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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

The Great British Bake Off Series 9: Interviews with judges

Paul Hollywood Q&A

* It’s your second series filming together and how has that been, more laid back?

If we were more laid back we would be lying flat. There was a big pressure last year on the move to C4 but this year we have all relaxed into our roles and we have had a really good time filming this time round, everyone has found their niche quite easily and naturally.

*And the Hollywood Handshake?

I don’t know when the Hollywood Handshake really started, I shook a baker’s hand once to say well done, and it’s followed on from there. It’s normally given out when they are pretty much perfect. This series I have had moments when I have given out 3 in a challenge, and I have given one out in a Showstopper.

Even Prue now says ‘go on, give them a Hollywood Handshake’, but I won’t unless I feel they have really earned it.

*It’s very rare to get a foursome who gel so well how would you describe why the 4 of you work

I don’t know why it works so well. We are a dysfunctional family and it shouldn’t work but it does. The camaraderie is very tight, it’s very natural and genuine and we enjoy each others’ company. At Christmas last year we even had our own Christmas Bake Off lunch at Sandi’s for a Danish roast which was delicious and some excellent wines. I think it’s my turn this year!

We spend so much time together, and we are all very different personalities. It’s naturally happened, nothing is forced. Noel and I share an arty side, and the comedy element across all 4 is the binding thing, we share the same sense of humour.

*And the chemistry between you and Prue?

I am similar to Prue as we have such a love of food. We hit it off from the first moment we met, I knew there was something there. She is so natural and very easy to work with. She knows her stuff, what is right and what’s wrong. Prue is great and steps up to the mark every time.

*Paul you always knew that it would work with Prue – how do you feel when it was received so well last August?

Justified! Initially we did a lot of casting with a variety of different people, and they were all fantastic. But I just felt with Prue that she was the one, and the way we were chatting off camera - I just knew it would work. I did help her at the beginning of last series, a bit of initial hand holding, but I don’t need to do any of that now.

*Why and when did you first get the baking bug?

I think it was when I was standing on a chair watching my mum on a Sunday making apple pie or ginger biscuits. It was invariably after a roast chicken dinner, the apples would be from the garden and the pastry would be crispy and perfect.

*From this year’s series are there any trends from the Bakers that have come through?

There is a lot of spice this series, and there has been a lot of frangipane used this year. The ideas and flavour combinations this year are excellent.

*How skilled are the Bakers this year?

The baking standard overall is fantastic, they are a really talented bunch. I can honestly say that the bakers have been exceptional this year. They are highly skilled in flavour combinations and they have worked outside the box and have ignored the fact that I like citrus flavours, which is fine.

*Do you both pretty much agree when it comes to judging the Bakers?

We do from the beginning to the end, and we give marks at the end of each bake, and they are always within half a point of each other.

*What’s your favourite Bake Off moment?

I loved Lee Mack on Celebrity Bake Off earlier this year, the exchange between us talking about his wife’s sponge. He cracked me up, the same with Harry Hill talking about Camilla Parker-Bowles when they were on a desert island. They both made me laugh so much, it was hard to keep it together.

*You are referred as bad cop always getting the pantomime villain role, how do you react to that?

Everyone has always tried to wrap me up as that role inside and outside of Bake Off. I am not a villain, I am straight down the line. When it comes to judging I am always fair.

*Anything you wouldn’t eat?

Not really. The only thing I wouldn’t want to eat is tripe, and I don’t really get that offered on Bake Off.

*Describe Prue, Sandi, Noel in 3 words

Prue – Charming, Beautiful, Knowledgeable

Sandi – Intelligent, Small, Humourous

Noel – Odd, Funny, Artistic

*The show is very popular amongst young people why do you think that is and what are they like when they meet you?

They are very complimentary. A lot of the younger bakers in the tent like Selasi and Liam end up having a fan club. Younger people are baking more, and I think Bake Off really has got people baking and made it popular, and there is a genuine interest. The last series we doubled the youth viewing figures and I think that is predominantly down to Noel!

*What’s next in your baking or anything else world?

Next for me is a series of US Bake Off, then another series of Celebrity Bake Off. And I will be filming a road trip across America for UKTV.

