Everything you want to know about being on reality tv. From someone who knows.

Ever been on a reality TV show? Eventually you will be.

There are so many reality shows in the TV landscape nowadays that I figure at some point, every Australian will get a turn. Mine came in 2013 when I was cast on the first series of The Great Australian Bakeoff:

Me, far right. So happy. SO HAPPY. (via pinterest)

Oh my giddy aunt, it was ACE. I pushed so many pies, cakes, biscuits and sugary buns into my gob that at one point a producer yelled at me “Augustus! Save some room for later!”.

Apart from eating my way into a larger sized pair of jeans I also got to be on a TV ad where I played basketball on a giant cake. And then I fulfilled a lifelong dream: putting the greatest cake known to man – the Pool Cake from the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book – on prime time TV:

You’re welcome. (via The Great Australian Bake Off Cookbook)

But behind the glamorous cake climbing and jelly-eating scenes, there was some pretty messed up stuff that went down. And with the news that there is going to be a SECOND SEASON on Foxtel and casting is open NOW, there’s some things you should know about.

WHAT WAS YOURS? The 13 Best Cakes from the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book

Before I went away to the Big Baking House, I asked a friend who had been on a very large reality TV cooking show what I could expect.

We caught up for coffee. I had a BIG list of questions.  Except the problem was, he was a bit cute. And I liked him. And I got nervous and flustered and so at the points that I should have been LISTENING and taking SERIOUS NOTES in my SERIOUS MOLESKIN NOTEBOOK like a serious baking Hemingway, I was actually thinking “do I have an ugly coffee moustache?” and “is there a massive bat in my cave” and ‘are my undies poking out the back arse top of my jeans”?

SO I WENT IN UNDERPREPARED dear reader. This shall not be your fate. I am here today to arm you with all the preparation you need for your reality TV journey.  No matter if you are sporting the largest of coffee moustaches, or your nose cave is full of snot bats.  Be free to read this with the worst underwear in the world hanging out of your back jeans arse top.  Because it is a matter of public interest that you know what you are getting yourself in for.


Sporty baker. (via pinterest)

1. The application process goes deep. REAL DEEP. 

It’s not just a one page form where you tick some boxes and and then show ’em your biscuit.  The casting process goes WAY further: think extensive psychological and background testing.  This is for two reasons. One: If you get cast, they’ll be damned if midway through filming, you get arrested for the meth lab you have in your bathroom.  They want to know all your skeletons.  It doesn’t mean you wont get cast, it’s just so they can build a profile of you so there are no surprises or PR nightmares.  You will do endless interviews and psychological examinations until these strangers know more about you than your BFF.  You will reveal everything: your family history, your sexual history, your psychological history, your job history, your shameful, emotional eating history, and that one time you accidentally asked to feel the belly of your pregnant workmate, who actually wasn’t pregnant. Awks.


The second reason?  We’ll get to that in a minute.

MORE: How far do you go for a birthday cake?

2. Once you get cast, you have a role to play. PLAY IT DAMMIT OR BE VOTED OFF THE ISLAND.

When we arrived on set, I walked into wardrobe and came smack bang with a vision board of me. A VISION BOARD, a thing I only heard about in the deep recesses of pinterest. Here it was: my face surrounded by a whole host of things I was supposed to represent. From there, I had to put on about a dozen outfits, including cowgirl tassels before they decided what my “look” would be.  They put my hair in pigtails (NOTE: I am 30 years old and 6 foot 1)  before settling on a jaunty side pony plait. And while I was sitting there I listened to the stylist yelling at someone down the phone about the other cast members.  “She’s the SEXY ASIAN” “WE WANT SEXY! NOT NERDY”.

It’s at that point you realise you have a choice. You can fight it, stomp your feet and portray the beautiful but complex snowflake you are, or you could remember the contract you signed, shrug your shoulders and just go with it. Because when else are you gonna get the chance to rock a side pony plait?

YEAH! (via The Great Australian Bakeoff cookbook)

3. You will do a poo that other people can hear.

You have a microphone on you for about 12 hours a day. You can pretend all you like that you’re a lady that doesn’t poo. But at some point in those 12 hours, across however many days or weeks, you’re going to need to pinch one off. The first time will be mortifying, you’ll be convinced everyone is sniggering in the control booth. But then after a few days, you just forget the mic is on.  At that point, it’s bottom biscuits for everyone.

4. You will be tired like you have never known tired.

The days are SO long. Wake up at 5am. Film until 10pm. That’s a long arse day under lights and makeup when you’re not used to it. Add to that the constant adrenalin of time pressure/losing the f**king gladbake/forgetting how to make a cake/dropping your food on the floor/slicing your finger open on the excellent knives and having to do quiet poos, and you’ll be tired. So tired you will start looking at the oven and thinking “if I could just curl up in there for a nap, it looks so warm..”

Let me just read this recipzzzzzZZZZz (via pinterest)

5. You will cry even if you’re made of stone.

I reckon there’s a slab of beer on the table for every producer that gets a contestant to melt into tears.  Why? It makes brilliant TV that’s why.  WE ALL cried.  Because you know all that psychological testing you did earlier? Now there’s a bit fat old file with your name on it and a list of buttons to push.  Got a fractured relationship with your father? The producers will wait until you pull a flat fondue out of the oven and you’re feeling a bit wobbly, then they’ll hit you with the old “Oh. What would your dad think of that?”



