Enough is enough. If Emmanuel Macron has sounded the “end of abundance”, his message has apparently not been heard on the side of the Best Pastry Chef. When Marie Portolano at the controls of the show announces “a test that will potentially increase [les candidats] in the towers “, she did not believe so well to say, but it is the public who has been increasing the pressure on social networks for a week. Since Wednesday September 21, the program broadcast on M6 has been accused of food waste by many viewers, shocked by the large quantity of ingredients used by amateur pastry chefs during a test.
Challenged to make “a tower of the palace of Scheherazade”, a cake “surmounted by a delicate gold powdered chocolate dome” 35 centimeters high, the amateur pastry chefs had 2h30 to follow a recipe concocted by Mercotte, checking rule by hand that the criterion has been met at the end of the test. This “monumental” pastry required 800 g of eggs – we counted 20 in the dish of a candidate -, 450 g of sugar or 500 g of flour. All multiplied by thirteen, the number of candidates still in the race. So count 10.4 kg of flour, 5.85 kg of sugar and 260 eggs.
While 94% of French men and women said they were careful not to waste in 2021, is this food waste lawsuit justified and should the current times make production review its relationship to quantities? 20 minutes tries to answer.
It’s a bit like the running gag of Best Pastry Chef on social networks. Each season, a cake provokes many reactions from Internet users, accusing the program of indulging in an intensive session of food waste in prime time. It must be said that the now traditional Mercotte test, during which participants must reproduce a technical recipe, rarely goes with the back of the spoon regarding quantities.
In the episode broadcast on Wednesday September 21, Manon, who will then win the event, evokes “pharaonic quantities”. An observation that often comes up when discussing with former participants. “We were often surprised by the quantities requested during this event,” recalls Aya, finalist candidate for season 10 and fan of the program since the first season. “No one was used to working with so many ingredients. “Rachel, winner of season 6 broadcast in 2017 confides for her part that she was” bothered by the opulence “of certain cakes to be made. During her participation, however, she admits having “cut her way without asking too many questions”.
The two ex-candidates, who now share their pastry adventures on social networks, say they are sensitive to the issue of waste. “When working with expensive and rare ingredients like vanilla or chocolate, you should never throw them away,” insists Rachel, who makes many cookies and cakes for photo shoots. When she has to “bake” large quantities, she calls on her community on Instagram to distribute the sweet treats that she does not know how to consume herself.
Thrown or eaten?
If the quantities far from the “end of abundance” raise questions, the fate of the cakes made by the pastry chefs also questions the viewers. Eaten or thrown away? The echoes diverge. The winner of the sixth season assures that during her participation “all the edible cakes were eaten” by the production teams and the candidates. She also says that the pastry chefs were the last to come to the table and rarely had the opportunity to taste their creations as they were so popular with the teams. Aya is not so categorical about the fate of the preparations made during her season but assures that “the teams were large enough for everything to be eaten”.
Who says amateur pastry chefs says that there are misses… The two candidates specify that the pastries that are failed, over or undercooked or even inedible for hygienic reasons are the only ones to be thrown away.
Different story on the side of Paul-Henri, candidate for the tenth season: “It will be quite fast, with the Covid, everything was thrown away”, he testifies. He explains that the candidates were strictly forbidden to taste the cakes of their competitors and that they “were thrown directly into garbage bags under [leurs] eyes “. In 2018, a member of the production had already entrusted to Release that 70% of cakes made on screen ended up in the trash. Although marginal, these testimonies challenge.
So what is it really? M6 concedes that exceptional arrangements were made during the pandemic, such as when filming was interrupted after a positive case. But the production denies any waste. “Mercotte herself is a fervent anti-waste advocate. We are very careful about waste off, “insists Jérémie Atlan, director of entertainment at BBC France, which produces the show. “A hundred people work at the filming location. Once the tests are over, the prepared cakes are distributed to the show’s canteen and usually disappear quite quickly. »
“Touching all types of pastries”
Regarding the pastries made on screen, Rachel believes that the large quantities required by certain challenges are there to “put pressure on the candidates”. “It is clear that the more things to produce on the show, the more we are in a hurry, it creates incredible things for television. »
If Jérémie Atlan recognizes a “bad buzz” around the “tower of the palace of Scheherazade”, he indicates that “the reflection is not at all to say to oneself “the bigger it is, the more impressive it is”. We especially try to touch all types of pastries and techniques that viewers can reproduce at home. Making a big cake requires special skills so it’s an additional challenge but we don’t make it a priority. The producer believes that the biggest cakes constitute only a “minority” of all the challenges presented in The Best Pastry Chef.
To avoid seeing perishable foodstuffs end up in the trash, he still indicates that a kitchen management of seven people works “at just the right time” in the fridges which contain the ingredients making up the show’s recipes. “We never stock up endlessly. »
The thorny question of food on the screen
In any case, it was enough to relaunch the thorny debate about food on the screen. During season 13 of Top chef, Louise Bourrat, winner of the show, had been teased on Twitter for having taken only the cheek of a huge monkfish, boasting of a “zero waste” dish. Same verdict in season 11 of the Best Pastry Chef when Mercotte asked competitors to create the tallest biscuit tower. These examples show that even on screen, viewers are careful to limit the food thrown away.
“Of course we see the comments on social networks and that generally concerns all cooking shows”, confirms Jérémie Atlan. He assures that his teams take into account the comments of the viewers. “It fits into our thinking for the next few seasons. He says he wants to “avoid that in the image, those who watch have the feeling of a waste, even if this is not the case”.
On the candidate side, a mention “can do better” is sent to the Best Pastry Chef. “It is clear that it is not in tune with the times, the production could make an effort, the proofs could be more creative”, notes Rachel. She gives the example of “Vert Vert”, a matcha cake inspired by a painting by Claude Monet, made by the candidates in the second episode of this season 11. “It was already inspired by a recipe that I had made during my season, she laughs. And then the impressive side came from the finesse of the design on the cake, not from its size. “Follower of the show since the first season, Aya invites the production to avoid “overbidding” over the seasons. “Does the ‘wow’ effect justify using 20 eggs per candidate? I’m not sure,” she says. What to encourage productions to align with government recommendations? Answer in the next episodes.