Pastry Chef Jacques Torres On Netflix's Nailed It & Why It's Important To Fail

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
This past Friday, six episodes of Nailed It, a new kind of baking competition show, dropped on Netflix. Contestants who possess nearly no baking skills compete to recreate various over-the-top and exquisite treats. Each competitor tries to make their final products taste professional and look exciting, but, given their lack of baking knowledge and the complexity of their goals, they often end up creating some seriously epic fails that leave the judges, their fellow contestants, and the viewers laughing hysterically. In the end, the baker who fails the least, wins $10,000.
On Nailed It, the novice bakers are guided on this unique journey by two hosts, comedian Nicole Byer and pastry chef Jacques Torres. Though no one on the show takes the experiences too seriously, Chef Torres does provide feedback and helpful tips, so the contestants can improve their skills in the future. Refinery29 recently spoke with Jacques Torres about the show and he told us why he was so drawn to the project, what it was like working with such a hilarious co-host, and the lesson he tries to teach every single new baker he works with.
You’re an award-winning pastry chef and legendary chocolatier, so how did you come to be involved with a show that features amateur home bakers who basically have no idea what they’re doing?
"I rarely work with professionals. If you look at my career, I love to teach. I’m the dean of a school called the International Culinary Center. I rarely do demonstrations in classes for professionals because I like a blank slate.
"Another thing is I really don’t like many other competitive cooking shows. In a way, they are too serious and they are fake. I’m not crazy for that. So, when Netflix approached me and asked me to do a show where it was going to be fun and it was going to be funny, I was all excited about it because it was something different. It was something where I would be able to teach, but it would be light and entertaining and fun. So, that’s why I agreed to do it."
Did you find that you were able to impart knowledge on the contestants even though they were coming in with very few basic skills?
"Yes, I think so. If they had to re-do their project after one episode, it would be a lot better because they realize a lot of things. You know like put less batter into the mold so it will cook faster or start decorating earlier; I think if they learn, the viewer learns."
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
How was it having the hilarious Nicole Byer as your co-host?
"You know, she’s a smart cookie. I think to be funny like that, you have to be quite smart. So, Nicole is very smart, she thinks very fast, she’s very fun, and I had the best time with her. I mean we shot for two weeks and we laughed for two weeks.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
What was the highlight of filming Nailed It?
What was enjoyable was to come in the morning and know that we’re not going to have any drama. We’re going to shoot an episode where we’re going to have fun. That was the theme of the show: have fun! Be sure that the competitor have fun, and if you want to laugh, then just laugh. It’s okay. So, that’s what made us really happy.
Nobody cried, except when they so happy because they won $10,000. Everybody was always laughing actually, and some of the things that they did, oh my god. I watched it, and I saw the Trump pieces, and I laughed [all over] again. We just laughed nonstop.
What was the worst thing you had to eat?
Someone once used salt instead of sugar and the judges, we had to spit it out. Nicole couldn’t believe it. It was inedible, but we cracked up. We laughed and poked fun, but we poked fun in a nice way. Again, we didn’t make anyone cry. We didn’t shame anyone.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
What advice would you give to home bakers who may have seen their fair share of disasters in the kitchen just like the Nailed It competitors?
Do you remember the first time you tried to ride a bicycle? You failed, you failed, you failed, until you succeeded. Unfortunately, pretty much everything in life is like that. You fail, you fail, you fail, and then you succeed. In baking, there is no difference. Even as professionals, the first time that we make a recipe, we might not fail, but it’s not going to be our best result. The next time, it’s going to be better, and the following time it’s going to be even better. So, don’t expect to have a perfect result the first time. That is something that I tell my students. It’s going to take some time and it’s going to take some practice, but you will succeed. You will. You just need to teach your hands.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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