Paul Hollywood has criticised cruel trolls who target Great British Bake Off contestants online, warning: “This can damage people.”
The TV judge previously came to the defence of 2020 finalist Laura Adlington, blasting the “disgusting behaviour” of vicious online bullies.
Ahead of the new series of the hit Channel 4 show, Hollywood said he has also faced abuse online and has become used to it but still gets upset, adding that show contestants are “raw, they’re new, they’re not used to this”.
He said: “I had to come out last year in support of Laura, because it was out of order.
“It had gone out of control, and it is so easy in lockdown when people have got nothing else to do, and all they’re going to do is bombard someone they’re not particularly happy with, and you can’t feed into people like that, you’ve got to be really careful – and so I had to say something.
“I think ultimately, you’re always going to get sides, you know, it’s like football – you’re always going to get one side against another, but I think ultimately as long as you support them, and Bake Off do, I saw what was happening and I had to say something.”
He added: “It is difficult. Ultimately, I’ve had to deal with a lot of stuff, it is what it is, there’s a backlash and you get used to it to a point, but it still upsets me.
“I’m a judge on a baking show, I’m not a politician, I’m not anything else – I’m just a baker and I get bombarded with stuff that I shouldn’t be bombarded with.
“So, I’ve learned to live with it, however difficult it is, but it’s not fair on the bakers because they’re raw, they’re new, they’re not used to this, and you’ve got to be really careful.
“This can damage people, this really, really hurt people, and I think you’ve got to be really careful. There’ll be a backlash and you just don’t want it, it’s not fair.”
Hollywood’s fellow judge Prue Leith continued: “It’s such a pity, especially with a show like Bake Off, which is generally friendly.
“And I think the audience love it because nobody’s trying to get one over on somebody, nobody is trying to cheat or diss each other – the bakers are supportive to each other, we try to support the bakers.
“It’s just awful that Bake Off contestants should be victimised in that way.”
The beloved baking series will return to screens later this month after the show was once again filmed in a bubble because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hollywood said the standard of baking “certainly the highest I’ve ever encountered” in the new series, with contestants tackling “free from” baking, where even the judges learned some new skills.
Both Hollywood and Leith said they were initially sceptical about some of the baking without dairy or gluten, but said they were impressed by the standard.
Leith said: “Paul is more forthright about these things. We’re both classically trained: me a cook, him a baker. So, we tend to be approving of what we’re used to – the classic way to do things and so on.
“I have always liked gluten free cakes for example, because gluten free cakes could be flourless cakes, like a sort of chocolate roulade or something.”
She continued: “But where I think my prejudice shows is I was surprised that they could do so many beautiful, amazing bakes with substitute ingredients.
“The great French chef Fernand Point, who started the nouvelle cuisine revolution just after the war, his great motto was ‘the secret of great cuisine is butter, butter and more butter’. And that’s sort of ingrained in me with the flavour of butter, you know – you put it on veg, you put it on the chicken before you roast it, butter goes everywhere… to cook without butter would seem to me to be impossible.
“Actually, it’s perfectly possible and the bakers prove it, and they did wonderful things with no butter and cream, using coconut cream or other stuff, amazing.
“It was good for us; I think we both came up quite surprised with how wonderful it was. I learned something all the time, I think Paul learns less because you know, he’s been baking for a lot longer than me.”
Hollywood added: I find the gluten free and vegan stuff and dairy free fascinating. It will be incidental that one of my recipes might be gluten free, or dairy free or whatever, but it’s not something I practise enough to know the difference between the two, mainly because I’m not dairy free or gluten free or vegan, so I don’t need to practice that.
“So, I almost rely on the bakers to introduce me into this world of alternative ingredients. And I’ve been surprised.”
The Great British Bake Off returns to Channel 4 on September 21.