If you’ve watched Netflix’s cooking competition show Nailed It!, then you know that one of the show’s main delights, aside from watching people completely screw up cupcakes, is the hosting team of Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres.
Torres, a well-known pastry chef and chocolatier, is the one with the baking expertise. Byer, an improv comedian who previously starred in the series Loosely Exactly Nicole, provides the humor. Together, they’re the wonder twins of trying to be nice while eating something that tastes like trash.
On the heels of the release of Nailed It! season two, which features a bonus Queer Eye crossover episode that casts the Fab Five as Nailed It! contestants, Torres and Byer took some time to discuss Torres’s recent weight loss, why Queer Eye food expert Antoni Porowski didn’t compete in the crossover episode, the worst things they’ve tasted on the show, and the dirty jokes that don’t make it into the final cut.
First of all: Jacques, you look different in the crossover episode with the Queer Eye guys.
Jacques Torres: I have a 23-month-old and he really makes me run after him. So that’s the diet here: You take a bit less sugar and run after Pierre [Torres’s son] all day and then, you know, you lose weight.
Do you mind if I ask how much you lost?
JT: I lost, if I remember correctly, 56 or 58 pounds.
In how much time?
JT: One year. It take me one year to lose all that weight. Look, it takes a long time to put it in, it takes a long time to take it off. It’s a struggle in the beginning, and then you get used to it. I work also with a nutritionist and she helped me. She became a friend.
Jacques, you obviously have a background in food, but Nicole, you’re a comedian. How did you get involved?
Nicole Byers: I’ve been doing a comedy for a long time and the production company reached out and pitched the idea to me. I really liked it, and I felt like I’d be able to toe the line between judging people’s creations and being funny, but not being too mean.
Do you bake yourself or do much cooking yourself?
JT: But the mission is to make her bake and …
JT: … learn everything about baking. Or I bake for her.
NB: Yes! That’s all I want. Jacques makes delightful confections.
What is a typical workday like?
JT: It’s loooong.
NB: For me, it’s like a 12-hour day because I have to do hair and makeup and then wardrobe fittings. But we shoot for about ten hours.
JT: And sometimes more. One day, I remember they had us do 14 hours. So it’s long. Oh my God, yes. Remember, the shows are 30 minutes long, so they have a lot material to edit and cut.
When you give feedback, as you said, you’re toeing this line between being honest but also not being too mean. Have you ever said anything and thought, That was too much?
NB: If I did, they didn’t air it. They’ve been very nice to me in the edit. But you just kind of read the room. If someone looks like they’re going to cry, you’re not going to go in on what they’ve made. You’ll dance around it a little bit so they come around to being like, “Yeah, I made something that looks insane. It is funny. Ha ha ha. We’re all just having a good time.” You have to read the room, navigate, and listen. People don’t listen to each other anymore and I think that’s why people get offended or their feelings get hurt, because you’re not actually listening to the person that’s giving you signals they’re upset.
JT: When you look at the results, how can you be upset? Oh my God, a lot of times, things don’t look at all like a copy of what we asked them to do. So I don’t think they can really be upset. They basically all fail. And we, especially Nicole, try to put a lot of fun on it.
You mentioned that all the material you shoot can’t make it into a half-hour show. Have there been any debacles that didn’t make it into the final cut?
NB: I just make a lot of dick jokes that don’t make it in. There was one joke where Wes [the assistant director] was under the table and gave me the [Nailed It!] trophy and I was like, “Yep, Wes has been in my pussy this whole time.” That didn’t make it in there. And I was really sad about it.
Is that because Netflix thinks families are watching, so they don’t want to go too far with stuff like that?
NB: I don’t know. I don’t know who they thought the show was going to be for before they got into the edit. We shot for ten hours, I gave them three different shows. You could do wild, mild, or tame. I think they went in between tame and mild. There’s a little innuendo in the show, but I don’t think it’s any more than, like, a Disney movie.
They should do alternate versions. You should be able to choose between wild and mild.
NB: But if you do that, a kid could watch it and be like, “That nice lady talks about her pussy too much.”
There must be a way around that.
NB: I’ve thought about asking the editors — I mean, it’s more work for them — but to edit together a reel of me saying awful things.
JT: That would be so funny, oh my God. I would buy that show.
NB: It could be just like a private, unlisted link that I’d send it to people.
