The Great British Bake Off: The Professionals introduces a brand new TV double act. meets Liam Charles and Tom Allen ‘Wethinkof theshowas being Bake Off’s bossy older sister’
Anyone who’s watched The Great British Bake Off will know it’s a competition that can get surprisingly emotional. And its forthcoming sister series, Bake Off: The Professionals, is no different, according to its presenters. “There is so much drama in it,” teases Tom Allen (35), a comedian you’ ll recognise from panel shows such as Mock The Week and 8 Out Of 10 Cats. “It’s a real rollercoaster. There are tears all round really, at various points.”
The show sees 12 professional duos from across the UK go head-to-head in a series of heats and, instead of Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, the judging is down to celebrated pastry chefs Cherish Finden and Benoit Blin.
For 20-year-old co-host Liam Charles, who came fifth in the latest series of The Great British Bake Off (the first since it moved from the BBC to Channel 4), seeing things go wrong with the bakes was “pretty difficult”.
“When stuff like that does happen, we have to be those two people that encourage them to move on and sort of gee them up,” he elaborates. “Basically, we are their support network.”
Hackney-born Charles — known by his friends as Cake Boy — shot to stardom after his time on The Great British Bake Off last year, thanks to his bubbly personality and use of interesting flavours.
“Everyone has been so supportive — ridiculously supportive,” he gushes. “I didn’t think it would be this big, I thought, ‘Okay, cool, I’ll go on the Bake Off show and see what happens’, but then the reception after was like, ‘Wow!’”
People who watched Charles on screen will remember there was one person he talked about a lot — his beloved nan. And, yep, she’s “super excited” about him landing a presenting gig, especially as it’s happened so quickly.
“It’s funny because yesterday I was with her and she was asking me, ‘When is it coming on TV?’” he says.
The role is also a dream come true for Allen, who, at the age of 22, won the UK’s most prestigious comedy newcomer award, So You Think You’re Funny.
“It comes in this long British tradition of camp things, in a way, in that it is taking something that is quite flippant to many people — just baking and cakes and patisserie — and suddenly making it the most important thing in the world,” remarks the comedian, who has previously talked about being gay in his stand-up.
“Something about it just feels naturally fun and witty, and it’s great to be part of it.”
From the way they big each other up and laugh over memories from filming, it’s clear working together came naturally for Charles and Allen.
“I hope that comes across in the show, because we did have such a lovely fun time doing it,” notes Allen. “I’ve learnt so much from Liam in terms of his natural enthusiasm and natural energy towards it all. My job has been finding funnies in things, and hopefully we both sort of taught each other stuff.”
The fact he’s starred in the amateur version of the competition means Charles knows how helpful it is to have the presenters be supportive.
And Allen agrees urging the competitors to do well is at “the heart of the programme”, as well as getting to know them.
“That was the fun of it,” he reflects. “As the TASTY TREATS: competition went on, we really got to know different details about them. Some of them have very interesting lives.”
Both stars have plenty of other projects happening. Allen has been touring with his stand-up show, while Charles is studying Drama and Theatre Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London, and has a cookbook coming out in July.
Surely it was pretty tiring filming this, then?
“You just have to get on with it really,” says Charles matter-of-factly.
Allen agrees wholeheartedly: “Even though we were in the deepest countryside with no phone reception, actually, I couldn’t wait to get back.”
Discussing the pressure surrounding taking on a revamp of a show — when on the BBC, it was called Bake Off: Creme De La Creme and was presented by Tom Kerridge and, later, Angus Deayton — the hosts seem cool and collected.
“It just sort of kicked off without us realising it actually,” recalls Allen. “Meeting the chefs, they were all so lovely.”
“You know what it is, everyone was so welcoming,” Charles affirms. “Bake Off has that vibe.”
And the pair are “very ambitious” for the new version of the spin-off show.
“We think of it as Bake Off’s bossy older sister, that’s just come back from university,” quips Allen.
“She has a personality, has a bit of an edge. She’s great, she knows who she is and she is not taking any prisoners.” The Great British Bake Off: The Professionals, Channel 4, Sunday, 8pm
Presenters Tom AllenandLiam Charles have a passion for food