'Nailed It' is the baking show students have been waiting for

Netflix's new dessert competiton is a celebration of average cooks

Judges choosing their favourite cakes.
Screenshot from Netflix

Since Netflix burst onto the scene in 2013, it’s been hailed as one of the most versatile entertainment companies in TV production. You can watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt if you feel like laughing, or Black Mirror if you feel like crying from fear, or Orange is the New Black if you feel like doing both.

However, in terms of food-related TV shows, Netflix has been no competition for the Food Network.

Six months into adding the Food Network to my cable package, I’ve become a card-carrying member of the channel’s fandom. My DVR is stuffed with over 40 episodes of Chopped and I can recognize the network’s biggest stars by voice.

What makes the Food Network’s programming so enticing is how their competition shows — including Chopped, Iron Chef and Beat Bobby Flay — pay such close attention to detail. Each dish is prepared with staggering precision and beauty. Each note of the show’s score is seamlessly timed to the dramatic highs and lows of the competition. Every judge plucks the most impressive words from their culinary dictionary to form their critique.

Netflix’s latest baking competition show, Nailed It, contains none of these typical ingredients. And yet, I’ve grown to love it just as much — if not more — than I do Chopped.

The format of Nailed It doesn’t stray far from the baking shows that have come before it: three amateur bakers try to recreate the creations of a professional chef to win a $10,000 prize. 

What makes it stand out from the pack is that most of these bakers are painfully and gloriously average — and boy do they make mistakes.

Sure, chefs on Food Network shows aren’t immune to an occasional slip-up. Sometimes a contestant sprinkles in an extra speck of salt or fails to realize the full potential of the preserved duck eggs — yes, that’s a real ingredient used on Chopped

But the errors on Nailed It are much more basic and relatable. Contestants regularly stack three layers of cake without putting any icing in between them. They fill pans to the top with batter because they don’t realize it expands in the oven. 

In the final episode, one contestant even forgets to add in the cake mix for her cake and winds up making a straight-up omelette.

I see a lot of myself in the bakers on Nailed It. Growing up, I was lucky to have parents who took the reins on cooking major meals and desserts, allowing me to master the art of grilled cheese and a respectable sunny-side-up egg. Now that I live on my own here at Queen’s, I’m forced to rely more on my culinary skills. I can occasionally whip up something to impress my friends but more often than not, I wipe out. 

I wouldn’t say I’m incompetent at baking — give me a Betty Crocker cake mix and I’ll follow the recipe on the back to perfection — but if you asked me to make a stunning, three-tier wedding cake, it would likely end up looking like a misshapen cloud. 

The bakers on Nailed It often sink to similar fails. Still, they never get down on themselves and instead find comfort in having a laugh at their own greatest attempts. One result of a challenge to recreate a Donald Trump cake had me and the other contestants gasping for air.

The bakers aren’t the only ones who don’t take themselves seriously either. The judges and host/comedian Nicole Byers regularly improvise jokes in their critiques. The show’s music and editing aren't held themselves to an overly strict standard either. Once, they carved a full minute out of the show to depict a cake falling as the climax of Titanic.

Nailed It ultimately comes nowhere near stealing the Food Network’s crown. Instead, the show makes its own crown, where one of the jewels is missing and the engraving on the inside has a typo. 

I see the value in wanting to wear the Food Network’s crown and pretending to be restauranteur royalty for an hour. But I urge you to carve out an afternoon, put on Nailed It’s sloppy crown for six quick episodes and remember how fun failing can be.


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