Could you recreate what someone was baking just by looking at the mess? If you know enough about ingredients and they way they’re assembled, yes.
In the new competition show, “Crime Scene Kitchen,” bakers try to duplicate desserts by studying the crumbs – and dirty dishes – left at the scene of the crime.
“You don’t need to be an expert in foods and baking to be able to understand it,” says Executive Producer Conrad Green. “When you see these people searching through a kitchen, we try to make it quite clear so you can follow their thought processes.”
Self-taught bakers learn through their mistakes, says judge Yolanda Gampp. “Hopefully, you take them to heart and you move on and you keep trying. That’s exactly what these contestants had to do. Next time, they realize, ‘We need to look in the drawer. We need to look in the trash. We need to look everywhere in that kitchen so we don’t miss a clue.’”
Baking can go in a lot of directions, fellow judge Curtis Stone adds. “The end result is very, very different. Sometimes, they’re just an inch away from success but they're going to end up doing something totally different.”
Judging depends on who came closest to what was baked in the “Crime Scene Kitchen.” And then, Stone says, “we take flavor and presentation into account.”
The show – yet another unlikely entry in Fox’s world of competition series – came from producers of “Big Brother.” “There’s a huge international market now that’s opened up,” says Rob Wade, president of alternative entertainment and specials. “The Asian markets have a huge amount of good new ideas because they have multiple channels and they tend to have a faster turnover of shows.”
Viewers’ fascination with baking shows was a starting point for “Crime Scene Kitchen,” then it grew from there.
Contestants come from all levels of expertise. “We have mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, best friends, (people who) met in culinary school,” says Executive Producer Allison Grodner. “But they all had to have baking skills and a lot of knowledge. They were given tests (during) the casting.”
Desserts were chosen because they’re very specific, Green says. “When you’re leaving clues in the kitchen, they can lead to a definite, correct answer. And, they’re delicious. Everyone likes desserts and they look great. You can really see when things go wrong with a dessert in a way you sometimes can’t with other dishes.”
To run interference in the kitchen, producers hired actor/host Joel McHale. “You’ll be blown away by some of the absolute wrong turns that people take,” he says. While he doesn’t have the chops of Stone or Gampp, McHale does like to cook.
“He would come into work and show Yolanda and me videos of things he cooked the night before,” Stone says. “I spoke to him for about 20 minutes about the coffee we grind (at Stone's restaurant) because he comes in and buys it by the 3-kilogram bag.”
McHale – the star of “Community” and host of “Card Sharks” – says he was impressed with the contestants’ skill level. “It looks like this thing is perfect and then (Gampp and Stone) can point out, ‘Well, your crust depth here is what really ruined the whole thing,’” McHale explains. “The precision is incredible.
“I cook all the time but I was totally blown away by how desserts are like this culmination of human existence. Curtis and Yolanda could have a whole show where they just talk about one part of a cake.”
While Gampp and Stone can dissect desserts with equal ease, they do have tipping points. Gampp, a YouTube cooking favorite, says she has difficulty baking bread. Stone, meanwhile, says his nightmare is modeling chocolate and fondant “and that’s what she does best. We complement each other well.”
“Crime Scene Kitchen” airs on Fox.