Yet another culinary-focused competition is hitting small screens this summer. Netflix claims that Bake Squad isn’t like the cut-throat, drama-filled shows its viewers have grown to hatewatch. The series premieres August 11 and features Chicago pastry chef Maya-Camille Broussard (Justice of the Pies).
In each of the eight episodes, four talented bakers battle it out to see whose dessert will be chosen for someone’s special occasion, from a sweet 16 birthday party to a wedding anniversary. Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi, who built an empire on delicious cookie dough and serves as executive producer for Bake Squad personally selected each chef for the series. The roster consists of Broussard, Brooklyn’s Ashley Holt (Sugar Monster Sweets), Denver’s Gonzo Jimenez (Miette et Chocolat), and San Diego pastry chef Christophe Rull.
Broussard, who hails from Hyde Park, made a name for herself after she founded Justice of the Pies in 2014 to honor her late father, Stephen Broussard. He was a criminal defense attorney and during his off hours, he made pies — hence the name. She learned a thing or two from him and put her skills to the test with unique offerings like strawberry-basil key lime, caramel apple crumble, chocolate-bacon bourbon pecan, and lavender blueberry. Shoppers can find them all over town at establishments like South Shore Brew, Goose Island Brewpub, and Luke’s Lobster. The pies are also available at the Daley’s Plaza farmers market. Broussard runs the business out of the Hatchery, the culinary incubator in Garfield Park.
The pastry chef, described on the show as a “Flavor Fanatic,” sat down with Eater Chicago for an interview discussing Bake Squad, how being hearing impaired impacts her work, and where Chicago ranks as a top culinary destination.
As a person who’s hearing impaired, were there any difficulties you faced during this competition?
One of the things that I really appreciated on the show was that everyone with whom I interacted wore clear masks. That was really special for me because of the importance of accessibility as a person living with a disability and who relies on reading lips to communicate.
I often talk about that when you lose one sense you gain another. You sort of gain a superpower! During this competition, I relied on my superpowers in the sense of smell and sense of taste to lead me in creating flavorful dishes. But it’s also important to note that, as with most people in the deaf and hearing-impaired community, my peripheral vision is on 10. We see things in the corner of our eyes that most people would not. I live through life doing just fine, so, of course, I could live through a little competition.
I know you cannot discuss in detail what to expect of the eight-episode series, but is there anything you can talk about to get us excited for it?
One of the things I believe viewers will appreciate about Bake Squad is the camaraderie. Yes, it’s a competition, but we are a team. We don’t win any money. We win bragging rights. Our goal is to produce fabulous options for each individual who comes on the show. I think that people are really going to enjoy seeing the camaraderie between all the chefs and just seeing how we cut up sometimes. It’s fun to watch, and I hope that people will not only be enticed by the wonderful desserts but also enjoy the fun we’re having making them.
What sort of skills did you gain by participating in this series? Did you pick up anything new and valuable from your castmates?
Each chef in the Bake Squad specializes in one skill. We all can create a plethora of desserts, but we were selected for our unique skills in one specialty. For example, Chef Gonzo specializes in chocolate. Chef Christophe specializes in sugar work. Chef Ashley specializes in cake and cake sculpture. And I specialize, of course, in pies and I create unorthodox flavor combinations. One of the things that I learned from chef Christophe is how to work with sugar. I typically don’t create show pieces. Pies don’t have to look perfect. Their fillings are oozing out the side of the crust; they’re meant to look homemade and endearing. Working with him and learning technique was great.
You’re repping Chicago. How do you feel about representing your hometown in this series?
I feel great to represent Chicago as a member of the Bake Squad because Chicago is a culinary powerhouse. When you ask people what city in America is the best city to eat in, Chicago is going to be in the top two, and by top two I mean No. 1. You have cities like New Orleans and New York, and then you have Seattle and Portland, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest. But when it comes to variety and the chef’s kiss of restaurants, Chicago is the place to be. And, of course, as a South Side girl, I am more than ecstatic to be representing the city.
What has your life been like since Bake Squad was announced? Has it changed much?
My life hasn’t really changed much — yet. Most people who have supported Justice of the Pies all these years have been rooting for the show to be a success. Once the show airs in August and people see our skills, I am interested to see what happens next. Prior to the show, I had other things in the works, so I am always busy. I have a satellite bakery, so we are always trying to produce as much as we can in that little 255-square-foot kitchen. That’s what keeps us really busy.
What is your favorite pie right now? Will that change soon?
Right now, strawberry-basil key lime pie is super popular. That will change in September because people will want their pumpkin spice everything for fall. I recently came back from Barbados, and I had the most delicious thing, which was smashed sweet potatoes and sweet plantains. I am super excited to grab some plantains and let them sit on top of my shelf for two weeks to get ripe and black. I will smash them together with some baked sweet potatoes and see what type of pie I can produce.
Bake Squad, premieres August 11 on Netflix.