What do you get when you cross baking with engineering? You get an edible boat that floats, edible mini-golf courses, or an edible skyscraper that must withstand a simulated quake. And if you want to watch it happen, tune in to Baking Impossible, a new Netflix competition series that pairs top-level bakers with the best engineers for the most amazing results.
Hosted by Justin Willman, Baking Impossible creates Bakineer teams (1 baker + 1 engineer) to compete in designing and baking creations that are required to not only taste delicious but also survive intense engineering stress tests.
The idea for the show was from Andrew Smyth, who coined the term Bakineering a few years ago after he was on The Great British Baking Show, who will serve as judge, along with Joanne Chang and Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi.
Willman and Smyth spoke to Monsters & Critics to fill us in on everything we need to know for today’s premiere of the competition series.
Monsters & Critics: Baking Impossible teams are supposed to create functional food. What kinds of things will we see?
Andrew Smyth: It’s all sorts of engineering things we’ve never seen before, so we’ve got edible boats, we’ve got gingerbread skyscrapers that we’re testing on an earthquake shaking table, we’ve got edible robots, and we’ve even got an edible fashion show, so it’s all sorts of stuff that not only has to look great, but it has to perform some kind of engineering function. So, that’s really the brand-new bit that has never been seen before. It really was testing our baker and our engineer to their limits.
M&C: When you pair bakers and engineers, I imagine they don’t speak the same language. How is the communication for the teams? Is there friction?
Justin Willman: It’s interesting. The human elements that you see emerge over the course of the season are so unique. There is friction in terms of I don’t know you, I don’t know how you work, so they are thrown into the trenches right off the bat. The most successful teams really evolved and learned in the course of each challenge. The teams that implode are the ones that can’t figure out that chemistry because each baker and each engineer is used to being the master of their own domain. They haven’t worked together. The engineer is a novice at the baking part and vice versa.
M&C: Will we see failures as well as successes? Because these things have to function, is there a higher percentage of failures maybe than on another baking show?
Andrew Smyth: Failure is a great part of engineering, but what we tried to help our teams do was test as they went along, so you’re going to see the trials and tribulations. We’re doing stuff that’s never been seen before, so obviously, there’s going to be some challenges, but by putting the best engineers and most creative bakers together, some of the teams are a bit unstoppable, and some of the stuff they produce our jaws were dropping. So, yes, when there’s going to be trials, there’s going to be a bit of failure along the way, but failure is the best teacher.
Justin Willman: For people who like to watch a show, it’s kind of like we can’t help but turn away from a car crash. On this show, you literally get to see an edible car crash, a bunch of them. You get to see massive success but the failure is real because none of this has ever been done before. They’re breaking new ground and there’s going to be some crumbles in the process.
M&C: Nailed It! has teams too, but it goes for the comedy. Is this a more serious tone?
Andrew Smyth: I think we’ve got some amazing contestants coming together and their personalities really shine through. It was such a great atmosphere on set. We are challenging them. These are some amazing things they’re being asked to produce, so we want to see success. We’re setting the bar really high. We didn’t want to make this an easy ride for them by any means, so it’s challenging, it’s tough, but the teams are always supportive. It’s tricky. We’re asking them to do some almost impossible stuff, hence the name.
Justin Willman: The show does have a lot of very funny moments. As the host, I get to straddle this line, where I get to emphasize the drama — there’s incredible drama because there’s so much at stake — but the comedy is real. You have to keep it light. Some of these teams are working for 20+ plus hours on a creation so they get more exhausted than they’ve ever been. They are stretched to the limit and you need to give those moments of levity, so that’s my glorious role in the process.
M&C: Justin, you’re the host of this and Cupcake Wars. How are your baking skills?
Justin Willman: They are bad, and also my engineering skills. I have a need-to-know basis, so when I’m creating a new magic trick and it’s like, “OK, I think to do this I’m going to need some servos to do a thing,” that’s maybe when I learn about servos. But I’m learning the YouTube tutorial, 8-minute version of it, so I’m an armchair expert on engineering and even lesser like an Ottoman expert on baking. So, it’s a good thing that I don’t have to judge these creations. I get to be an avatar for the viewers at home, who hopefully, most are not experts as much as the competitors of these two worlds. I get to be astounded and amazed by this stuff. It is incredible and I also get to laugh at the silly things and be one of the normal people. Andrew has to be the astute intellectual who’s done this whole life. It’s a role I don’t want.
Andrew Smyth: I would never describe myself as an astute intellectual, but I’ll take the compliment.
Baking Impossible begins streaming on Netflix Wednesday, October 6.