A Perthshire man is among the youngest-ever line-up of The Great British Bake Off, with this year’s participants comprising 13 amateur bakers rather than the usual 12.
Theatre manager and fitness instructor Michael was taught to bake by his mother using old, handwritten recipes passed down from her grandparents.
Born in Newcastle, he was raised in Scone from the age of seven and later studied in Edinburgh, and he considers himself Scottish. He works as a manager at a theatre company in Stratford-upon-Avon.
He is inspired by the flavours of his Indian heritage and, although he has attempted nearly every discipline in baking, his strengths are in cakes and pastry.
Michael said: “This was the very first time that I applied. One night I applied as I was a bit bored. I never thought I would get to the audition process so when I found out it was a mixture of shock and blind panic!”
The baker’s dozen of hopefuls includes seven people in their 20s while the oldest contestant is 56, with an average age of 31 in the tent.
In previous years there have been contestants in their 60s and 70s, and the majority of line-ups have had an average age closer to 40.
There are usually 12 amateurs in the Bake Off each year, with the exception of 2013 when 13 took part, and the first series in 2010 when there were only 10.
The aspiring bakers will be competing to impress judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood across a series of challenges where they will be tasked with baking cakes, biscuits and breads among other tasty creations in a bid to be named Bake Off champion.
The upcoming series, which kicks off next week, will be the third to air on Channel 4 after the show parted ways with the BBC.
Among this year’s contestants are a geography teacher, a fashion designer, an HGV driver and a veterinary surgeon.
Geography teacher Alice, 28, took up baking at the age of 15 when a back operation for scoliosis left her unable to do sport.
In her early 20s, she moved to New Zealand, where she picked up the art of making a pavlova while attending art school. Now back in the UK and living in London, Alice often uses her cakes in her lessons, demonstrating natural activities such as coastal erosion and volcanic activity.
She said: “I have wanted to be in Bake Off ever since the show has started, but I wasn’t really good enough when I was 18. To be on such a big show doing something that you are passionate about is a huge thing.
“I also felt that to be accepted into the tent gave me the confidence to feel that I could bake. It was a dream come true.”
Amelia, a 24-year-old sportswear designer from Halifax, has been baking since the age of five, when she watched her mother and grandmother make beautiful cake decorations.
Although now living in London, Amelia – who has wanted to take part in Bake Off since the first series in 2010 – still draws on her northern roots in her baking and firmly believes that freshly farmed produce is essential for a good bake.
The new series of The Great British Bake Off, hosted by Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig, will begin on Channel 4 on August 27 at 8pm.
The new series of The Great British Bake Off kicks off next week, with 13 amateur bakers taking to the tent.
Find out more about the contestants who will be whipping up a frenzy in the kitchen in a bid to impress judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood…
Job: Support worker
Bio: Dan says he is largely a self-taught baker, but has memories of watching his mother bake a Victoria sponge as a child and his army chef father coming to his school to teach how to bake and plait bread. He became serious about baking at the age of 21 while trying to impress his girlfriend Laura, who is now his wife, with a themed birthday cake. Dan, who lives with Laura and their three dogs, even made their wedding cake.
Baking style: He is a fan of the decorating process and he loves to produce awe-inspiring bakes.
He says: “I have been trying for a few years now, so finally I am here. It’s absolutely crazy, really amazing, I was so adamant to get on, it’s very hard to describe the feelings, all strange and surreal. And then when you are in the tent it all feels normal pretty quickly.”
Job: Online project manager
Bio: Helena’s introduction to baking came at a young age as she watched her Spanish grandmother in the kitchen, but it was moving to Las Vegas and living with a Mormon family for a school exchange trip that prompted her to start baking herself. Born in Ceuta – an autonomous Spanish city on the north coast of Africa – Helen was raised in Lanzarote and studied in mainland Spain, but now lives in Leeds with her husband and baby daughter.
Baking style: A fan of using American flavours such as pumpkin, pecans and maple, Helena also enjoys using Spanish flavours and is often inspired by Halloween in her bakes.
She says: “I won a baking competition at work and that gave me the confidence to apply. Although when I learned that I had got in I had a bit of a confidence crisis thinking, can I possibly be good enough?”
Job: Part-time waiter
Bio: Jamie was taught the basics by his grandmother and his parents, but it was after watching an episode of Bake Off and being inspired to make a plaited loaf that really saw his baking passion take hold. He was born and raised in Surrey with his identical twin and currently has a job as a part-time waiter before studying sports science at university.
Baking style: He is not afraid to tackle more technically challenging bakes such as croquembouches and croissants, but has a fairly traditional approach to flavours.
He says: “When they called to tell me it was a real shock, I really wasn’t expecting it at all. But a nice shock. All my mates don’t even know that I bake so they will get a shock to see me in an apron!”
Job: Fashion designer
Bio: Born to a Caribbean father and a half-British/half-Polish mother, Amelia has been baking for 19 years after watching her mother and grandmother creating beautiful cake decorations as a child. She grew up in Halifax and studied in Leeds and Leicester, and honed her baking skills while at university, baking for friends and college fundraising events. She currently lives in London and works as a sportswear designer.
Baking style: Inspired by her northern roots, she believes that freshly farmed produce is essential for a satisfying bake.
She says: “I have wanted to get into the tent since series one. It’s still not sunk in, but it’s a dream come true.
Job: International health adviser
Bio: Having grown up in rural Yorkshire with a mother who would always bake and refuse to buy a loaf from the shops, Dan was inspired to bake as a child. He became further interested in the art of baking after travelling to Malawi with his job as a health adviser, where he learnt to build an oven out of an oil drum and invented a cake that could steam cook over a village fire. He studied art and design before switching to nursing, and enjoys cycling and ceramics.
