The return of the The Great British Baking Show on PBS can only mean one thing – more puns, innuendos, showstoppers and yes, more soggy bottoms. But who is brave enough to match Paul Hollywood’s steely gaze and do battle in the tent? Let’s meet the bakers…
At the age of seventeen, Martha is the Bake Off’s youngest ever contender, fitting her love of baking around her AS Level exams and coursework. She’s something of a young Heston Blumenthal, studying food technology, maths and chemistry, with dreams of becoming a food scientist. When she’s not revising and reading about the science of baking, Martha works on a supermarket cheese counter which she says helps flavour her bakes. She lives at home with her mum, dad, younger sister and white labradoodle Alfie.
At 69, Diana is 52 years Martha’s senior and the Bake Off’s oldest baker so far. A stickler for tradition, Diana reckons pies, pastries and cakes are her strengths although her garden, not her kitchen, is her joie de vivre. The daughter of a dairy farmer, she met her husband at a Young Farmers social event aged 16 and they’ve been together ever since. Diana’s confident in her strong base of knowledge but fears bread may be her weak spot (she’d better avoid Paul, then). Her signature bakes are chocolate cake, her flaky pastry, Eccles cakes and vanilla slices.
Born and bred in Harrow, north London, Enwezor is half Nigerian and half Japanese and works as a business consultant at Portsmouth University. But baking has been his real passion, ever since he first taught himself three years ago – he even runs a Facebook group for fellow amateur bakers in Portsmouth, sharing ideas and tips. Enwezor never does things by halves. He once decided to run The Great South Run barefoot and spent eight months walking around Portsmouth with no shoes on in preparation. Let’s see if he has the same commitment in the Bake Off tent…
Born in Stockport to Spanish parents, Luis trained as a graphic designer but has plenty of hobbies to fill his spare tine. Whether it’s playing the Ukulele, making model aeroplanes, supporting Manchester City or keeping bees (he has eight hives), it’s a wonder he has any time to bake. But bake he does, creating inventive recipes such as tequila slammer cheesecake and cherry brandy pipette gateaux. He uses his own honey and preserves his own jam, too. Luis is married to Louise who he met aged 17 and married in Vegas 18 years later.
Jordan works as an IT manager in Nottingham and has already appointed himself the “nerdy baker” of the tent. He loves trivia and learning new skills, from spinning his own wool to embroidery to hairdresssing – oh, and baking. Jordan likes to make things difficult for himself, cross-breeding signature bakes, turning the “pretzel-croissant” into the “cronut”. He likes to compare baking to coding: one wrong instruction and the whole thing goes awry.
Iain lives in London as a construction engineer, delighting his colleagues with plenty of baking treats. Originally from Belfast, he loves travelling and brings different cultures, including that of his upbringing, into baking. Iain has a twin brother and lives with his girlfriend Catriona. For two years they lived together in the Australian outback where they had daily arguments over who was the better baker. He loves using vegetables in his bakes, has already created his brother’s wedding cake and dreams of opening a cafe in east London.
Born in India, Chetna trained as a fashion designer and started her own clothes label, moving to the UK with her husband in 2003. Not a fan of the cold weather, Chetna has used baking as her means of embracing life in the UK, combining her mum’s traditional recipes with signature British bakes. She’s a meticulous baker and runs a sociable curry club but when she’s not in the kitchen she can often be found painting beautiful murals on her children’s bedroom walls.
Claire works as a speech and language therapist in Cheshire and has been baking since she was 11 years old. And it turns out it runs in the family – both her mum and grandmother were wedding cake decorators and her father was a chef, encouraging Claire and her sister cake to each develop a specialist bake. She used to be a chaotic baker but her chemist husband Carl’s precision has rubbed off on her in the kitchen. Claire loves making cakes and pastries, particularly Chelsea buns, and loves a bit of extravagant decorating.
Baking also runs in Norman’s family – his father and brother were bakers, although he spent his career in the Merchant Navy. Described as fiercely Scottish, he’s now retired and lives with his wife of 44 years on the north-east coast of Scotland. They’ve got three children and a schnauzer Lucy and Norman fills his days playing the clarinet and making clocks and pottery in his own kiln. He takes his caravan to Pepignan in France and credits the French cuisine with inspiring his baking.
Richard is a family man. Born, raised and still living on the same street as his wife, they’ve also got both sets of parents living nearby and he’s the fourth generation in his family’s building business. He loves fishing, diving and cycling, has his own allotment and volunteers for the National Wildlife Trust. Richard loves to bake with his wife and two little girls and uses the fruits of his vegetable patch in his bakes. He’s big on novelty cakes, given free rein with his wedding cake which he turned into a Star Wars Millenium Falcon.
Hull-born Nancy has lived in Lincolnshire for 24 years and works as a practise manager for a GP surgery where she met her husband, Tim. Now retired, the pair have five children and eight grandchildren and keep active cycling, growing vegetables and rearing guinea fowl. They own a house in the south of France which Nancy says has influenced her baking, learning from a local French chef. Now she’s keen to pass her techniques onto anyone she can, even teaching her hairdresser how to bake.
Kate hails from Cambridgeshire but now lives in Brighton with her five-year-old daughter Eloise. She once dreamed of becoming an actress but now runs her own upholstery company from home and in her spare time bakes for her family. She favours creativity over tradition, once baking a life-sized Goldfinger Bond girl for her sister’s 40th birthday and a 3D sculpture of her friend’s head, all from cake which she sees as her strongest area. Oh, and last year she made 15 Christmas cakes…
The Great British Baking Show is on Sundays on PBS in America