When it first hit Netflix in 2018, binge-watching The Great British Bake Off (Where pastry fair, as it’s known in the US) was an absolute balm for our Trump-era nerves. The soothing tent vibe, soothing British accents and endlessly charming contestants were an instant hit in the US, 180 yards from intense cooking shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Excellent chef. But the years that followed brought some Pastry shop fatigue, thanks to the show’s hosts’ repetitive cooking challenges and increasingly inept stunts. But now there’s a totally refreshing new riff on the format that’s definitely worth revisiting, if only for its cast of extremely adorable kids.
Added to Netflix on July 29, the generic title Junior baking show is easy to miss among the platform’s sea of content. For some reason the show is not airing like junior cooking in the United States, and at first I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a Pastry shop spin off. That confusion was immediately cleared up when the iconic tent appeared, although Judge Paul Hollywood was nowhere to be found, at least not anymore. Hollywood and its GBBO co-judge Mary Berry served as a judge on the first season of JBObut have since been replaced by older GBBO contestant Liam Charles and pastry chef Ravneet Gill. The format is also slightly different, with just two challenges – a blind-judged technical challenge and, of course, the show challenge.
The only season of JBO available on Netflix right now is the sixth season, which aired in the UK in 2021. In the first episode, the eight contestants are tasked with doing a “sky’s the limit fantasy bake” in just two hours, and the results are more than impressive. Some of the attempts are, of course, a little messy, but there are plenty of adults among us who couldn’t bake a cake inspired by our wildest dreams in two hours. These kids may not have the same polish as the contestants on a show like Junior Master Chef, but they are absolutely overflowing with heart.
Watching all eight episodes of the show, it’s impossible to pick a favorite among the contestants — you’re going to want to root for every kid. There is the very talented Reece, a 14 year old who is able to make a superb frosted cake in the shade, a feat that I, a 34 year old adult, could not accomplish with the time he gave me. should. 10-year-old Fyn brings style to the tent with her personalized sweatbands, while 14-year-old CeCe manages to take on every challenge with supernatural composure.
Admittedly, it can be a bit anxiety-inducing to watch the kids struggle to make a caramel or get the cake batter just right, but when they pull it off, it’s a total triumph. Watching these kids come together to help each other in times of baking crisis is enough to warm even the coldest and most cynical hearts. And there’s no denying that these contestants are very skilled bakers, even if they struggle with time constraints and are big enough to carefully place their baked goods in the freezer.
Be certain, JBO is not perfect. It seems a little ridiculous that kids only have two hours to finish their signature baked goods, a time constraint that would give even the most skilled baker restlessness. There’s also quite a big age gap between the contestants – some are 15, some 10 – which sometimes feels a bit unfair. But overall, while we’ve seen bakers baking cakes, cookies, and bread countless times, the unpredictable and creative nature of a child’s brain makes these challenges feel fresh again.
Adults are rarely GBBO competitors completely happy to see their clothes completely covered in blue food coloring, or to let their imaginations run wild in deeply wacky ways. Through the eight episodes available, junior cooking brings back the elements of natural fantasy and fun that have been sorely lacking in recent seasons of the Great British Bake-Off. The show has been on the air since 2011 in the UK, and I would be happy to watch all of these episodes as soon as Netflix makes them available.