Preparing for Marathon Cooking Shoes
A lot of people really enjoy shows like Ultimate Cakeoff, Cupcake Wars
or Food Network
Challenge, but they can be extremely challenging for the contestants. What most viewers don’t know is that they timer is set for eight hours for the cake shows or three hours for cup cake wars and that there is absolutely no breaks until the clock reaches zero. Contestants are given granola bars and can have bottles of water that are usually kept under their work station, but that’s it. Even taking a bathroom break can be a significant disadvantage. These shows are not for the weak at heart whatsoever so we will share a few tips that we’ve learned from our chats with people who have been on the shows:
- Eat a Big Breakfast – Most of the contestants and their assistants will work straight through the day. You may take a break to grab a bar and scarf down water, but that will be the limit of it. A lot of people simply don’t eat for the whole day, but this can put your team at a significant disadvantage. The casting master food of choice is to have some high quality premade protein shakes.. These can be kept in the same area as the water, and you merely drink them. It’s possible to consume an entire 300 calorie drink in under 15 seconds by chugging it down. While drinking the protein shakes will keep your energy up, eating a large breakfast will really help fight over any feelings of hunger. In the early hours, you will be pumped on adrenaline and won’t notice the hunger so it’s best to keep ahead of it.
- Drink a lot of Water – One of the best tips, we have heard is to drink 4 ounces of water every time a half hour passes on the clock. This is a quick drink and of course you can have more than this if you’re thirsty, but keeping hydrated will help keep you on top form. There will be minimal time lost to taking the extra sips of water, but this approach will result in an extra bathroom trip or two. In the end, I think it’s very much worth it to stay on top of your game and be hydrated especially if you are a contestant who is 30+ years old or on medication.
- Bring Comfortable Clothes – One aspect of cupcake wars that I find the most funny is that people will often wear costumes to the event. The fancy skirts or restrictive outfits can make baking more difficult. I totally get the idea of branding from the clothes and wanted to look good for the camera, but if this is truly of the most importance, then you should consider getting specially made attire that will be comfortable. On top of that, if the show allows, absolutely wear a branded shirt with your company name and logo on it. This will just reinforce it in the audiences mind.
- Do a test bake – Most of the shows will give a set budget ahead of time, and you should practice making your cakes ahead of time. I recommend even cutting 25% off the time given in the show to work within that. You will be far faster and more familiar with your equipment than in the show kitchen so you want to build some buffer in. Most of the time there is one contestant who doesn’t finish so you are moving your team one space higher by having someone else be the team that can’t manage their time.
- Shop for Supplies – A lot of shows provide a specific budget, like $800, to create a cake. You may even need to show receipts of your purchases, but this can be a huge advantage if you understand the game. The companies usually limit the amount of money that can be spent on supplies for the cake, but don’t have rules about coupon matching or if the store is offering discounts. Using tactics from extreme couponing can lead to significantly higher end product for the chocolate and other flavors by minimizing the cost for products that will have less impact on the overall quality of the cake.
- Have Milestones and Fallbacks – This is a term that is fairly common when developing software so that the product can be released at a predictable time. Essentially, the baker should know how long their cake takes to build from the test run, and should have 4-6 milestones throughout the process. Let’s assume there are 4 milestones for an 8 hour back. If milestone 1 doesn’t complete until the 3 hour mark, then it’s fair to assume that each milestone will take 3 hours meaning the whole cake will take 12 hours and be ridiculously late. Instead of waiting until only one hour is left and being frantic, the approach is to have a fallback, where you pair back details of the design after each milestone. If you are ahead the day of, just keep working to plan, but if you are behind then leave out elements of that milestone to get the schedule back on track. It’s far easier to be deciding which elements to leave out during the competition if you already know what can safely be left out without risking the structure and how much time is saved by dropping a specific element.
- Remember, it’s a show – The purpose of this show from the producer’s perspective is to create entertaining television. While you will want to be heads down and focused on the cake, the show is trying to create some drama around it. You may want to think of some clever phrases before the show or create a nice little celebration dance with your team. Being memorable will help your chance of getting called back. Even if you win the show with the best cake, but are hard to work with or incredibly boring, you can count your chances of getting back again. I really like having a list of phrases or quick soundbites that can be dubbed in to make the producers job as easy as possible. Selfishly, I am also hoping this will result in more air time for us since we can be gap fillers.
Those are all the tips that the CastingMaster
team has for you to prepare for the day of cooking. It’s a great opportunity to be on any major cooking show that can really send your business through the roof.