People are Very Mad about the conclusion to Spring Baking Championship season 9 for two very different reasons, both involving its winner, Luke Deardurff.
The criticism focuses on two separate things:
- That Luke was not as strong a baker as his two finale competitors, Clement and Christian, and
- that he had an unfair advantage and benefitted from bias on behalf of the production.
There may be a third reason, at least judging by a handful of social media posts and comments I’ve deleted on reality blurred: Some people seem very upset that a gay man won, which many are communicating by claiming the show went “woke,” which is code for both I hate gay people and I do not know what the word ‘woke’ means.
Let’s leave the bigots behind, where they already are, and examine the other two critiques.
Is Spring Baking Championship’s format fair?
The first major point of contention is that the weakest baker going into the finale, Luke, won the entire competition.
Luke barely made it into the finale, competing against Molly in a bake-off, and barely winning that—something judge Duff Goldman acknowledged as the judges were deliberating. “He is here by the skin of his teeth,” Duff said.
I think this is a fascinating question and a perfectly legitimate critique of the show’s structure: Should a 10-episode competition come down to a single cake?
A winner is not determined based on cumulative work in the competition, like it is on Chopped, where the judges consider all three courses when deciding the winner.
On Baking Championship, the win is based on the final bake. Luke did the best of the three, even if he had the weakest track record, so he won.
If Spring Baking Championship decided to use Chopped’s format—or did something like assign points based on wins throughout the season—the competition might be more fair. But it’s very likely its finales would be dull and have no suspense at all.
If someone dominated the competition all season, that’d mean the winner would be clear before the finale even begins, and they could serve the judges a plate of cake batter with sprinkles and still win.
A cumulative format seems to me like it works better on Chopped since the competition is just one hour long, and there are just three rounds. But I have also been very disappointed when someone on a competition I like does well all season, botches the final task, and then loses.
Maybe there are other ways to decide a winner! Maybe it’s a point system that gives a lot of weight to the finale, but still takes the season into account.
Did Luke have an unfair advantage?
The second major complaint I’m seeing is a claim of unfairness and rigging, supported by one piece of evidence: that Luke is married to one of Spring Baking Championship’s producers.
Wait, what now? I did not watch every episode of the show, so I thought perhaps I’d missed something, like a disclaimer in the first episode—kind of like when Top Chef has a guest judge who knows one of the contestants, and promises everyone they’ll still judge fairly.
But there was no such disclaimer, because that is not true. This conspiracy theory is easily traced to something very simple: a misheard line from a mid-season episode.
In the first challenge of the April 3 episode, “Love in the Great Outdoors,” the contestants had to create mousse cakes decorated to resemble the night sky.
Luke’s cake had two chocolate figures on either side of a domed sky, and he identified those as “two lovers that are long-distance, and when they look up at the night sky, that they’re looking at the same night sky, therefore they are together and not separated.”
“I like that you incorporate your life, because that makes it real,” judge Kardea Brown said. “I’m pretty sure that’s your husband. It’s just so sweet.”
Those are the exact words she spoke according to the subtitles. Without the subtitles, though, it’s possible to hear the first part of Kardea’s second sentence as a producer instead of “pretty sure.” The audio is also a little choppy, perhaps because a longer comment was cut down in editing, which happens regularly in reality TV post-production.
I totally understand how people misheard; this happened to me just a few weeks ago on Survivor, when I heard someone swear when they did not.
This also reminds me of the viral TikTok video that features a group of football fans chanting and different phrases. Because of the audio quality, their accents, and/or the effect of a group chanting, the brain can interpret the sound in multiple ways, sounding like they may be saying any of those phrases, which all have the same number of syllables.
Back to Spring Baking Championship: What Kardea said was quickly debunked in a Reddit thread, yet that claim has reemerged post-finale, a convenient conspiracy theory that explained why the win went to a baker who some viewers thought was not worthy.
There’s no evidence of Luke being a recipient of some kind of nepotistic favoritism, nor is he married to a crew member. A Food Network spokesperson confirmed that to me this morning:
Luke is not married to a Producer, nor did he have any pre-existing relationship to anyone associated with the show that led to him being cast.
As is often the case, the truth is simpler: Luke just baked the best final cake, according to the judges’ subjective evaluation (and they were, of course, the only ones who actually tasted it).
Whether or not Spring Baking Championship should determine its winner based on just one cake is a good question, but is not a conspiracy.