Paul Hollywood: This year’s Great British Bake Off contestants are ‘nervous but competitive’

The phrase ‘soggy bottoms’ takes on a whole meaning when TV Times spots the hallowed Great British Bake Off (BBC1, Wednesday, August 5) tent…

Invited to watch filming for the 2015 series, we had rather hoped, like last year, to be soaking up the sunshine in the glorious grounds of Welford Park near Newbury, being fed the odd slice of Mary’s divine lemon drizzle cake as we chat to Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins.

Alas, it’s bucketing it down as we squelch our way over to the tent, the patio chairs wet-through, promising a soggy bottom of a quite different kind if we dared brave a sit down. That doesn’t mean spirits are low though – far from it.

Does the rain dampen your spirits?
Sue: “This is Bake Off, it’s always sunny in our world!”

Are you excited to get back to the tent?
Mel: “It’s like no time has passed at all since last year. It’s part of life now. Exciting and always different. This year’s contestants are a cracking bunch.”
Mary: “Could there be a nicer job than working with these three? We’re a family. The whole Bake Off team is a family and we love it.”
Mel: “If one left we’d probably all leave. We’ve made a pact.”
Paul: “No we haven’t!”
Mel: “In blood!”
Sue: “No, caramel! Seriously, we have a ball. Although it does get harder to wrest puns from baked goods, I won’t lie. We’ve probably used them all by now.”
Mel: “They were all used by series three. We were doing double entendres in series two and three, and single entendres in four and five. Just rude! This year we’re being quite well-behaved.”
Paul: “Er, the first challenge in the first episode?”
Sue: “I don’t know what you’re talking about… Was it nuts?”
Mel: “Crack, you had to get a really good deep crack…”

How are the contestants? Nervous or competitive?
Paul: “They’re more nervous than competitive this year because last year’s show was built up as being the biggest programme on television.

“I said to a few bakers, ‘This’ll change your life, you know.’ They’re protected now, here in the tent, but once we air they don’t know what’ll hit them!

“They’re a fascinating bunch. They’ve all been exceptionally good from the off. They haven’t bonded quite as quickly as they normally do, although that’s happening now they’re getting to know one another better.”

This week’s first episode is cake week where the bakers must whip up a Madeira cake, walnut cake and classic Black Forest gateau. It must be hard work getting to try all of those cakes?
Mary: “I actually find the first episode the hardest to judge as there’s 12 people, so an awful lot to taste and look at.”
Sue: “I have no problem with that! I’m straight in. I get heavier each year. I’m twice the woman I was in the first series.”

What can we expect from the challenges? Will Schichttorte be on the menu again?
Paul: “Shichttorte? I’d say that was really complicated. There are some fiendishly difficult challenges this year, but there’s also some basic ones. We’ve brought in more attainable, aspirational bakes, so people at home will think of giving it a go. We’re also doing a Victorian week which will be interesting, using ingredients only available in that period. Mary was born then!”
Mary: “He doesn’t improve as you can see! What’s interesting though is that although they’ve watched five series and are first-rate bakers, they still make mistakes. It’s how they cope with a bake going wrong. Will they make another …”
Mel: “Or throw it in the bin and end up on Newsnight!”

What did you make of the whole ‘Bingate’ furore?
Paul: “The whole thing was ridiculous! Nothing happened here. All I said to Iain was, ‘Why did you bin it, mate?’ Giving up is the wrong message to give out to all the kids who watch.

“We had nothing to judge so he went. It wasn’t Diana’s fault. Just because three people tweeted about it, it shouldn’t make headline news. But that’s the evils of social networking. Even the PM was getting involved!

“Iain’s now being sponsored by a Waste Management company.”

Paul: “NO! Just kidding.”

As the rain picks up, the series producer, Paolo Proto, comes over to tell us they’re halting filming as the rain’s so loud on the tent roof they won’t be able to hear the judges’ comments.

Do you have many problems with the tent?
Paolo: “Noise is our biggest problem. One day we had 17 planes fly over in 80 minutes. The Middletons live nearby and the Royal baby had just been born so it was the princess going over.”

Can you tell us what we’re in store for with this series?
Paul: “We’re seeing some unusual flavours in the bakes this year.”
Sue: “Oh yes, I did enjoy the badger-flavoured scones.”
Mel: “Right, if we’re not filming, let’s watch a box set. We watched Mad Men the other year and I’m desperate to crack on with The Prisoner this summer.”
Sue: “That’s if Mary doesn’t get sidetracked by Jeremy Kyle. And Paul doesn’t do that old Silverback ‘Grrrrr’ thing and put motor racing on. If he does we’ll have to play more tricks on him. We destroyed his car last year. Stole it and defaced it.”
Paul: “My revenge is in hand…”
Mary: “It’s going to be a long summer. But I promise you a wonderful series. I love the thought of grandparents, mums, dads and children settling down together again to watch the bakers go on amazing journeys. It’s going to be fun.”