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Marilynn and Sheila Brass vs. Bobby Flay: Who won?

Sheila Brass, on left, and Marilynn Brass were challenged to a Throwdown with Bobby Flay over their Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Let me start with full disclosure.

I have never watched an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

I hadn’t ever, that is, until last night, when Marilynn and Sheila Brass were challenged to a Pineapple Upside Down Cake bake-off on Flay’s show. The Brass sisters, award-winning authors of Heirloom Baking and Heirloom Cooking, are Cambridge residents who have made a name for themselves as interpreters and perfecters of historical recipes. (See my article on them from a few years ago in the food section of the Boston Globe.) Sheila Brass is a long-time employee at WGBH, and Marilynn Brass is a two-time alumna of Northeastern University, in whose gorgeous new exhibition kitchen the episode was taped.

Let’s cut to the chase: the judges named the Brass sisters’ cake the winner!

That’s the bottom line, I suppose, but through the course of the episode I was more interested in what makes Throwdown with Bobby Flay good television.

Partly it’s the drama of the competition of course, which is inevitable given the format of the show. It pits “the pro,” Flay, against amateur but very well-regarded cooks and bakers across the country; the playing field is evened somewhat by the specific dish of the competition, which is a specialty of the amateurs while Flay and his co-cooks start their rendition from scratch.

What also makes Throwdown with Bobbly Flay good television is the personality, surprise, and reaction of the cooks who are challenged. Some react by trash-talking with Flay but the Brass sisters, true to their playful yet sincere and well-mannered form, were FUNNY and gracious from start to finish.

That not only makes for good television, it makes for good people, which made it impossible not to root for the Brass sisters’ Pineapple Upside Down Cake. When the judges’ decision was announced, naming the Brass cake the winner, the audience at the Northeastern exhibition kitchen cheered wildly.

So did I.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.


6 Responses

  1. I am a long time viewer of Throwdown and I think Bobby Flay is the best person for the job. He adds his unique spin to the recipes but is always so respectful and in awe of these local cooks and bakers who have perfected the dish! It is a great show and I so enjoyed watching last night’s episode as it was a great local story! Thanks for this well written article and I hope you continue to watch Throwdown to see some amazing unknowns making fantastic dishes!

  2. I’ve come to realize the show really is not about the competition at all. It’s about showcasing a local cook/chef and their special dish and showing how it can be made in various ways and still be awesome. Bobby is always respectful of his competition and he always seems to feel bad when he wins – which only happens once in a while! (Sorry if I gave anything away)

  3. i am also a long time viewer of throwdown. i always root for the opposing side. not that i have anything against bobby flay, i think hes a wonderful chef. i just feel that the people bobby flay challenges should be winners no matter what. bobby flay does put up a mean fight though.

  4. I watch Throwdown regularly and it is very easy to see why Flay is a TV star in addition to one of the most winning Iron Chefs. He has the chops and the charm! It just so happens that Pineapple Upside Down Cake is my favorite episode for exactly the reasons expressed in this article.

  5. Where can I get a copy of the Brass sister’s pineapple upside down cake?

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