Baking style: His strengths lie in baking bread and he prefers robust flavours and solid bakes to fancy, colourful icings.
He says: “I have watched Bake Off from the start, and I have daydreamed so many times walking to work about being in it for such a long time. And when I got accepted it was such a mixture of emotions. Then I thought this is really crazy, am I good enough, will I have enough time to practice?”
Job: Geography teacher
Bio: Alice started baking at the age of 15 when a back operation for scoliosis left her unable to do sport. She lived in New Zealand in her early 20s, where she studied art and also perfected the art of a pavlova, before returning to the UK to become a geography teacher. She now uses her cakes in her lessons, demonstrating natural events such as coastal erosion and volcanic activity with her edible creations.
Baking style: She is keen on intricate and delicate bakes, full of flavour and enthusiasm and aiming to impress.
She says: “I have wanted to be in Bake Off ever since the show has started, but I wasn’t really good enough when I was 18. To be on such a big show doing something that you are passionate about is a huge thing. I also felt that to be accepted into the tent gave me the confidence to feel that I could bake. It was a dream come true!”
Bio: Henry became interested in all things culinary and baking at the age of 12, as he was intrigued by the Bake Off tent that was pitched up in his local park. He started experimenting in the kitchen and supplied his family, friends and teachers with a variety of bakes. Now studying English literature at Durham University, he enjoys feeding his housemates with his creations.
Baking style: He is fond of elegant bakes composed of delicate and carefully combined flavours.
He says: “I have wanted to get into the tent since series two. They filmed it at the end of my road, so I used to see Paul Hollywood when I walked past the tent to go to school in the mornings, so I really got into it. To be inside the actual tent was totally wonderful.”
Job: Print shop administrator
Lives: Tenby, Wales
Bio: Michelle, who grew up on a farm, has been a lover of baking since she was a child, watching her mother whip up traditional bakes. She now bakes almost every other day, whether it is a loaf of bread or a dessert for her husband and teenage son.
Baking style: Experimental flavour combinations are key, as well as the inclusion of seasonable vegetables and local produce, with a precise and finessed edge.
Job: HGV driver
Bio: This year’s oldest competitor, Phil took up baking seriously six years ago, but was always fond of baking bread in his home economics classes in his school days. Regularly baking four or five times a week, he focuses on breads such as focaccia, granary and brioche, but he also likes trying pastry and relishes the challenge of hot-water crust, puff and choux. Working early shifts as a driver means he is able to spend the rest of his day cooking for his wife and two daughters as well as baking treats for his motorcycle meetings with friends.
Baking style: A fan of breads in particular, he also spends time perfecting the art of decoration and piping, crafting delicately decorated cakes.
He says: “The most surprised (that I am in Bake Off) will be a couple who are long-term friends and they had been staying with us recently and said you make such wonderful cakes, but have never mentioned to me that I should go on Bake Off, so I think they haven’t a clue that I would be in it.”
Job: Marketing consultant
Bio: Priya, a self-professed perfectionist, started to take baking seriously 10 years ago as a means to relax, but her first foray into baking was in her youth at a baking club at primary school. A wedding present of a stand mixer seven years ago only boosted her passion even more, and she is known to toil for hours into the night baking bread and also for delivering bags of tasty treats to friends and family. She lives in Leicester with her husband and their two children.
Baking style: Priya has recently started experimenting with vegan bakes and likes to use tropical, fruity flavours.
She says: “I downloaded the application for Bake Off in 2012 the year I got married but I thought I would never get in. I applied again last year, and then this year I got in and it was so dreamy and unreal. I was in no doubt it would change my life. And it taught me to pursue the things you love, and you just have to go for it.”
Job: Theatre manager and fitness instructor
Bio: Michael was taught to bake by his mother using old, handwritten recipes passed down from her grandparents. Born in Newcastle, he was raised in Scone in Scotland from the age of seven and later studied in Edinburgh, and he considers himself Scottish. He currently works as a manager at a theatre company in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Baking style: He is inspired by the flavours of his Indian heritage and, although he has attempted nearly every discipline in baking, his strengths are in cakes and pastry.
He says: “This was the very first time that I applied, one night I applied as I was a bit bored, I never thought I would get to the audition process. So when I found out it was a mixture of shock and blind panic!”
Job: Veterinary surgeon
Bio: Rosie’s passion for baking started when she was given a baking book at the age of five, and it has continued into her adult life. When she is not treating sick animals, she can be found baking through the night to unwind and also to keep the practice nurses well-fed. The amateur baker grew up in Oxfordshire and studied at Cambridge, is married to her childhood sweetheart and has many animals, including ducks and chickens.
Baking style: She enjoys patisserie and her baking is inspired by her rural surroundings.
She says: “The nurses at work are going to be so surprised, they will have no idea. They asked me the other day would I apply again and I could honestly and categorically answer, no I don’t think I will!”
Job: Shop assistant
Bio: Steph took up baking when her grandfather inspired her thanks to his love of homemade bread. Although it has long been a hobby of hers, she really became serious around three years ago and is largely self-taught. She lives in Chester with her mother, and her passion for sports and wellness inspires her in the kitchen as she enjoys making healthier bakes, adding vegetables and fruit and lowering the refined sugar content and upping nutritional fats.
Baking style: She is particularly fond of biscuits, but her signature bake is a sourdough load using her starter, affectionately called Sammy.
She says: “It’s a bit like a lottery, it wasn’t really joined up thinking, I didn’t think that I would get in, I wanted to give it a go. It’s just beyond anything that I can imagine, because I didn’t really dream that I would get in, it has been the most incredible surreal experience.”