I will say up front that I love James Rosselle from the cake challenges...He always seemed to be a nice guy, and not one of the backstabbing cake jerks who would knock you down for a chance to win a bogus prize on a bogus cake contest. And he makes beautiful flowers, which I of course love. I could be wrong, maybe he kicks puppies in his spare time, but I doubt it.
The Exotic Orchids class includes three different types of orchids, and he made the process of making them very simple. Orchids are a weird flower. If you don't do them right they look really wrong because they're so weird in real life that a fake version needs to be pretty accurate. He did them pretty much exactly the same way that I learned to do them, using what's a pretty classic process.
I did pick up a couple of tips, just from seeing how he did the centers in a different way than I do, so that was useful. There were also a couple of "bonus sections" about making foliage, to stretch it out a little bit.
The one thing that I have to complain about is that the class sections were very repetitious, but I can also see why they were done that way. He basically shows you from start to finish how to do each flower, including rolling out the gumpaste, wiring the petals, wrapping stems, etc. If you're watching an entire class from beginning to end like I did you end up seeing what's basically a repeat of the previous section each time, so it was redundant. On the other hand, I can see why it was structured that way, because each section was a stand-alone lesson on the individual flower. You could watch just one section and not have to skip around.
The host himself was pretty good, but you could tell that he isn't totally comfortable being the only one in front of a camera. He did a lot of uhhh...while he was gathering his thoughts, and I got the feeling that he was nervous that he wasn't explaining things well. Which he was, that wasn't an issue.
The times that he was most natural were when he started working a little faster and started to fall into a groove. That was when he kind of went into the gumpaste trance and stopped thinking about the camera, and that was when he seemed to be most comfortable.
I also have to give all of the Craftsy instructors credit for having to answer those questions that people post. I was reading some of them and if I had to answer them on a regular basis (What's your favorite kind of cake?" type questions, I mean) I would go insane after a while.
So my overall review:
Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate
have to have: Orchid cutters, ball tool, veiners, that stupid groove board that they love, other basic things like crisco and wire.
Sleep-inducing level: Medium, I started to nod off but I was tired anyway.
it assumes you already know: Not much.
Unnecessary Difficulty Level Of Methods
Demonstrated: Nothing, he kept it very straightforward and simple.
Annoying Host Habits: He does the thing where his voice goes up at the end of sentences, but I gave him a pass on that because his fingernails were so short he got extra credit for proper sanitation.
Level of Helpful Hints Learned: Not much for me other than a couple of things, but for a gumpaste noob it would be very helpful. The explanations and directions for each flower were clear and easy to follow.
This would be worth full price if you are an orchid novice, and maybe worth it to buy on sale if you have more experience. If you already make orchids on a regular basis and are happy with them I'd skip it.
If you're interested in another source of orchid instruction, you should look into getting a copy of Sugar Orchids for Cakes by Alan Dunn. It's an excellent book with loads of photos and is worth every penny. As is his book
Sugar Roses for Cakes
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC, custom wedding cakes in Richmond VA, and is a Craftsy affiliate