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