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Recipe to Riches reviewed: Episode 1, Luscious Lemon Pudding Cakes

RECIPE TO RICHESSeason 1 | Episode 1

Last night was the premiere of Recipe to Riches, the much-hyped new Food Network Canada show where each week, a trio of home cooks compete in one of eight different categories to determine whose recipe would make the best President’s Choice product. (No, really.) The show was one pinch of So You Think You Can Dance’s nationwide talent search, a dollop Top Chef’s cook offs and product placement and a heap of Dragon’s Den’s Marketing 101, all whirred in a blender. To be honest, it can sometimes make for a strange mix—the Top Chef–style solemnity that greets each elimination seems a little out place when the contestants change every episode. Each winning product will show up on Loblaws shelves the weekend after the episode airs, and at the end, viewers will vote to crown the winner of a $250,000 grand prize. Every week, we’ll be bringing an advance sample of the winning dish into our office to see whether it’s worth the trip to the grocery store. After the jump, our thoughts on the winner of the Sweet Puddings and Pies challenge.

Mini-Recap

The winner this week was Glo McNeill from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, a tough yet charming 81-year-old granny who arrived with her “luscious lemon pudding,” so-called because it symbolizes the return of “luscious lemons” after the deprivations she faced in World War II–era England. Next to that story, Mijune Pak, a high-heeled food blogger from Surrey, British Columbia, didn’t stand a chance with her “Canadian pie,” a multi-culti mishmash in a jar. Pak was eliminated in the “batch-up” challenge, in which the competitors are asked to make 200 portions of their home recipes with the help of a trio of “product development mentors.” Gatineau’s Brad Gash came closer with his down-home, maple cream–laden pouding chômeur (which he billed as the next poutine), but was edged out in the product development challenge, which involved coming up with a name and marketing plan and putting on a big public tasting event for hungry-looking Ryerson students (who, to be honest, looked like they’d devour whatever was put in front of them). Not-so-secret guest judge Galen Weston Jr. came on at the end of the episode to announce the winner. The requisite tears and embraces followed.

Tasting

In what we’re sure will be a running theme in the series, it was a little hard to square the four frozen miracles of modern food science we received with the six-ingredient homemade dessert on the show. Each 330-calorie pudding cake came individually wrapped in a little plastic tub, which can be baked in a microwave or an oven. The office consensus? A solid “meh.” One staffer called the dish “inoffensive,” while another quipped, “I kind of wanted it to have a filling.” There was broad agreement that it was very, very sweet, and that the tartness of the lemons was missing. Visually, the goopy sauce and spongy cake that emerged from the microwave left something to be desired (one smart aleck described it as “something HR Giger would have designed for Betty Crocker”). We must admit that when we brought one of the pudding cakes home to bake in the oven, the flavour and texture of the cake improved tremendously. And it was nice to see every ingredient on the packaging was more or less recognizably “real food.” The verdict: if you’re gonna buy it, bake it. Check out some photos of our tasting in the gallery.

Next week on Recipe to Riches: Fall River, Nova Scotia’s Jacqui Keseluk, Calgary’s  Melissa Lam and Kentville, Nova Scotia’s Crystal Peach compete in the cake challenge.

(Images: Glo McNeill and Luscious Lemon Pudding, Food Network Canada; tasting photos, Andrew D’Cruz)