Prue Leith Q&A

* It’s your second series filming together and how has that been, more laid back?

Absolutely. It’s so much more relaxed, we are so settled into our roles now. Paul and I have a really good relationship, I followed his lead at the beginning but now it’s very even handed. He has been absolutely sweet and so professional to work with.

*What do you think you brought to the show?

I am a huge admirer of Mary, she is an expert cake maker. Paul is a brilliant bread maker, but I am more of a cook, so I am much more light hearted about the judging and I can tease Paul about banging on about crumb. I just feel it’s about the essence, the balance of flavours, what makes your mouth water, and it has got to taste fantastic.

*And the chemistry between you and Paul?

Sometimes I think we are like schoolkids, he can say some mad things to get a rise out of me. He is constantly teasing me. I think we have a great natural chemistry and we both respect each other’s baking knowledge.

*What was the audition process like the first time?

When I started I had no idea that Paul had been auditioning with other people, which of course because of the kind of show it is, there would have been. When I was asked to meet Paul Hollywood to see how we would get on, I thought we might meet and have an informal chat in a pub. When I got there it was makeup, clothes and cameraman. I did get a bit of a shock, but Paul made me feel really relaxed about it, and I felt less nervous. He told me to go for it and not just follow him. He knew I had more oomph and experience than I was showing, and encouraged me to show more of myself.

*Why and when did you first get the baking bug?

The very first time I made a cake was at school - a Christmas cake and come Christmas Day - my father tried to cut in to the cake but because I hadn’t put any glycerine in the icing it was then rock solid. As my father hit the cake, the knife which was a family heirloom split in two, so in the end we turned it over and scooped out the cake, with a half inch thick bowl of icing left.

*What's your favourite recipe that you would bring to the table

Pavlova with pineapple and passion fruit, the family always love it.

*From this year’s series are there any trends from the Bakers that have come through?

Cardamom and coconut are popular and a citrus flavour Yuzu has been big this year.

*How skilled are the Bakers this year?

They are exceptional, and skilled in different ways. I can’t talk about them separately but they all bring something individual and different to the table. Some bring strong and exotic flavours, and others bring intricate flavours with delicate icing.

*Any recipes you have taken from the show?

I loved Steven’s caramel cake from last year. And last year one of the home economist’s made an amazing moist chocolate sponge cake which I now make at home regularly using her recipe. And I have pinched a few from this series too.

*Do you both pretty much agree when it comes to judging the Bakers?

Yes we do, it’s a bit uncanny but we are pretty much together from beginning to end even though we come from such different baking backgrounds. There might be occasional shades of difference, we tend to rank every baker in the same order.

*Anything you wouldn’t eat.


*Paul - how has he helped you?

He helped me find my feet and I have learned such a lot from him. He is an absolute genius when he sums up the judging with few words…..it’s straight to camera, no errms or arrhs , he is so succinct. Whereas I go round the houses with lots of words so I have tried to pick up on his critique and absorb it! I am not as good as him, but I think I am getting there now.

*Describe Paul, Sandi, Noel in 3 words

Paul - Soft-centred, professional, masculine

Sandi - Humourous, loyal, caring

Noel - Quirky, daft, clever

*Being around a show that has so much noise around it, was that daunting?

I have had such a great experience on this series, and I haven’t found any of it daunting as everyone has been so professional and welcoming. The crew and production team are so brilliant, I really admire them all. Working with Paul, Sandi and Noel - it’s a pleasure to do. The only downside is that I just don’t want any of the bakers to leave!

*The show is very popular amongst young people why do you think that is and what are they like when they meet you?

They absolutely love Noel, and I think that they love the show because it’s unthreatening and happy. Everyone is lovely when they meet me, supportive about the show, and it’s wonderful to be asked to pose for a selfie!

*What’s next in your baking or anything else world?

Next I’m bringing out my first cookbook in 25 years, Prue: My All-Time Favourite Recipes, and I’m also working on another cookbook with my baker niece Peta to come out next year. I have just finished my eighth novel, to be published in the Spring, The Lost Son, the third book in a trilogy.

The Great British Bake Off starts Tuesday 28th August at 8pm on Channel 4

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