I kept a tally. Every day the numbers climbed:

From the GABO diary. Via facebook/moniquebowley1

6. You will feel a bit like you are losing your mind

You’re tired. You’re under pressure. The producers make it seem like the rest of your life rests on things like whether you can make lemon curd and you believe it. You live, breathe, eat baking.  You live with the other contestants. You are simultaneously having the best and worst time of your life.  It’s weird and amazing and great. You are not losing your mind, you’re making TV. This is what it’s like.

SOBBING IS IN: Women, don’t be afraid to cry at work. It’ll help.

7. You will turn into a bit of a dickhead

Just warn people ahead of time. Like when you get home, and there are no cameras anymore. And you think sadly “where are all the cameras?” DICK.  And then, like a giddy love-sick teenager, you regale your family with endless tales of what it was like. The publicity shoots. The wardrobe and makeup. The dramatic tension when the smarties wouldn’t stick on your gingerbread house. DICK.  You wont notice them rolling their eyes because you’re too caught up in how you made a whipped cream joke and someone made a meme of you. And all your family will be like “Shut up. It’s your turn to put the bins out”.

Memeories. via facebook/TheGreatAustralianBakeoff

8. One of the contestants is a sitting duck.

Hopefully it’s not you. But when casting a show, I’ve heard producers cast someone as a dummy to be eliminated in the first show. That’s because everyone’s still getting used to things, dynamics are weird and people are settling into it. So that first eviction/elimination has already been planned. Hopefully it’s not you.

9. There’s no script. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plot twists.

Somedays, the stopwatch timer seemed to run fast. Somedays, it was slow. Sometimes you swear you had 30 minutes left but all of a sudden it was ten.  Sometimes, you could have sworn you put the baking paper in the 3rd drawer down but then it’s gone. We had lots of fun things happen like this. And the reason is? It’s a bit better TV that way isn’t it. It would be a pretty boring show if there were 10 competent bakers who just stood in their aprons watching the bread rise. Yawn.

My “holy shit I’ve never made this before” face. via pinterest

10. Yeah the judges eat the food cold, because it needs to be filmed and photographed before it gets cut into.

I got asked this A LOT. And yeah, there’s a bit of delay in making and judging. You re-do things all the time. Like open the oven door. Open it again. Open it again. Let’s get it from another angle. Walk up to the judges table. Walk up again. This time walk up with your side pony flicked behind you.  By the time that’s all done, yeah the food is pretty much cold. In our case though, it was more likely the food was too warm.  Good for the bread episode (yum yum, warm crusty bread) but bad for cheesecake episode (oh my god, warm cheesecake is just no.) They still judge it. And in fact, they did a remarkably accurate job. Although…….


11. One of the judges SPAT OUT all the food.

Not in disgust, but more like a wine taster would into a spitton. They had a cake spittoon. And no wonder: how would you feel eating 40 pieces of cake in a day? I mean, old Augustus Gloop over here could do it, maybe once, but not for days on end.

Dear women: Never, EVER try this as a way to lose weight.

12. No, the judges didn’t cheat.

Not that they couldn’t though. I mean, you’re just watching at home, you can’t taste the food, you don’t even know what it tastes like. The judges on this particular show were lovely. And crazily accurate. But, in most competition shows, a clause in the contract says it’s the producer—not the judges—who has 
the final say in who’s eliminated. IE: You could be serving up vom burgers but guess what, if you’re interesting, you stay. Yum.

Dan Lepard and Kerry Vincent. “Oh my god, Monique has got to go.” (via pinterest)

13. It is the most fun you can have with your pants on.

It’s really so fun. You’ll meet ambitious game-players and weirdos, but equally, crews are jammed with some of the funniest, kindest and nicest souls on the earth.  You become a little team for a bit. And then at the end of it, you birth a miraculous TV baby.  And for us, they made a cookbook. And my face is in it. And I look so happy. Because I was.

via instagram/moniquebowley

14: Have low expectations (and keep your sense of humor).

Don’t think you’re going to be famous at the end of it because odds are you won’t be. Someone might say to you occasionally “have we met before?” So while you’re there, eat all the food, have all the laughs, learn all you can, do the best job you can and when shit fails, have a big snotty cry on camera.

Now, my pretties, go forth and apply. And should you succeed, remember who gave you all the tips, won’t you? That person likes to eat sweet things. Like lemon slice, weetbix slice, boiled chocolate cake,  cheesecake, lemon tarts and sponge. Glorious sponge. (And she is in the Melbourne office of Mamamia. Ok cool thanks bye).

POPULAR OPINION: “There are no kilojoules in birthday cake. Fact.”

My tip for applying? Be natural. Don’t over act. Talk about your weaknesses as well as your strengths. My application was brutally honest: I told them I hate cooking, and am the worst cook in the world but when it came to dessert, I would fall over myself to make a cake. It’s true. Good luck.

Here’s some stuff I baked while I was on the show. There is no reason for this gallery other than to make you want all the baked things. Sorry not sorry: