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’

Ge­or­gia Humphreys

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - WEEKEND TV -

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

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