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

By Cathy Huyghe

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"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 is a contributor to WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore recipes and tips for good food and wine.

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