As a first-time host of Food Network’s “Spring Baking Championship,” Ali Khan is blown away by not only the creativity and skill of the competitors, but by the coolly detached manner by which Duff Goldman, Lorraine Pascale and Nancy Fuller go about judging the cakes, pies and other pastries turned out on the Monday series.
“They’re not in love with it, they’re not wowed by it, that’s just how these people pick up a fork,” he says. “Like they look at it, they take it, they take that bite, put a little thing in their mouth. … What’s funny is they kind of all had this policy of they’ll take a taste and that’s that. But when it was good, they would start to pick at it a little bit more. But for the most part, these guys were like literally tasting and then deliberating. They weren’t weak-kneed like me.”
As the eight-episode fourth season gets going Monday, March 12, 10 bakers from around the country prepare spring-themed treats in a series of trials and challenges, hoping to impress the judges and win a $50,000 grand prize and the title of Spring Baking Champion.
All eight episodes were filmed over two weeks last summer in New Orleans, one of the world’s culinary capitals and a place where Khan, who also hosts Cooking Channel’s “Cheap Eats” (which opens its fifth season on March 21), found delicious meals virtually everywhere.
“Let’s put it this way,” he says, “my per diem was higher than $35 for four meals. So I got to really, really sample the town, like hardcore for two-plus weeks. I’m surprised I didn’t gain more weight when I look back.”
What book are you currently reading?
“All I’ve been reading lately is the book to my 6-year-old, so I actually have it in my hands. I’m currently reading and rereading ‘Scooby-Doo and the Fishy Phantom.’ He’s into Scooby-Doo right now, so honestly these are the books I’ve been reading a lot lately.”
What did you have for dinner last night?
“I had barbacoa tacos. Oh man, I had some hardcore Tex-Mex, like real deal Tex-Mex tacos. … It’s like these braised beef cheeks, almost steamed, like super-rich and fatty. And I also had this other thing called carne asada, which is this cross between asada, a traditional Mexican stew, braised, but carne asada has flour in it. … It’s almost like steak tips and gravy meets Mexican food. So yeah, I knocked down a couple of tacos last night.”
What is your next project?
“We’re going to get through Season 5 (of ‘Cheap Eats’).”
When was your last vacation, where and why?
“My last true vacation, I went to the Jersey Shore with my family. They rented a place on the Jersey Shore – Sea Isle City last July, and we’re going to do that again. But my next vacation, I’m going down to Playa del Carmen in Mexico. I’m really looking forward to that.”