The six-episode show, co-hosted by Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg, will feature eight teams competing for a chance to win $50,000.
On the new NBC show Baking It, Detroit-born journalist and comedian Norma Zager is known as the “Jewish bubbie.”
The former Detroit Jewish News contributor will be one of four hosts judging the new baking series produced by Amy Poehler, which will stream on NBC’s streaming service Peacock beginning Dec. 2 and began airing on NBC Dec. 3.
“I am Bubbie Norma,” Zager, 74, of Beverly Hills, California, jokes.
The six-episode show, co-hosted by Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg, will feature eight teams competing for a chance to win $50,000. Zager will help play a role in determining which team goes home with the grand prize, tasting their extraordinary baking creations along the way.
“The food was so delicious,” Zager says. “They really made some unbelievable food.”
One team, Zager reveals, even made an edible menorah just in time for Chanukah. “I had never seen anything like it before,” she explains. “That really was one of the standouts of the show.”
Each episode will feature a different baking theme, while the entire show has a holiday feel thanks to its December release. Zager says her three co-judges are fellow “grandmas” who have decades of experience when it comes to food, seriously raising the bar for the competition.
“You’re talking about bringing foods to a bunch of old grandmas who pretty much have seen and ate it all by now,” she says. “Yet we were constantly surprised by the originality of these bakers.”
Zager, who grew up in northwest Detroit, graduated from Mumford High School in 1964 and studied at Michigan State University and Wayne State University, graduating from the latter in 1969.
She began her career working at the now-defunct Oak Park News as a journalist, later freelance writing for the Detroit Jewish News.
After developing a love for comedy and writing jokes, Zager sold her work to some of the biggest stars of our time, including Joan Rivers. “She was paying $10 a joke,” Zager recalls.
Encouraged to move forward with her comedy career, she tried a night of standup at Royal Oak’s Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle. It was a bust, but Zager wasn’t deterred. She tried again, using leftover jokes that Rivers didn’t buy on her second attempt at standup comedy.
“They got laughs and that was it,” she remembers of the jokes she told. “I was hooked.”
For 14 years, Zager did standup comedy. Eventually, she made her way back to journalism, moving to California in December 1993. She became a reporter and then an editor at the Beverly Hills Courier, covering major stories such as the activism of Erin Brockovich.
Winning awards for her reporting, Zager even wrote a book about the experience titled Erin Brockovich and the Beverly Hills Greenscam.
In addition to comedy and journalism, Zager has a love for baking. While working in comedy, she started her baking business Norma’s 14K Cookies in 1994, selling baked goods to shows like Roseanne and Seinfeld. She also hosted a cooking and comedy show in Las Vegas.
Through her diverse career, which also included appearances on HGTV and daytime talk shows, Zager eventually landed a spot on a Food Network show called Clash of the Grandmas in 2015.
When casting was being held for Baking It, the staff remembered Zager from her time on the Food Network show.
“They called and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for a new baking show,” she laughs. “I said, ‘Yes, as long as I don’t have to cook.’ So they said, ‘No. We want
you as a judge.’
“I got the show and they hired me to be one of the grandma judges on Baking It.”