As much as you want to say it’s not a competition… it’s a competition,” noted one sage contestant at the start of Netflix’s new cooking show School of Chocolate (available now).
The programme, which sees eight professional pastry chefs and chocolatiers bid to impress their teacher over a series of challenges, is billed as a “course”. And there aren’t any eliminations. But there’s still a winner – who gets a prestigious teaching gig and $50,000. So yes, it’s a competition.
The teacher in question is the boyishly handsome Amaury Guichon. “He might have winked his eye at me when he walked in,” reckoned Stephanie, wishfully. Guichon demonstrated his credentials by showing off a “lemon pie pencil” he created (it could actually write!), and set a mildly confusing challenge: “Create a pastry without an existing mould, and turn it into an illusion.”
The cooks delivered solid-if-unspectacular results, with the show leaning into the ‘school’ concept by having the worst two summoned to Guichon’s office to be told they were out of challenge two. Meanwhile, the most successful duo were appointed team captains and forced to pick teams – meaning someone had to be chosen last. Ouch.
Guichon showed the gang how to roll chocolate, and assigned a showpiece, column-based challenge. One made a (working) windmill, while the others opted, naturally, for a “post-apocalyptic bridge”. Apprentice-style resentments over management styles soon surfaced – though the most fractious trio triumphed.
Future episodes promise sorely needed spectacle – while hopefully shy guy Guichon will come out of his chocolate shell. The show needs a stronger personality – a Bake Off-style judge or host happy to prod the contestants, or even crack a few jokes, would add flavour.