The new season of “Halloween Baking Championship” is like no other cooking competition ever – because it comes with a warning label about blood, guts and gore. Yes, Season 8 is all of the above, but, of course, in a surprisingly tasty, chipper way.
“Warning: The following program contains blood, bones, and brains depicted in a way that is delicious. All the baked goods involved in the making of this show are frighteningly high in calories,” the alert plastered across a black screen at the show’s opening reads.
The popular Food Network series (which is also streaming on discovery+) sees the return of host John Hanson as the caretaker of a haunted hotel, where 12 bakers must impress the judges, chefs extraordinaire Stephanie Boswell, Carla Hall and Zac Young. If they fail, the bakers are forced to “check out” and take the elevator to the mysterious 13th floor from which guests never return. A real “dead and breakfast,” as Hanson calls it.
“This doesn’t look like what I booked on Priceline,” one contestant said, marching up to the hotel steps in the dark of night.
Every season, the show pushes the “yuck” factor a little further. This year — oozing sores, squirting plasma, “intestines” that still move when they pour out of a cake. “This is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever eaten,” Hanson said. And it’s also one of the most disgusting things show fans have seen.
Yeah, it can get pretty gross – Boswell said of one dessert, “This is so awful to look at in the coolest way” – but it’s not all “disgusting.” Each episode, the judges sport some rather elaborate costumes to get into the Halloween spirit, with Hall teasing that this season has them sporting everything from prosthetics to bald caps.
“We have a fantastic head of wardrobe, Susan Bourdeau,” Hall told TheWrap. “And the makeup artist, Tammy Dube. What they can do with so very little. And the reason that we love it is because it gives people ideas of things that they can do without a lot of money, because we don’t have a big budget.”
Hall gets so into the mood that, she said, once her costume is on, she’s in character. “You sell it. I mean, as soon as I, my, as soon as the last piece of my costume goes on, I don’t break until the makeup is off. I never break. I am that character.” She proves that big time in the season premiere episode on Sept. 12.
It looks like fun to the audience because it is fun for those on camera. “We’re truly friends. We call Halloween camp. We do things outside, which I think is really important,” said Hall, who knows the magic of an ensemble cast from working on ABC’s “The Chew” a few years back. “You have to work together and the audience can see through if there’s any kind of tension. So one of the things that — and I’m not saying I take it upon myself — but I make sure that outside of working, we’re doing things together. We’re eating out, we’re having game night, we’re doing other stuff. So that when you see us on camera, it’s an extension of the things that we have done outside of work.”
Oh, and, yeah, those scrumptious desserts. That are sometimes to unpleasant-looking to eat… but the judges have to. Hall, for instance, was not thrilled with the idea of putting a confection in her mouth that looked a little too much like a cockroach.
“Bugs. Yeah,” she said, grimacing. “So we, one year, they had a particular scary thing that they had to do. And one person’s was, it was a cockroach. Oh. And they had a hard chocolate shell with, uh, like a loose liquidy caramel inside so that when you ate it, it oozed. I could.. I.. I was just…” she stuttered. “I had such a hard time disassociating. Like the exoskeleton, you know, of the, the, the cockroach. It just… yeah.”
A gross-looking but amazingly scrumptious chocolate-covered, oozing cockroach that makes the same crunch sound biting it as a real roach makes when you step on it is just the tip of the iceberg. As the seasons pass, the desserts prepared by the bakers seem to get more complex and creative, both in recipe and design, with the biggest growth spurt being with the quality of home bakers, Hall said. And after each episode is filmed, you can bet there’s at least one request for a doggy bag.
“There’s a PA who comes around and collects the dishes. I’m like, ‘Put that in a box, put that in a box.’ I mean, cause I’m like, ‘I cannot eat it now, but I will be eating it,’” Hall laughed.
Season 8 of “Halloween Backing Championship” premieres Monday, Sept. 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network and streaming on discovery+.