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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

3 Chicago Contestants On ‘Great American Baking Show’ Go From Competitors To Friends

The Chicago contestants are hosting a watch party for this season of "The Great American Baking Show," which premiers Friday.

The Great American Baking Show contestants Sarah Chang, Martin Sorge and Nirali Chauhan.
Courtesy The Great American Baking Show/The Roku Channel
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CHICAGO — Three Chicagoans entered England as strangers and competitors on a beloved baking show. They left as friends who regularly hang out back home.

As for what happened in between, you’ll have to watch this season of “The Great American Baking Show.”

Debuting Friday on the Roku Channel, this season of “The Great American Baking Show” features three contestants from Chicago. That includes Martin Sorge, who owns a consulting firm and is a former executive director of the Uptown Chamber of Commerce and former city economic development official.

Sorge is joined on the show by fellow Chicagoans Sarah Chang and Nirali Chauhan.

Chang and Chauhan are graduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with Chang in nursing and Chauhan in medical school.

All three bake as a hobby and were among the nine contestants chosen for the American spinoff the hugely popular “Great British Baking Show.”

The American version of the show is shot in the same tent in England’s countryside as the British version, and it features the same judges, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. It is hosted by “The Office” star Ellie Kemper and actor and comedian Zach Cherry.

Credit: Courtesy Nirali Chauhan
Nirali Chauhan, Sarah Chang and Martin Sorge at a Cubs game.

“Great British Baking Show” is known for its comforting and friendly nature, a stark contrast to some reality cooking competitions.

That’s not to say the baking challenges can’t be stressful, the contestants said. The challenges often came down to the last seconds for each baker. The setting in a tent also can produce obstacles, including inclement weather and animals getting onto the set.

The contestants were very friendly and helpful towards each other — especially the ones who shared a hometown, Sorge said.

“You’re used to baking at home by yourself or with your family or friends around,” said Sorge, a Lincoln Square resident. “You’re doing that [on the show], but with hosts and judges. Part of the fun is being able to talk about what you’re doing and share that experience with really great cast mates.”

The contestants didn’t meet each other until they arrived on set. But the Chicago contingent grew to be friends over the course of filming, they said.

That continued after they got back to Chicago, as the contestants were forbidden from talking about what happened on the set with anyone but each other, Chauhan said.

“Coming back from the show, it felt so supportive to have two amazing friends that understand exactly what you just went through,” said Chauhan, of South Loop. “Back then, we couldn’t speak about the experience to anybody. And we really enjoy each other’s company.”

Chang, Chauhan and Sorge have held game nights, visited ice cream shops, gone to Cubs games and held cookie-baking sessions together.

The three contestants will hang out again this weekend, when they will hold a watch party for “The Great American Baking Show.”

“It’ll give us a chance to share the experience not only with our loved ones but also with each other because that’s really important to us,” said Chang, a Rogers Park resident.

The contestants could not talk about how they fared on the show. But even if none of the Chicago contestants are the victors, they came away with a prize: friendship.

“I hope that we represent the city really well,” Chang said. “The three of us feel very strongly about the city of Chicago. We showed that a bit during the making.”

The season will have six hour-long episodes, which will all be available starting Friday on the Roku Channel.

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