Eating with your eyes:
Bake Off judges talk tarts, tortes and creative criticism.
Dean Brettschneider and Sue Fleischl know their tarts from their tortes.
As judges on The Great Kiwi Bake Off, it is their job to scrutinise the contestants’ creations and offer constructive criticism. Before you ask, yes, it does mean a lot of tasting.
But there is so much more to the pair’s TV roles than munching away on sugary treats and savoury morsels. Appearances are just as important.
“Look, you eat with your eyes and I think, aesthetically, you’ve got to want to go in further,” says Brettschneider.
“It’s always an angle that I try to look at. If it looks good then I’m going to want to eat it.”
Brettschneider, 49, who is known as The Global Baker, lives in Denmark. His international food business Baker & Cook includes a chain of bakery stores. But he regularly visits New Zealand for work and to see his adult son.
Viewers may recognise Brettschneider from TV shows such as New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker, A Kiwi Baker In France and The Sugar Club.
He has also penned foodie books such as Baker & Cook and Baked: Treats For Breakfast, Lunch & Tea. Born and raised in North Canterbury, Brettschneider was an apprentice baker before he decided to venture overseas. “I like baking and I think if anybody’s interested in something they just carry on and carry on,” he says. “I did my OE like everyone does and mucked around in London and worked for some pretty influential people in London hotels and then in restaurants.” Sue Fleischl, 55, who owns The Great Catering Company, grew up in Hawke’s Bay, and recalls spending time in the kitchen as a child. “My father is from Vienna and my mother is from London,” she says. “My mother loved baking and her favourite cookbook is The Constance Spry Cookery Book so we baked a lot out of that. She scribbled all the way through it. It’s a little family heirloom.” At age 17, Fleischl headed to London to train as a chef at the Savoy Hotel. Since then she has worked as a caterer in Melbourne and for the past 23 years has been running her own catering business. Like Brettschneider, Fleischl draws on her vast experience when judging the contestants’ kitchen efforts on The Great Kiwi Bake Off and says it will take, “A mixture of things” for someone to win the competition. “We’re looking for the skills, the flavours, the knowledge, the presentation and the thing that’s been interesting about this whole programme is the standard has been really high because baking is cool,” she says.
“It really is cool. The winning baking is not just the presentation. It is the flavour, it is showing those skills. (The competition has) lots of twists and turns.”
Brettschneider is equally impressed with the baking standards on the TV show.
“Partly that’s attributed to the success of The Great British Bake Off and the availability to see all the seasons,” he adds.
“I remember almost 20 years ago, writing my first baking book and no one really wanted to produce it.
“It was like ‘baking, brown, boring’. But now baking for the last six, seven, eight years has been right at the top and there is still a number of years that we’ve got left.
“It’s not dying by any sense of imagination. That’s just because it’s homely. It’s very cultural. New Zealand, luckily enough, is this cultural melting pot of baking from all around the world.”
The Great British Bake Off has been a ratings hit in the UK, elevating judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry to celebrity status.
“I know Paul and Mary,” says Brettschneider. “Mary’s agent is my agent in the UK and they are just nice people but you know you’ve got 60 million people shouting down on them so they are almost untouchable.”
No doubt Brettschneider and Fleischl will be compared with the famous duo.
“It will always hover over us I’m afraid,” says Fleischl.
“I sometimes call her Mary,” teases Brettschneider.
“People will be comparing and we are very conscious of that,” says Fleischl, “but hopefully they won’t be disappointed.”
Sue Fleischl and Dean Brettschneider