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Great British Bake Off fans need to watch this new Netflix show

This new Netflix competition series raises the bar.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
3 min read

The multilayered cake is a hidden surprise, but the real treasure is the hinged chest made entirely from chocolate, lock and all. 


My favorite thing about the Great British Bake Off? The camaraderie that blunts some of the more toxic elements of competition shows, while still letting contestants' stunning baking achievements shine. A new Netflix TV series, School of Chocolate, takes GBBO a step further in one important way, by turning the competition on its head.

It simply eliminates the elimination. 

In the opposite of cutthroat competition, everyone gets to stay in the tent. Nobody is asked to pack their whisks and go. The result is somehow richer, more impressive and more compelling than watching contestants get picked off one by one -- which, if you think about it, is actually pretty boring compared with seeing devastatingly beautiful chocolate art unfold (although the people who spent literal billions of hours watching Squid Game may disagree). 

Hosted by Swiss-born chef Amaury Guichon, whose TikTok videos of amazingly intricate and realistic chocolate creations garner millions of views, School of Chocolate is a masterclass in technique that eight professional pastry chefs -- and all of us -- get to see firsthand. 

Chocolate sculpture with interactive hinges. A chocolate octopus that looks impossibly real (pictured below). Edible surprises layered within clever cakes that are both instantly mouthwatering and too gorgeous to eat.


This sculpture made from pure chocolate is ferociously delicious.


As with actual school, the School of Chocolate cohort remains intact throughout the entire competition, shedding tears, getting catty, jockeying for position -- and a $50,000 cash prize -- and creating piece after piece of astounding, towering, gravity-defying show art out of pure chocolate and pastry that at times makes me gasp in awe. 

The point of it all is for contestants to learn advanced techniques and improve over challenges that push their skills to the brink and reveal the breakout chocolatiers we can't help but elevate to star status.

Netflix may call the show "feel-good," but that doesn't mean it's all fondant and buttercream in School. 

The tone is a squeeze sharper than the good-natured, sometimes frothy and saccharine Great British Bake Off. There's deep tension from the start of the eight-episode season, and the stakes feel surprisingly real. Poor performers are forced to sit out rounds, and only the top two vie for the final challenge. Amid grudging pats on the back, gamesmanship occasionally rears its head. 

But while the cream quickly rises to the top, keeping the class together gives viewers who care more about the jaw-dropping creations and less about the backstabbing a wonderful gift: more. 


A 100% chocolate showpiece from Netflix's School of Chocolate.


Rather than eject skilled professionals who had a bad day or didn't quite master an architectural challenge mere cake-baking mortals would be hard-pressed to attempt, we lovers of food art witness even underdogs create feats of incredible culinary imagination (including an astonishing salmon roe "nigiri" you have to see to believe).

School of Chocolate isn't perfect by any means. Favored contestants were too obvious, and one episode literally divided the group's strongest and "weakest" players -- remember, these are all skilled professionals -- into two glaringly unequal assignments. By retaining many of the usual competitive elements and structure, more time than I would like is spent on character triumphs and angst, with less time on the whizzbang confections I came here to lap up.

While the announcement of winning "student" is anticlimactic, each contestant has their moment of accomplishment and growth. The journey feels deliciously satisfying, earned. I chalk that up in large part to the decision to preserve more contestants in the total mix, who are given a chance to rebound with soaring creativity. 

Ultimately, this decision treats viewers to more cakes and chocolate overall, not fewer. Keeping the cohort together is a bold decision for a competition show -- and it works. School of Chocolate dares to imagine the treasured luxury ingredient as not simply a momentary treat but a deeply challenging medium for artistic expression, one that engages the eyes and mind as well as the tongue. Technical, temperamental and ultimately, ephemeral.

I'm ready for a second helping.