In last week’s penultimate episode of Next Great Baker, cake boss Buddy Valastro told Gretel-Ann she would be going to the Vegas finale with Jen and Ashley, but as an underdog.
The finale begins with Luck… blackjack. Ashley wins, and gets first pick of teammates — from Buddy’s bakers and family members — for the baker’s challenge: baking and selling at least 400 cookies, 100 pastries, 10 cakes, and 10 pies. The baker that sells the least is going home. Ashley takes sister Mary (for her sales acumen) and baker Danny.
At the kitchen, former contestants Peter, Paul, Em, Garrett, Letty, and Melissa are assembled to be drafted. Ashley is given first pick to assign a former contestant to a competitor’s team. She sends Paul to Gretel-Ann. Gretel-Ann sends Garrett to Jen, “because he quit.”
Jen opts to bake: amaretto Italian cream cake, caramel apple pie; scones and cream puffs; and chocolate chip, molasses, peanut butter, and whoopie pie cookies.
Gretel-Ann goes for: chocolate dulce delight cake; chocolate pecan cake; no-bake, thumb print, whoopie pie, and rugelach cookies; and lemon bars and eclairs.
Ashley makes: black forest fudge cake; chess pie; lemon raspberry tart and profiteroles for the pastries; and applesauce spice, chocolate chip, peanut butter chip, and oatmeal cookies.
To kick off, Gretel-Ann hides sheet pans. “It’s not cheating; it’s being creative.” Then she cranks up the oven temps on the cookies from 350 to 425.
Then she all but twirls an imaginary mustache.
Ashley and Jen each sacrifice some product to the sabotage. Now it’s a one-hour Bake Sale selling war. Despite the lost product, Ashley wins the highest sales (by hundreds) and the Baker’s Challenge. Gretel-Ann beat Jen by 24 ticket sales. Jen goes home. Instead of a box truck, a gondola picks her up. “Get in the boat.”
Buddy takes Ashley and Gretel-Ann for a night out in Vegas (Elvis impersonators, pink convertible rides etc), and then tells them at dawn the Elimination Challenge is on. Back to the kitchen. Back into their chef’s coats.
From eliminated bakers and Buddy’s crew, Ashley picks Ralph, Frankie, Chad, Jess.
Gretel-Ann gets Chris, Tyne, and James Brown.
The theme is a Las Vegas showstopper cake.Go big or go home.
Ashley goes with her-as-Elvis theme.
Gretel-Ann wants her cake to tell the story of Gretel-Ann.
Ashley voice-overs her team’s work, “I want my own business. I want to have my own bakery. I don’t have the money to do that. I don’t have the credit to do that.”
Gretel-Ann says, “being selfish is not always a bad thing…I had to do what I had to do. It’s not because I’m this evil, conniving bitch. I have this bakery at home that struggles every day. If we have to close it, that financial burden that’s going to be put on my husband’s and my head is unfathomable. Ashley’s young. She doesn’t have as much riding on this as me. It’s not that she doesn’t deserve to win. I just deserve it more.”
Next, Ralph has Ashley take off her chef’s coat and pose so he can “sculpt” her.
The finished entries are: Gretel-Ann’s team presents a slot-machine cake (The Venetian is misspelled on it.); Ashley’s has a tiered cake topped by her-as-Elvis.
The judges assemble: Buddy, Buddy’s mom, and Joey Fatone.
Gretel-Ann tells the story of her cake through tears. Ashley is more composed, but still enthusiastic.
Both cakes are lauded by the judges. Then Buddy adds a twist: the former competitors will get a chance to vote. Gretel-Ann is worried. “I am the only one who realized this was a competition. And people are pissed off at me.”
The Q and A starts with Letty asking Gretel-Ann if she has learned to be a team player. Gretel-Ann blames her early clashes on nerves and being intimidated by such great fellow contestants.
Next, Paul asks Ashley, “how does a 25-year-old kid have the life experience to become the Next Great Baker.”
Ashley is not taking a page from Gretel-Ann’s playbook:
“Is that a serious question? You’ve been a condescending person this entire time. So for you to say…I’m a 25-year-old kid is bullshit. Life experiences? You have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. You don’t know me. You think you’re better than everyone here. You’re an arrogant asshole. You have been this entire time. I don’t need to answer your damn question.”
Ashley gets the teammates’ votes, 7 to 4.
Buddy’s family and crew: Head baker Joey admits Ashley’s outburst bothered him. “You took a chance on blowing $100,000 just to tell him what you thought about him? Was it worth it?” Gretel-Ann wins that vote.
Joey Fatone votes for Ashley’s cake.
Buddy’s mom says Ashley’s cake is better, but she disapproved of the outburst.
Buddy gives the two of them one more shot to make a plea. Ashley still isn’t going to eat crow, “I might have a bad mouth sometimes… but I’m not ashamed of who I am. I don’t regret a single thing.”
Gretel-Ann describes her sacrifices, and says, “I know I can be what you need me to be.”
Buddy drags it out…. and then crowns Ashley: Next Great Baker.
Gretel Ann’s response is less conciliatory than it was when she still needed votes: “Are you f*ing kidding me right now? You just chose a child over me. Good luck Buddy with your daycare operation. Your family wanted to work with me.”
Now Ashley’s in tears, and is joined onstage by her sister and fiance. Next stop: $100,000 which will allow her to turn her baking business into a brick and mortar store, but first, she’ll go to work with Buddy.
Next Great Baker: Season 3 episode recaps
What’s Next for Next Great Baker’s James Brown?
New Year’s Eve Hoboken Style special,
Next Great Baker Update on James Brown, post Brain Surgery