Old blue eyes casts his gaze on Dublin
Paul Hollywood, co-judge with Mary Berry of Great British Bake Off, was in Dublin this week to promote his new book ... and spill the beans on just what went on in the tent
Baker and Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood, pictured in Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Great British Bake Off winner Frances Quinn (centre) with Paul Hollywood (left) and Mary Berry (right).
“I didn’t see it, my mum didn’t see it, and my mum’s the biggest critic of the lot.” The Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood seems surprised by suggestions that he and Ruby Tandoh, one of the finalists, flirted on screen during filming of the BBC Two series, the final of which was watched by a record 9.1 millions viewers on Tuesday night. “I don’t normally watch the programme, but I watched the quarter-finals with four of my mates in a pub, to see what everyone was talking about.”
Tandoh, a 21-year-old student of philosophy, who was doing her finals at the same time as filming the programme, decried the accusations of flirting and favouritism as “boring and predictable”.
She also had a feisty response for the chef Raymond Blanc, whose Twitter comment on the morning of the final about “female tears” – Tandoh was often filmed in an emotional state as the competition progressed – and “a winner so thin who makes me doubt her love for great cooking, baking”, led fans of the programme to believe that the result was a foregone conclusion in favour of the former model.
Hollywood and his co-judge, Mary Berry, said on screen that they had “someone in mind” for the title, going into the final task, in which the three finalists had to create a “show-stopper” wedding cake in six hours. Three less than perfect cakes later, did they change their minds?
“We did have to adjust, slightly,” Hollywood says. So did they pick a new winner at the last minute? “Maybe”, he says, suggesting that Tandoh’s not-so-show-stopping wedding cake may have handed the honours to the eventual winner, children’s clothes designer Frances Quinn. “We judge it on the way it looks and the way it tastes, and Frances won on both. She just got better and better,” Hollywood says.
“You could win star baker every week and then fail in the final and you will lose, because each one stands on its own. You remember who’s won and who the strong ones are. If it’s close, then we look back to see. There is a benefit to winning star baker, and Ruby and Kimberley would have been fighting it out. The same thing happened last year with John and Brendan. James and Brendan were seeded higher, but John came through and won it.”
Hollywood watched the televised final in London with the crew and co-presenters, including Berry. “Chris Evans came and joined us, too, and we had some drinks and all sat down and watched it together.” The gentile Berry seems an unlikely drinking partner for the baker, who describes himself, rather harshly, as “just a bit of rough from Liverpool”. But their double act is one of the linchpins of the show, which moves to BBC One next year in recognition of its move to mainstream rather than niche broadcasting. “She’s just like my mum; we are a good partnership,” Hollywood says of his co-judge.
They must have had some cosy chats over the four seasons of GBBO, sequestered in their little judges’ tent while the drama simmered in the big marquee as the contestants grappled with the technical challenges? “Not really. It’s recorded ‘as live’, so it’s quite interactive, and there’s always something going on. We film our ‘hero’ thing, then go back to the green room and put our feet up for about half an hour. Then we go back to the tent and judge theirs.”