Who eats all the leftover food?
The good news is that the extra food doesn’t all go to waste.
As soon as we finished filming, the camera crew would attack the bakes like a swarm of flies. They particularly liked when there were savory bakes in the tent, so the terrine pies — mine were filled with curried chicken and potato — went down a treat.
Luckily, some of the producers took big slices out of all of our bakes and gave them to us contestants, so we got to try everyone’s stuff. I don’t think I tried any of the technical bakes, though, because I was so traumatized after them.
What’s judge Paul Hollywood really like? Is he as intimidating as he seems?
The way Paul Hollywood stands with his hands in his pockets, glaring at everyone seems pretty scary. I remember panicking so much before my first judging because I was petrified of him and Lady Prue Leith.
However, I am pleased to report that Paul is great – he would actually crack a few jokes when he came ’round to chat about our bakes. We definitely had a good laugh about how much miso I was using in my recipes!
The most intimidating thing about both of the judges is their years of experience in their fields, which makes it really daunting when they are about to judge your bakes.
Are Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas annoying?
Hosts Matt and Noel often come around during the bakes to chat with contestants, so many people have asked me if I just wanted them to go away so I could concentrate.
Truth be told, it was actually a breath of fresh air when they came over to chat with me.
The tent can get pretty stressful at times, so having them come over to have a bit of banter really does take the pressure off you, and reminds you to enjoy the process and relax a bit more.
How much did you practice before you went in?
It was really a balancing act because I was working full time before going into the tentso I was squeezing in recipe development, grocery shopping, and baking practice either before work or as soon as I had logged off.
I remember being in such a conundrum because we got the briefs for the signature and showstoppers for weeks one through nine in advance and had to submit everything before going into the tent.
My week-one anti-gravity cake was refusing to defy gravity, so I thought to myself, “I’m really going to shoot myself in the foot if I go out in week one because I spent so long practicing a week-nine recipe when I’m most likely not even going to make it there!”
So, I focused on the bakes for weeks one through three the most and tried to practice those at least twice — and until my cake actually didn’t collapse.
I practiced the bakes for weeks four through seven one time each. For the final two weeks, I just thought I’d get a recipe down and leave it at that because I didn’t even contemplate still being in the competition by then.
What do you do in between filming days?
We had two days in between filming days, which were essentially our practice days. This was only because we were living in a COVID-19 bubble and had to stay in a set area, otherwise, we’d be at home for the week.
We’d have from 9 am to 5 pm to practice our bakes, but we would often be called to do fun little bits of filming in between for the show’s social media, or for the spin-off show, “Extra Slice.”
The evenings were when we really got to have a bit of downtime. All of the bakers would eat dinner together, and sometimes our amazing production team would organize fun activities like tea parties, tennis matches, and films.
One of the best evenings was when Paul Hollywood and the home economists made us pizza. That was definitely one of the moments when I thought, “What is my life right now?” and “Is this really happening?”
Did all of the bakers have a similar level of baking experience?
In my cohortnot everyone had the same levels of experience.
I was coming in with three years of experience, but there were others in the tent who had been baking for more than 30 years.
The best part was that those who were more experienced were so incredibly helpful in imparting their knowledge to the rest of us.
Even though I was pretty inexperiencedI would give my fellow bakers a little tutorial on the few things I did know, like piping flowers.
We all brought our own baking styles and really learned so much from each other.
Were you familiar with most of the bakes before you went into the tent?
Absolutely not! Almost every bake in that tent was new to me.
I had never heard of a joconde collar, or a yeasted cake, and had definitely never attempted to make an interactive toy from biscuits or a roast chicken out of milk bread.
I was in a right state of panic when I saw the briefs for the weekly challenges, and was really convinced that everything would be a disaster. But I soon learned that Google was my best friend, and practice makes (almost) perfect.
I was fighting off a lot of imposter syndrome during my time on the show because everything just seemed so out of my remit, but I was determined to do my bestregardless of how much experience I had.
Is the technical bake totally a surprise? Have you guessed it before?
They are absolutely a surprise.
I wish I knew what the technical challenges were in advance because maybe I would’ve done better … Who am I kidding? I was always destined for disaster in those.
The bakers and I would always try to guess what they’d be, but we never got it right.
During bread week, we were convinced that the technical challenge was going to be crumpets – it was almost a no-brainer. And then we heard “ciabatta breadsticks” and I think a part of me died inside.
Do you really wear the same clothes over and over? Do you wash them?
It sounds pretty odd, especially if you’re a messy baker like me and find green buttercream on the sleeve of your top or yuzu curd on your shoelaces.
Luckily, we had access to washing machines. But if I was really short on time, I’d clean my clothes in my hotel-room sink with body wash and shampoo, then frantically try to dry them with my blow-dryer. At least I’ve learned some great life skills.
Where do the contestants stay?
For our season and the one before us, the setup has been a bit different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We had to pack our bags for seven weeks and move into a hotel called Down Hall, which was lovely. All of the bakers, camera crew, judges, presenters, hotel staff, and caterers had to move into this bubble.
The famous baking tent was propped up at the back of the hotel in a lovely green field, and our practice tent was right by our rooms.
I would wake up every morning and see the practice tent from my window and think, “Am I really here!?”
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