Paul Hollywood: “Mary could wear a hessian bag and it would sell out”

Ahead of the new series of Bake Off, we had a blab with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood about fancy jackets, Bingate and big old showstoppers


by Jen Crothers |
Published on

Park your soggy bottoms your sofas and give thanks, people of Great Britain, because The Great British Bake Off has finally returned.

To celebrate, we were were lucky enough to have a cup of tea with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry ahead of the show’s first episode. Who’s binning their bakes this year? Who’s making Mel and Sue laugh? And what will Mary be wearing? Paul n’ Mez have all the answers.

GBBO looks like a lovely show to work on.

Mary: When people watch the show they know they can sit with their five year old, ten year old, grandmother and everybody will find something within the show that’s going to make them laugh. It’s a very happy occasion.

What are the bakers like this year?

Paul: They were all exceptionally good from the off. They didn’t bond like some of the other groups right at the beginning but they did three, four [episodes] in. They were very professional in the way they attacked everything. I think even coming down to the final, it’s going to be a real game changer. It’s the best final we’ve ever had.

M: We have 12 this year not 13, and we seemed to have them from all over Britain. Parts we haven’t had from so much before. Given this crop of bakers will have watched five series already, does anything surprise you about how things work out?

P: They way that they do the technical challenge – if you’ve got eight people doing it and someone doesn’t have a clue about where to start, they wait for someone to start and everyone will take the lead from that person. They all end up being roughly the same. So it’s like looking over your shoulder at the guy next door in an exam.

Doesn’t that spoil it a bit?

P: No. Because if someone goes wrong, then they all go wrong.


Is this series particularly competitive?

P: They were competitive at the beginning, but then they got to know each other. I think they were just more nervous this year. It’s the biggest programme on television. I said to a couple of the bakers, ‘This’ll change your lives you know” and they went “Why?” because they forget – they’re protected in the tent. Then it airs and then everybody knows them and they don’t know what’s about to hit them. I did say, “Just take it easy, it’ll be fine, but it will change your life.”

Which past winners are you particularly proud of?

P: John Waite, he was doing his law and now he’s setting up a cooking school and doing telly. Same with Ed [Kimber], Joanne Wheatley’s set up a baking school, I need to catch up with Frances, and Nancy, she’s exactly the same and doing a lot of work for charity now baking with kids.

M: It isn’t only the winners, it’s the others too, and most of them are doing things for charity which of course is lovely.

P: Ian, for instance – with the Alaska thing, he’s now sponsored by waste management [Laughs].

Iain and his beard in happier times

Were you surprised by the furore that came out of Baked Alaskagate [when Iain Watters bunged his bake in the bin]?

P: It was ridiculous!

M: You talk to Ian or Diana and Ian will tell you that it was a huge mistake and he got it. It was runny, it was in the freezer for such a short time. It was just a huge mistake and it was just built up.

P: It fell into the hands of the whole social media [world]. If he brought whatever he’d baked to us, he probably would’ve stayed in. But the fact he threw it away, it’s the message that it gives the kids. You’re praising people that give up. There was nothing to judge. What could we do?

Are the contestants very aware of things like that this year?

P: They get flustered, but no they wouldn’t do anything like that.

We’ve had the lovely flowery jackets in the past, so what’s the iconic Mary clothing item for this series?

M: There are some good jackets this year. Nice and cosy. Same pair of jeans!

Do you enjoy getting clothes for the show?

M: I do! I can’t pass a shop without having a little look in, or even buying them on the internet.

P: I always think it’s amazing. Mary comes out and I’m going, “You can’t wear that!” and then whatever Mary wears it’s almost immaterial because it’ll sell out anyway. Mary could come out in a hessian bag and it would sell [out].

How well behaved were Mel and Sue this year?

P: It was good this year, Mel and Sue were innuendo city again. I was in tears half the time laughing.

Are there many outtakes?

M: It’s always me saying something I don’t understand, and they are in fits. And so I do it again and tell them to behave.

The Great British Bake Off is on BBC1, Wednesdays at 8pm

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