A Kansas City man’s stint as a reality TV show competitor has come to an abrupt end amid allegations against one of the show’s judges of sexual misconduct.
JC Gregg, a self-taught baker and auditor at Costco Wholesale, spent 28 days in London earlier this year competing on the third season of ABC’s “The Great American Baking Show,” which premiered just last week.
ABC canceled the show after reports surfaced of sexual misconduct allegations against one of its judges, James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and cookbook author Johnny Iuzzini.
Gregg found out about the cancelation Wednesday night after a board of directors meeting for the Gladstone Elks Lodge, when he turned his phone on and had 64 messages.
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“I’m in a chat group with other contestants from the show, and they were blasting back and forth, ‘I can’t believe this is happening, blah blah blah,’ ” says Gregg.
His immediate reaction, he says, was to dash off a letter to the show’s media relations contact to congratulate them for pulling the show.
“I told them this isn’t about the 10 bakers who were competing, it’s about the people who came forward with this tragedy and who have been suppressing it and living with it all these years,” Gregg says. “We lived our dream, we went to London, we were in that tent, we performed, we succeeded, we failed — every one of us — and in the end, my dream came true whether I was on TV or not.
“I’m more worried about the people who were hurt years ago and justice playing out and if it means pulling the show, it means pulling the show,” he added. “I’m part of the #metoo group. It wasn’t easy for me growing up as a gay man in small town Kansas.”
Not all of his fellow contestants feel the same about the cancellation, he says. Some do, and they happen to be people he bonded with during the competition.
“Then there are a few who feel they were robbed,” he says. “They are really upset, mad, hurt, bitter.”
According to the website Mic.com, a former pastry chef at Jean-Georges restaurant in New York says Iuzzini stuck his tongue in her ear several times when she worked there.
Iuzzini served as executive pastry chef at the restaurant from 2002 to 2011. Another pastry chef and two other employees who reported to Iuzzini described in interviews with Mic.com “a work environment in the Jean-Georges pastry kitchen that was rampant with incidents of sexual harassment” while Iuzzini was there.
Variety reports that an ABC spokesman issued a statement that says, “In light of allegations that recently came to our attention, ABC has ended its relationship with Johnny Iuzzini and will not be airing the remainder of ‘The Great American Baking Show’ episodes.
“ABC takes matters such as those described in the allegations very seriously and has come to the conclusion that they violate our standards of conduct. This season’s winner will be announced at a later date. Episodes of ‘The Great Christmas Light Fight’ and ‘CMA Country Christmas’ will take its place this week and next.”
Iuzzini is the latest celebrity chef to come under fire for sexual misconduct. Mario Batali stepped down as co-host of ABC’s “The Chew” earlier this week after multiple women accused him of groping and sexual harassment.
Gregg, a self-taught baker, competed against nine other contestants from the United States including two lawyers, a priest, a 60-year-old “yoga mom” and a woman whose father had died while she was competing in a previous season.
Gregg applied to compete in January following gastric surgery that helped him lose 150 pounds. The audition process included phone and Skype interviews as well as trips to Chicago and New Jersey to compete.
“I think it was more my personality than anything. It’s where my journey has taken me,” he told The Star earlier this month.
Gregg practiced baking throughout the summer before heading to London, where he and his competitors spent more than 15 hours a day baking and taping the show. It took two days to record each episode with a day off in between to get ready for the next day’s challenge.
Gregg is self-taught. He began baking about 16 years ago after his mother died, when he began longing for her signature mayonnaise chocolate cake. From there, he began experimenting with spherification, a molecular gastronomy technique that makes the cake even more moist.
Gregg isn’t able to divulge who won “The Great American Baking Show” this season.
“We’re still not allowed to divulge anything of any episode that has not aired, and I’m going to hold true to that,” he says. “If ABC wants me to keep quiet, I may as well because we don’t know where it’s going to go from here.”