Ali Khan embraces the culinary experiences on ‘Spring Baking Championship’



'Spring Baking Championship' - Welcoming the season with pastry

Ali Khan

It stands to reason that if you’re a judge on “Spring Baking Championship,” you need to have an adventurous palate.

After all, the confections you’re sampling may not be to your liking or within your comfort zone but you do have to be open to the experience.

Same holds true for the host. While Ali Khan (“Cheap Eats”) isn’t rendering a judgment on the confections created by contestants on the show, he does try everything. And says he’s the better foodie for it.

“What’s interesting with being a part of this show, and really any food show,” he explains, “is trying things that you would never actually order. So things that involve fruit and things like that, I’d be like, ‘I don’t want that. I don’t want oatmeal raisin fruitcake. That sounds like a horrible idea.’ But you are on this show and the smell of butter, I can get over my whole chocolate crutch right there. … it’s really fun to try things that I would never order on my own.”

As the competition series opens its seventh season with a fresh batch of 10 episodes Monday, Feb. 22, on Food Network, Kardea Brown (“Delicious Miss Brown”) joins the judging panel with Duff Goldman and Nancy Fuller as 11 talented professional and home bakers from across the country take on two rounds of spring-themed baking challenges for a shot at a $25,000 grand prize and a spot in Food Network Magazine.

In Monday’s two-hour opener, the competitors are tasked with creating farm stand-inspired breakfast treats, followed by a dessert challenge that celebrates happy, dancing cows.

For his part, Khan is a fly on the wall as he listens to Brown, Fuller and Goldman deliberate on the strengths and problems with every dish. He frequently finds himself blown away by how these seasoned pros can analyze and pick apart a contestant’s creation. Goldman’s skills, in particular, leave him agog.

“I think we called him ‘Professor Duff’ more than once when we’d introduce him as a judge,” Khan says. “And I think that just reflects the fact that he’s a classically trained chef, his years of experience in the art of pastry is very, very obvious. And I think ultimately when you have people who really, really understand this, they can break down, when they taste something, certainly where something goes wrong.

“I watched Amanda Freitag break down why a sauce tastes like Olive Garden sauce to me when I was a judge on ‘Chopped,’ ” he continues. “I was like, ‘This tastes like Olive Garden.’ She goes, ‘He didn’t cook the wine enough … so you’re tasting the alcohol.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s what that is.’ Duff very much still holds that role.”


George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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