Bars
The episode starts strong, the obvious highlights being Jesse’s frantic post-audition leaping fit, Erica’s valiant attempt to sizzle 1,000 pieces of bacon simultaneously, and pretty much every single thing about Bobsledding Brad, starting with the fact that he showed up to the initial audition wearing a Lycra unitard and a bobsledding helmet. Unfortunately, no amount of sporty showmanship could solve his kitchen quandary: the secret ingredient in his Co-Co Nut-Nut Bars—a controversial sugar substitute called xylitol—was off-limits due to pesky side effects like diarrhea and tumours. He got chopped, leaving us with Jesse and Erica.
It’s obvious at this point that no two people would make a sprightlier or more dynamic kids’ TV hosting duo, which makes it all the more painful to see them thrown into a pack of greasy big-city ad execs and schooled in the art of sales. (Worst proposed name change: Encore Cheesecake Bites, which sounds like a brand of instant coffee you buy at a gas station—maybe because it is.) The product launches both go well, but the judges are swayed by Jesse’s stellar customer-survey stats, despite the fact that his branding is clearly confused (Tap dancing! Gold-sequined blazers! Cheescake! [sic]). Either that, or they just went with the dish that would obviously be the easiest to mass-produce.
As judge Gail Simmons sagely noted, there’s just something kind of dated about a moulded chocolate cup. Our in-house tasting panel agreed: “When would you actually eat this?” one of our testers wondered, pointing out that it’s too pretty for a casual snack, but too freezer-aisle to serve to guests. “It’s the sort of thing served for dessert at an undergraduate students’ dinner party.” Taste-wise, the responses varied from definitively negative (“I do not want to have another bite”) to reasonably tepid (“Not bad, but too sweet”). Several testers were alarmed by the unnaturally smooth texture of the cream-cheese filling, which was variously compared to icing, lip gloss and glue.