Even in a year like 2020, some things never change. The Great British Bake Off returns next week for its 11th series with 12 new great British hopefuls vying for crumby supremacy. As usual, they range from the kind of seasoned competitors who’ve whisked more eggs than you’ve had had hot dinners to fresh faced Gen-Z-ers challenging experience with innovation.
Of course, the pandemic has forced the entire entertainment industry to adapt and Bake Off is no exception. In order for filming to go ahead during lockdown, Channel 4 created a “biosphere” bubble within Down Hall Hotel in Essex, abandoning the tent’s traditional spot in the grounds of Welford Park, Berkshire. Luckily, the famous white tent remains.
The bakers, judges (including Prue Leith‘s dogs), presenters and crew spent seven weeks on site and nothing was allowed to enter without being thoroughly cleaned. New co-presenter Matt Lucas, who replaces Sandi Toksvig to star alongside Noel Fielding, described life on-set as “like a holiday camp”. He hosted a bingo night, Prue Leith ran a flower arranging class and Paul Hollywood brought his own pizza oven. Filming had to pause once when someone developed coronavirus symptoms but the test proved negative.
Who are this year’s contestants?
About: Hermine was born and raised in Benin, West Africa but moved to London at the age of 20 to pursue higher education. She grew up helping her mum bake for big family gatherings and the French influence in Benin has given her a love of high-end pâtissérie.
Job: Armoured guard
About: Growing up, Dave left the cooking to his mum but since moving into their first home, Dave has baked for his girlfriend at least once a week, always accompanied by his favourite punk rock bands. His strength lies in bread and decoration.
Job: Digital manager
About: Laura began baking at around the age of eight but only recently got serious. She loves putting new twists on old classics and is happily married to a Police Community Support Officer.
Job: Retirement Living Team Leader
From: East Sussex
About: Linda discovered her passion for baking during her frequent childhood visits to her aunt’s dairy farm where she was taught to turn milk into rich, creamy icing. A lover of the countryside and of being outdoors in general, she frequently heads with her partner to their local beach for fishing trips.
Job: Diagnostic radiographer
About: Born and raised in Jamaica, Loriea uses baking as a means to celebrate her Caribbean roots. She moved to the UK when she was 15 years old. Her husband, Peter, is (of course) the biggest fan of her cooking, and he especially loves her Jamaican patties.
Job: Pantomime producer
From: West Sussex
About: Lottie’s Lancastrian great-grandmother was a fervent cake-baker so baking is in her blood. She has always had a fascination with cooking: when she was little, she watched cooking shows rather than playing with her toys and was often to be found making notes from cookery books.
From: Greater Manchester
About: Self-taught baker Makbul first took on cooking at home as a means to help support his mum. strengths lie in pastry (he says he’s better at puff than shortcrust); and, for celebrations such as Eid, he enjoys making traditional Asian nankhatai biscuits. He also produces his own honey, which he loves to use as often as possible in his bakes.
Job: Bronze resin sculptor
About: Marc lost his leg in a motorbike accident in 2016, led him to baking bread as a form of therapy, and from there he moved on to cakes and pastries. He’s a support worker and single parent, keen to make his daughters proud.
Job: Project manager
About: Mark fell in love with baking via his local pie shop in Edinburgh when he was student and his been experimenting ever since. His style is influenced by his Irish heritage, but also by the flavours of Africa and Asia, where he travels regularly for work.
About: It was Bake Off that inspired Peter to get into the kitchen – he has watched every series and loves to honour his homeland in his cooking, using Scottish ingredients – including berries, whisky, oats and honey – whenever he can. He’s also a national badminton player.
Job: Music teacher
About: Entirely self-taught, Rowan calls his baking style ostentatious – but, he hopes, tasteful. French pâtissérie is his passion. He’s also a fitness enthusiast and swims a mile most mornings.
Job: Pharmacy dispenser
About: The many Middle Eastern and Asian influences in Sura’s heritage – including Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and India – mean she enjoys experimenting with ingredients and flavours from all over the world. She lives with her husband and elderly grandmother.