JT: She has me cry-laughing sometimes when it’s not on the air.
What kinds of things does she do?
JT: She ate a cake that has wet, green color on it. And I looked at Nicole and I said, “Nicole, your tongue is green.” Listen to the answer.
NB: I turned to him and said, “Yeah, I blew a leprechaun.” Jacques looooves that one. We’ll make things out of modeling chocolate and every time we do that, I’ll make him a little dick.
JT: Anatomically, she’s very good. She makes them very exact.
NB: [Laughs.] I’m just — I’m a child. I’m very silly.
JT: That’s why all the children love the show. I mean, they love you.
When you hear from viewers, does it come from a pretty broad spectrum of ages?
NB: Yeah. Most of my comedy friends have been like, “It’s funny.” There’s people who are like, “I watch it with my kid.” And then people tweet at me drinking games that they do with the show — like if I say, “I don’t mean to laugh,” take a shot. When they don’t butter their pans, you take a shot. I’m like, “Y’all are going to pass away.”
What is the worst thing that you’ve tasted?
NB: Oh, it would definitely have to be the salt cupcake. It was awful. There was an episode with a nice gentleman who made a snowman cupcake that was disgusting, right? It was a snowman cupcake, right?
JT: We eat raw dough. We eat raw cookie. We eat massive buttercream in cakes that are still warm. We eat salt. We have to taste things that you will not put in your mouth. But you know what? That’s television. You have to do it.
Do you ever watch The Great British Baking Show and get jealous that their amateurs are baking amazing things?
NB: I’ve never watched it, but I know people love it.
JT: They are good, you’re right, but those people train. This is not the first time that they do what they do. They train quite a bit. It’s what baking is about — the first time you do something, you don’t quite succeed. Do it a few times and then you do it better and better. Don’t give up and keep doing it and eventually you will be a good baker.
Do you have a favorite Nailed It! contestant?
NB: I like Amanda. She’s the one who did the wild pirate doughnut in the first season. Sal, he was the shark-cake one. He was very funny. He gave up very easily.
JT: Sometimes the guests are really a lot of fun. Like [guest judge] Sylvia Weinstock.
NB: Oh, Sylvia was great! I love her.
What was it like having all the guys from Queer Eye there?
NB: It was very fun. They’re joyful and full of life and they genuinely like each other. I had fun with them.
I have to say, it was weird that Antoni didn’t compete. Was that because you thought he would beat everyone?
JT: With his position in the show, if he didn’t win, it would look funny. So maybe they take him out of the table, by not making him compete. I don’t know how much he can decorate. I think the producer was wise enough to say, “Let’s take him out.” Otherwise, he loses credibility on to his show. I think that was a smart decision.
NB: Also, it was just logistically easier to have four of them bake than have all five. He’s the food guy, so he should judge the food.
You mentioned Wes before …
NB: Yes, Wes!
What is his deal? How did his constant forgetting of the trophy become a staple of the show?
JT: I think Nicole made Wes. Nicole somehow got this idea of calling Wes all the time. He is a good-looking guy and everybody likes to look at him. Am I correct?
NB: What happened was, they were like, “And Wes is going to bring in the trophy.” And I was like, “Then where is he? Where’s Wes?” Then it became a thing. Now I just abuse it.
JT: The viewers love Wes, so it’s great.
NB: People tweet at me all the time: Is Wes single? What’s Wes’s deal? What’s Wes’s Twitter? I won’t give out his social media because I don’t know what he wants. I know he’s married. He wears a ring, so I’m not letting the cat out of the bag. He’s married.
How does he feel about all this attention? Is he cool with it?
NB: I think he’s uncomfortable. But also, I think he secretly loves it.
If he hated it, he would probably say something.
NB: He could say something because he’s an assistant director. He’s not obligated to be on camera, so all you would have to do is talk to the producers and be like, “I don’t want to do this anymore. It makes me uncomfortable.” They would have to respect that. He’s a good sport and the people love it. The people want it!
Do you know yet if you’ll get a third season?
NB: I don’t know. No one tells me anything, but I have a mortgage, so I would love for more seasons to happen.
If Nailed It! does get renewed, how do you feel about bringing back previous contestants? I would love to see Amanda and Sal in the same episode.
NB: That would be a dream come true.
JT: We will tell the producer. Let’s see what happens.
This interview has been edited and condensed.