Interview: Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood
Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood spill the goss on this year’s series...
If, like us, you’ve been hooked on the latest series of Great British Bake Off, then this is the interview for you. From finding someone to replace Nadiya as the reigning champ of Bake Off, to how those innuendos really came about... Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood dish up all of the delicious gossip on our favourite TV series.
Hi Mary! We heard you have some Scottish connections, is that true?
I’m very proud of my Scottish ancestry – my mother was a Scot. She was actually born on the banks of Loch Lomond at Alexandria and then went to Glasgow High. So I certainly feel the Scottish connection.
Do you think the contestants are under more pressure now – especially with Nadiya having done so much since last year?
Mary: They know the standard it is which is now pretty high and I think they were slower to bond this year than they were in the past, but it gets better and better, and better. Each time when I arrive and there are 12 it is so daunting, and for me to remember all those names! Gradually the personality builds up because remember we don’t spend time early on with our bakers which makes it exceedingly fair – so it isn’t until we get right into the whole situation that we get to know them. Paul: I think there is an element of that a lot, which is really led by the media because at the end of the day if you get behind someone they feel the pressure. Nadiya went to a whole new level and because of that the pressure is on the contestants even more. But actually they come out on top – they started nervously but once they settled into it the baking was really good.
Do you think this series is better than previous years?
Mary: In different ways, but then it’s never the same. We can’t make up our mind early on and even on the final – the three that are there you think you know they are all much of a muchness, only one mistake and they are gone.
Do you think the fact it’s a nice show, helps the popularity of the show?
Mary: It is nice all the way through and we do disagree a bit but at the end of the day all we want is the best baker and how we get there is we both have our own individual way. It’s always interesting in all your publications that are bakers when they talk how they talk about the actual Bake Off team really are, Martha [previous contestant] actually said, “Oh we were all looked after.” But once they are out they can tell you anything they want! And you put it in there, so it’s nice when I read it back and they really appreciate that Bake Off looks after them. Paul:Pa We start in the same station and end up at the same station. Some of the bakers we were at times detached from the outside wo world, it is literally four of us, some bakers in the tent and some cameras, so we feel totally detached in this huge thing which is the Bake Off Off. We don’t feel that in the tent at all, we don’tdon feel nervous – the bakers do feel it but they get used to it get used to the cameras then feel totally detached so on the programme you see them quite cool, quite mellow and that’sthat because they feelfe detached in a house in the middle of the English countryside miles away from everybody.ev
We do our job and I think that comes across on camera – it’s a mellow programme, you want to watch to chill out and I think that’s part of the feeling we get in the tent.
Do you think Bake Off would work live?
Paul: I’d love that, we did a live one for the Edinburgh Festival for the BBC with a couple of commissioners doing the baking live and it was the funniest thing I’d seen for a while. Mary: It’s amazing how well they did! But I think the thing is that the 12 come and the beginning is very difficult because they don’t know each other – they don’t know if it’s going to be a friend, or how to communicate with the others but when a friendship builds up, that’s when the programme really gets going – for me anyway. Paul: Four episodes in I played the theme song for Bake Off on my phone when they walked in and it suddenly dawns on them where they are.
Would you like to take the show on the road – maybe to the theatre?
Paul: Oh no – it would work fantastically on stage but it’s exhausting. Mary: Leave my family and go off on the road? Oh no! It would not be happening. I mean I love the BBC Good Food Show when the two of us are on stage live in front of 2,000 people, it’s tremendous and enormous fun and the audience love it, but that’s a one-off as far as I’m concerned because it’s a great strain being away from home. Going to Bake Off is like joining the family, the whole team, you are thrilled as soon as you walk in, it’s very nice.
There are a lot of innuendos on the show...
Paul: When we started, the first words out of Mary’s mouth were ‘nice crack’ and that really set the tone. It was hilarious. Mary: I have real trouble and it goes on and all three encourage each other while I’m trying to keep them all level and on the job.
Who wears the trousers on Bake Off?
Both: We both do!
How did the weather affect this year’s series?
“Nadiya had flair from the beginning. She concentrated and she grew.”
Paul: It wasn’t the best year, but last year was pretty wet. It’s been very dry but a bit cloudy.
Does the weather ever affect the bakes?
Mary: You can be assured if we are doing chocolate or ice cream it’s always sunny! Paul: We had a yeast challenge and it was a warm day... Mary: That was lucky, but we had one or two sunny days that we could sit out in between which was nice.
Is Bake Off competitive?
Paul: It is. What was curious was that they know when they have done something wrong so although they really want to show off, when we say ‘No I don’t like it’ they get really upset and no one chastises them more than themselves. Nadiya said in the paper that she got upset about one of the bakes and I whispered to her ‘It doesn’t matter’ and I’ve actually done that this year too. It depends on how upset they get and the big horrible person that I am, you don’t see that I’ll go and have a quiet word. Mary: You’re forgetting the looks you give them – that puts the fear of God into them!
What made Nadiya a perfect winner last year?
Mary: Nadiya had flair from the beginning, she concentrated, she had exceptional knowledge in her head before she started and we always love a home baker – she’s a natural home baker. Her family appreciated her and she just grew and grew.
Paul and Mary say they both wear the trousers on the show...
Mary with last year’s winner, Nadiya.