Review: Netflix’s Zumbo’s Just Desserts

As the end of the term approaches and the Lawrence Busy starts to set in at a breakneck speed, it can be nice to find time to consume media that you do not really have to think very hard about. Netflix Original baking competition show “Zumbo’s Just Desserts” is here to fill that spot. The second season of this baking competition show was released to Netflix in November of 2019. The show’s namesake, Adriano Zumbo, is a former contestant on “MasterChef Australia,” and is joined as a cohost by Rachel Khoo. The competition is set as follows: the season begins with 10 contestants of varied ages and occupations, which range from concreter to sugarcane farmer to competitive dad. A brief for the “sweet sensations” task is introduced at the top of each episode, and the bakers are given an allotted amount of time to create a dish that satisfies the brief, while paying close attention to both aspects of flavor and presentation. In this way, “Zumbo’s Just Desserts” is reminiscent of many other baking shows in the vast collection of food competition shows that can be found. It is different though, because the two lowest scoring competitors of each “sweet sensations” task are subject to compete in what is called a “Zumbo test.”  Zumbo himself is known for the delicate and complicated nature of his desserts, so the terrifying nature of this challenge is that they must recreate one of Zumbo’s recipes as accurately as possible and present it to him to try. Within an unrealistically short time period, they are forced to multitask and make choices about things such as whether they should redo their sponge cake because, “if the sponge isn’t right it could ruin everything.”  Whoever loses the “Zumbo test” is eliminated from the competition and the other scrapes by into another round. Following the first season of this show, it is easy to tell that the creators wanted to give some episodes an element of surprise, so there are special rewards or challenges thrown in that interrupt what is otherwise a fairly repetitive structure. Also amped up for this season is the really saccharine theme of the show. As it is set in an old sugar factory, the candy-stripe pops of color painted on the floor of the kitchen and on the front door add to that. This show also does a good job of amping up the drama of the events. Rachel and Zumbo often wander through the stations commenting stuff like, “Oh, yuzu is a flavor that is really difficult to balance, how do you feel like you’re doing?” You do not really have any clue what yuzu is, but you feel justified in turning to the friend you are watching with to tell them that you could be an excellent judge of a food show. All of this is backed by appropriately intense music and overly exaggerated clock noises ticking down the time that is left. Though there is much to roll your eyes about during “Zumbo’s Just Desserts,” namely the overly confident things some contestants say, or the way suspense is laid in the reviewing of a dish, it is certainly lighthearted enough to give your brain a moment to just crave something sweet.