"TELL THE TRUTH TO SHAME THE DEVIL."
-- James BrownThe season premiere of Next Great Baker has kicked off on TLC, with not one, but two Kentucky contestants, Louisville's Ashley Holt, and Lexington's James Brown of Lexington's Brown's Bakery (a Cupcake Wars veteran). Spoiler alert: stop reading right now if you don't want to know the outcome of Episode 1. During his on screen introduction, Brown told the audience, "We've been in operation for a little over five and a half years. The recession really hit us hard.... I don't want to be the first one to go home. You want to make it at least past first round, and then we'll go from there." Each week begins with a baker's challenge, and then a cake challenge. Host (cake boss) Buddy Velastro outlined the stakes, "everybody but one is leaving here in a box truck. Ten weeks from now, you'll get a job offer from me, a hundred thousand dollars...and the title, Next Great Baker." Only one contestant will wear a white Carlo's Bakery chef's coat at the end (they all start out in black). Their first challenge: a dessert that shows off the contestant's point of view... then transport it successfully...via public transportation, and then a sprint on foot. After which, Velastro announced, he would only taste five of the entries. LA's Emme Tyler opted for cinnamon roll cake. Philly pastry chef Chad Durkin made (the first-round winning) chambord and chocolate ganache torte. Holt (of Louisville) went Kentucky straight out of the gate, a brown sugar and bourbon pie with an oatmeal cookie crust, "familiar but unique." She earned a "good work, thumbs up," from Velastro. Miami's gourmet cupcake store owner Letty Alvarez emerged as the instant villain, a "dictator," who surprised Vermont candidate Gretel-Ann Fischer with her entry, "seriously, you made bark? You melted chocolate and threw some dried fruit in it and you're done? Anybody can make bark. Game on sweetheart." (She did add pistachios. Velastro didn't taste it.) Fischer's entry was an apple-cranberry crostata with a cheddar pie dough. Tennessee's Garrett Wallace debuted with a peanut butter, banana, and bacon fried pie that said, "I like fried stuff." New Yorker Paul Conti made chunk-a-monk cupcakes (that languished untasted). Jess Reyling's "blueberry boy bait" and Melissa Payne's lemon pound cake also didn't get tasted by Velastro. One look at Jen Kwapinski's white chocolate brownie and he called it "boring." Velastro's response to Brown's entry, a bourbon chocolate pecan cupcake, was, "I really like the chocolate cake, but I'm not crazy about your buttercream, to be honest wit' you." Next up, the Elimination Challenge: to design a groom's cake, that "screams Latin," for "celebrity" client, Mario Lopez's upcoming Mexico destination wedding to his fiancee Courtney Mazza. As the winner, Durden's advantage was to choose the team he wanted to join, and he picked Team Four: Chad, Emme, James, and Jen. His design was a guitar and sombrero, with a mosaic tile base -- adjudicated as "amateurs" by Velastro. Louisville's Holt was on the winning team, and as MVP on the team, won the trip to Mexico perk. Again, Velastro attacked team 4 for "amateur night." Letty's team should have been the bottom of the bottom two, but they escaped, leaving one contestant to send home from Team Four. Quizzed about the blame, the two girls both pinned the failed sombrero on James. But Mr. Brown was having none of that. "Before you start putting your mouth on anybody about the sombrero, I had to bail you out, because of your jacked-up work. You couldn't perform like the rest of us. I had to re-do parts of the sombrero because you jacked it up. They kept passing you around, so you couldn't damage things. Admit what you did. Tell the truth to shame the devil." And James Brown stays to fight another day. Same time. Same Channel. Next week, Episode 2 recap!