You’ve seen the white tent, you’ve seen the bakes, you’ve heard judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry give their verdicts. But what’s going on behind the scenes on The Great British Bake Off? We get the low down from executive producer Anna Beattie and home economist Faenia Moore:
“It is a huge process for us to get to the final 12 contestants,” admits executive producer Anna Beattie. last year 16,000 contestants were whittled down by means of a lengthy application form, an interview, auditions and a baking screen test. “We usually have two standbys, just in case someone pulls out at the last minute or is ill. But only for the first show or two. Then we are up and running.”
“Before the series begins the ovens are checked: a dozen Victoria sponge mixes are prepared and placed into each oven at exactly the same time by members of the production crew.”
In the first year the show moved from place to place every week. This year the tent was pitched in April at Welford Park in Berkshire for ten weeks. “We try to record at weekends, because so many of our contestants have day jobs,” says Beattie. “They arrive, go into the tent, and bake for Mary and Paul. That’s it.” Each episode is filmed over two days.
“Never the twain shall meet? The judges keep a professional distance from the contestants and stay nearby but in separate hotels – to prevent fraternising.”
“The bakers don’t mess up very often with our kitchens,” says Bake Off home economist Faenia Moore. “I think last year someone put the oven on Defrost instead of Cook. But they all get a briefing from the manufacturer and I am always there on set to help them. Because it’s not very exciting if they can’t turn the oven on.”
“We have new knives every year, and the knives are… good,” says Moore. If they are nervous and used to using crummy knives at home, and cutting, and talking to camera I have to say, “Please watch your fingers”. Last year it was carnage, but this year it’s been injury-free.”
“On filming days a runner is stationed at the nearest big supermarket in case contestants make any last-minute amendments to their recipes.”
“It is really important that the bakers actually have a chance to taste what they have been slaving over for three or four hours,” explains Moore. “So I put together a basket of all their different bakes so they can taste their own and everyone else’s. Then, in a very orderly fashion, of course, the crew dig in – they really love it when the bakers cook something savoury as there is usually so much sugar around.”
“Unusual ingredients this year include freeze-dried berries, edible flowers, paneer cheese, praline paste, mango powder, raw cacao, popping candy and pistachio paste.”
“We record the entire series before transmission,” says Beattie. “Of course, we then have to keep the winner a secret until the series ends. It is a risk, because it relies on everyone involved playing ball, but we trust people not to spoil it. The crucial thing is to make all the noise and publicity around the show nothing to do with the show itself.”
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