Prue Leith landed one of the best gigs in television when she was announced as Mary Berry’s replacement on The Great British Bake Off.
The Great British Menu judge was unveiled as part of the new GBBO line-up back in March and has been busy in the Bake Off tent filming the latest cohort of bakers ahead of the show’s return later this year.
But she had her doubts about accepting a role on the revamped show. As a healthy food campaigner, known for her catchphrase “it’s not worth the calories”, Leith told The Sunday Times:
“I really thought twice about accepting Bake Off. I’ve spent my life campaigning about children learning to cook and healthy meals in schools, but I reasoned that, actually, baking is the best way to get people into general cooking. And that’s what we need the nation to do: to get interested in the kitchen.”
When it is suggested that perhaps her view is not the most feminist attitude, Leith is “quite cross”.
“You know, there was a high mistress at [the leading private school] St Paul’s for girls, and I said to her once that the girls should learn to cook. And she said, ‘Over my dead body. My girls are going to be brain surgeons and astrophysicists. I tell them never to do anything domestic.’ And I thought, what kind of life are they going to have? If they grow up with that idea, then they are going to be cut off from some of the great pleasures of life.”
The Great British Bake Off famously underwent an overhaul last year when its makers, Love Productions, switched allegiance from its home on BBC1 to Channel 4 in a reported £75 million deal.
Berry and presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins decided to stick with the BBC while Paul Hollywood stayed with the baking format, joined by Leith and new hosts Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding for the new series.
Fielding revealed to The Sunday Times that he would not be stuffing his mouth with cake like his Bake Off predecessors, Mel and Sue. “I get more work when I’m thinner, so I can’t put on weight. No one likes a tubby gut is what I’m saying.”