Bake Off: The Professionals – A maze of misery, with nice cakes
TV review: Even some of the professionals can’t create patisserie perfection
Judges, from left, Benoit Blin, Liam Charles, Cherish Finden and Tom Allen. Photograph: Channel 4
Tom Allen, who is hosting the new series of Bake Off: The Professionals (Channel 4, Tuesday) with Liam Charles, has it right when he suggests to the contestants that making a cake is never fun. Instead it’s “a maze of misery brought on by the perpetual pursuit of patisserie perfection”.
Anyone who has ever inadvertently used 12 tablespoons instead of teaspoons of some substance or other, all because the ingredients lister was too bloody lazy to spell the complete word, would know this to be true, all that effort ending with a gruel-like substance swilling around the oven shelf when it was supposed to be a cupcake with a swan on top. It is, indeed, a maze of misery.
With professionals, though, you’d expect it to be a less godforsaken experience, but as we witness in this first episode, it can be no less of an ordeal. “Childbirth is definitely a lot less stressful,” as one of them, Natalie, puts it.
At least an epidural is an option in childbirth, but none is offered to the contestants to ease their pain when confronted with the brutality of the judges, Cherish Finden and Benoit Blin, neither of them showing any appreciation of the calamity-strewn hell some of the contestants have just been through. Not least James and Neta, when their ice cream dissolves into a puddle, leaving their effort to reinvent the fruit salad looking like an accident left by the cat on the kitchen floor.
They are withering, too, towards Andrew and Ian, whose strawberry tarts, Cherish says, remind her of “my school dinner”, leaving those in the audience whose school dinners bore more of a resemblance to an accident left by the cat on the kitchen floor wondering where on earth she’d received her education.
Andrew and Ian are from Ramsbottom, near Manchester. Tom says he’d move to Manchester if it weren’t for “the dreadful Gary Barlow”. Ian says Gary blocked him on Facebook. “Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it,” he adds. For that alone, Cherish should have declared his strawberry tarts to be a triumph.
At least Cherish says their upside-down pineapple cake is “exquisite”, a moment Andrew and Ian will never forget, but some of their rivals don’t fare so well, the best Benoit can say about Natalie and Kristine’s effort being that it tastes pineappley.
Clanny and Ryan, meanwhile, go to the extreme trouble of dangling a cakey imitation of a pineapple from the top of the large chocolate wheel they have constructed. The moment they step back to see if it will hold shreds our nerves.
It does, though, and they are proud as punch, their grins when Cherish arrives to check it out suggesting they are anticipating a swoonfest.
“Did it wow me?” she asks. They beam some more. “Not really,” she says with a shrug.
They are as crestfallen as a kid who was promised a puppy for Christmas but instead finds a jigsaw of one under the tree. A maze of misery.