Can Jeff Foxworthy and 'The American Baking Competition' make a tasty CBS treat?

Jeff Foxworthy Baking

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When you think of Jeff Foxworthy, you may conjure up images of rednecks, deer hunting, RVs, maybe beef jerky.

But macaroons and pecan sandies? Not so much.

Yet starting tonight, the Alpharetta stand-up comic will be hosting a CBS reality competition show "The American Baking Competition," shot on the picturesque Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground.

"When they asked me, I laughed," Foxworthy said in a recent interview. "I told them, 'No. I don't think so.' I had never baked anything in my life. It would be like me hosting a show about brain surgery."

The producers explained to him the show had been a big hit in Great Britain, where America has imported monster hits such as "Dancing With the Stars" and "American Idol."

They convinced Foxworthy to at least download an episode of the U.K. version called "The Big British Bake Off." "I decided to humor them so I watched it. I called them back and said, 'Please let me do this show. I would be fascinated!' "

The set up is familiar to anybody who watches "Top Chef" or "MasterChef." Ten amateur bakers battle for $250,000 and a chance to write a cookbook through a series of challenges, judged by two celebrity chefs.

"I'm the liaison for the idiot at home," he said.

Foxworthy joined in with the judges to sample the creations, a fork in hand ready to dig in. (He loves cake and cookies and said he gained five pounds during the month-long taping.)

"I'm just here for the free food!" he cracked on the show.

Foxworthy has become a go-to person to host shows since Fox's "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" He just completed two successful seasons of GSN's "American Bible Challenge."

The biggest difference is a baking competition takes a lot more time to tape than a game show. "It took a month to film seven or eight episodes," he said. "With 'Bible,' we could churn out two or three in a day. In this case, you have to let the dough rise."

Foxworthy said the show had some trouble coming up with a title. Pillsbury has a lock down on the phrase "Bake-Off." And since GSN's Bible show uses the word "challenge," CBS didn't want to sow confusion. So they used the more generic "competition."

They shot the show under a big tent in March. The weather didn't cooperate, Foxworthy said. "In the early episodes," he said, "I was visibly shaking I was so cold. We'd stand in front of open ovens to stay warm."

One of the 10 contestants is from Johns Creek: 51-year-old recent divorcee Darlene Pawlukowsky.

She said she heard about the show by pure happenstance. She was gabbing with a woman, small talk, at the grocery store and mentioned her love of baking. The woman suggested she try out and sent her the audition info.

Pawlukowsky got an Easy-Bake oven at age 7 and has been baking ever since. "I'm really artistic and creative," she said. "I put a lot of artistry into cake design."

She said it was a "once-in-a-lifetime experience. I had non idea how hard it would be until I got there. I was exciting but nervewracking. The temperatures were usually in the 30s and 40s and we were baking outside."

She also had nothing but good things to say about Foxworthy. "He's extremely funny. He really makes hte show. He's the cherry on top. He made us all feel so comfortable. He makes you feel like you've known him forever. You could see he felt for us."

TV preview

"The American Baking Competition," 8 p.m. Wednesdays, CBS

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