The winner of the Great British Bake-off will be, most probably, Prue Leith or Paul Hollywood. As judges they have a high profile and the knock-on benefit of book sales and TV appearances is significant. Paul Hollywood has allegedly amassed a fortune of £10m since joining the programme in 2010.
More recently, I have noticed that my former boss, Prue Leith, who had swapped cookery books for writing novels – eight so far – has just published her first cookery book in 25 years. The reason being that the TV bakers have inspired her to pick up her whisk once more.
Apart from the lucrative work that falls to the judges and presenters, the finalists do well once the series is over. Who will raise the cake stand and accumulate lucrative contracts is a hard one to call as the semi-finalists are now jostling for position, but the programme is no longer just about baking. Watching last night, I couldn’t help but feel the bakers were hoodwinked by a theme that was set-up to fail.
I have said before that I feel frustrated that the bakers are not given a proper recipe in the technical challenge. I know that if we have 16 people in a kitchen following the same recipe we will get 16 different results, but at least everyone has a good chance of getting it right. With increasingly rare bakes as the challenge, full instructions would allow judges to sort out the good bakers rather than just sending them into a blind panic! And in last night’s show, even Prue admitted she had not heard of the challenge herself. As these challenges become more and more obscure, it is the ability of the bakers to keep their head, rather than bake well, which is the real test.
Clearly the stress created in the quarter final was affecting everyone. Kim Joy’s crying was hard to watch and even Rahul knew it was he who should have gone home. It was not the easiest episode to watch and I even questioned afterwards whether I had actually enjoyed it.
So my wish list for the remaining episodes includes: bring in some air conditioning when making laminated pastries and doughs, it is just not fair asking them to create featherlight buttery pastries when it is 27C in the tent; and create an atmosphere in which bakers are just given the chance to demonstrate their skill and knowledge, rather than trying to trick them. Beyond that, whoever wins now is going to be the person who keeps the most calm and collected, even if they have never heard of the technical challenge.