Bake off is Better in France

Great Britain invented the Great British Bake Off programme format and it’s been sold to 196 different territories, including France where it’s called Le Meilleur Pâtissier (the best baker) and it’s, well, just better than the British original.

So with the ninth series underway in France (where it’s pulling in over 3 million viewers a week), here’s why you should switch to watching French bakers.

1. It’s longer

If some cake is good, more cake is better, right? While the British show coasts in at around an hour, the French version is two hours long if you watch it straight through online, or two-and-a-half if you watch it on TV with ad breaks.

The format is basically the same. Each week the bakers create a signature challenge, a technical challenge from a recipe they have never seen before and a showstopper or creative challenge.

But the distinctly leisurely pace of the French show allows for more chatting, plus loads of clips of the contestants going about their everyday lives, jobs and explaining what baking means to them.

2. It’s harder

The challenges on the British show have definitely become more difficult since the relatively benign early days when they simply had to bake a cake, but the French show is at a whole new level. By week two the (amateur) bakers are creating a life sized replica of Versailles out of choux buns.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but some of the challenges are frankly insane (such as creating a Breton tower out of 60 crêpes and some caramel).

3. It’s naughtier

The French version is very much post-watershed. Broadcast by commercial channel M6 there’s no bleeping out swear words here. In fact if you really want to learn how to swear properly in French simply tune in and wait for the baker whose cake fails to rise, who drops their pastry cases or who spills molten sugar on themselves.

There’s also a distinct acknowledgement that the audience are adults – every series includes a 50 nuances de crème (50 shades of cream) week. The results (see below) are usually hilariously horrifying, proving that erotica and baking really should never mix – oooh la la!

4. It’s got Cyril Lignac

The show is currently presented by Julia Vignali, while the jury consists of Michelin-starred chef Cyril Lignac and culinary blogger Jacqueline Mercorelli, better known by her stage name “Mercotte“. They are frequently joined by guest judges.

While Mercotte is essentially Mary Berry with added Frenchness, Cyril brings a whole new dimension to judging. Rather than being known for his annoying ‘Hollywood handshakes’ Cyril’s USP is the bizarre faces he pulls while tasting. Many, varied and strange, they also offer no clue at all as to whether the cake is delicious or terrible. It all adds to the drama.

The broadcast is followed by an aftershow entitled Le Meilleur Pâtissier: À vos fourneaux (The Best Baker: To your ovens).

5. It has cuter animals

Creating a giant and slightly impractical tent in the middle of a country estate has been faithfully copied from the British show, as have the cut-away shots to cute animals to indicate the passing of time.

But while the surroundings of the UK tent are populated with nothing more exotic than a few birds and lambs, the French show ups the ante quite dramatically. It appears to have shipped the entire contents of a petting zoo to the grounds of the various châteaux where it has been located. On breaks from baking, the contestants are frequently seen sitting alongside peacocks, ponies and penguins.

But don’t just take my word for it. Watch it! The show is on Wednesday nights from 9.05pm (CET) on channel M6 and all episodes are available for catch up (in all countries) on http://www.6play.fr.

Key French vocabulary

À vos marques… prêts . . . pâtissez – On your marks . . . ready . . . bake.
Un biscuit – slightly confusingly, can be a biscuit or a sponge cake, as in biscuit Génoise or a Genoese sponge
Epreuve – challenge (as in épreuve technique or technical challenge)
Tablier bleu – blue apron (given to the best baker each week)
Vainquer – winner
Putain – what you say when you drop your gingerbread model of the Eiffel Tower with three minutes to go until judging time or its equivalent.

37 Comments on “Bake off is Better in France

  1. sheree – awesome post – merci! for the humor and the french phrases too

    life sized replica of Versailles out of choux buns. – laughing at that
    and À vos marques… prêts

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have it on! I get bored easily! Putain? No. That’s not what I would say if my Eiffel tower dropped on the floor!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah yes, French cursing… as much an art as French cooking, lol.

    I’m not at all surprised the French show / contest is harder. French baking is world renowned after all. 🙂 I tried watching the British version on the Food Network (TV channel) here and was remarkably unimpressed. I guess other people were also, as the show didn’t last long.

    There is an American version (at least for holidays) as well, but like most of the Food Network’s shows, there’s alot of questionable events and judging that make me suspect the show is completely scripted. A great (but unrelated) example is a baker my spouse’s family knew who grew a chain of cookie stores based on a few signature cookies BUT who managed to completely botch his hallmark cookie that he’d been baking for 20 years. A shame we were never able to catch up to him afterwards and ask what really happened.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Maybe , what plays a role in having the French cuisine richer is that France has warmer areas especially on the Southren territories close to the Mediterranean sea climate areas…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The French were btter at Mathematics but the British were great sailor men who spread the English language worldwide and had also more English speaking countries related to the common wealth .The British political leaders were among the smartest and pragmatic in the world .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am such a fan of the British show, and now I am wondering why haven’t I come across this French version. Definitely watching one, just to see all this. So entertaining

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Not seen the French one but I think I would prefer the UK version, firstly the UK one is a family show which is how it was meant to be. Though I preferred it when it was with the BBC and no annoying adverts. Secondly, the unnecessary swearing would put me off from watching.

    Bad language doesn’t bring anything to the table as it were and is distaseful in any context,

    I can see how you would enjoy the baking style though.

    Liked by 2 people

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