Bake Off 2015 finalist Dr Tamal Ray previews his new science series and why the nation’s favourite show moving to Channel 4 is OK by him…
This time last year, we watched Dr Tamal Ray tying on his pinny in preparation for the 2015 final of The Great British Bake Off.
Now Tamal, whose day job is an anaesthetist at Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital, is the new co-host, with Kate Quilton, of Be Your Own Doctor (Monday, October 24), a new Channel 4 health series that aims to help viewers figure out which health advice we read on the internet is sensible, and which is just plain silly. Here Dr Tamal Ray tells us more…
Tamal, is presenting your first TV show more or less scary than being on Bake Off?
“Bake Off is a baptism of fire – both being on telly and the stress of the competition – but fun as well. Presenting a TV show is a whole new challenge – I was nervous, but it was great to have the confidence my medical background gives me. I’ve got quite a lot of passions – you’ve seen one side of me with the baking, but I love health and science and so this show is a perfect fit and I can fit it in around work.”
What’s the aim of the show?
“It’s to take a more critical look, in a light-hearted way, at some of the health claims that are out there on the internet. We’re trying to inform the public a bit about how to know good science from bad science.
“These days, patients don’t come into the GP’s surgery as blank slates any more – they’ve got preconceptions about their condition and how it should be treated. The doctor’s job is to point people in the right direction. If you separate the good stuff from the bad, there’s great stuff on the internet – just recently I changed a tyre for the first time using You Tube!”
In the first episode you meet new mums who’d paid a fortune to have their placentas made into pills they said gave them energy. Was that a ridiculous idea?
“Some of the claims that get made are too good to be true and, yes, I am generally a sceptical person. We had the pills tested and I was really surprised by how little iron there actually was in them. The women were, too.”
You also tested out substances said to remove plaque from teeth. Kate tried the celebrity fad of ‘pulling’ [that is, swilling] coconut oil in the mouth, while all you did was chew sugar-free gum…
“I felt bad for Kate. I definitely got lucky just chewing gum while she had to swill this gunk for 20 minutes a day. I’d never heard of pulling before, yet I’ve since found out it’s an ancient Ayurvedic Indian remedy – and I’m Indian! But that segment is quite embarrassing for me – it’s to do with how well I brush my teeth.”
And how do you feel about Bake Off moving to C4?
“I feel pretty good about it. I’m definitely one of the show’s biggest fans – I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every series, I’ve got them all on my computer and if I’m ever feeling bored or down I’ll watch them. My feeling is that after seven series, something has to change. Otherwise, like with anything, we would get bored of it eventually.”
Are you still finding time to bake?
“I’m still doing a fair bit. Over the summer I made two wedding cakes and they were proper showstoppers, although I had a calamity when one of them fell over in the car two minutes from the reception. I was screaming, but I managed to rescue it in the end.”