The Great British Baking Show is different from most cooking shows. Why do I say that? To start with, the program is filmed in a gigantic green meadow under a large white tent where the cooking takes place. No studio is necessary. Each week, the bakers (12 at the beginning, minus one each week of the competition until only the finest baker remains) tackle 3 different baking challenges. Cakes, cookies, and pastries are produced according to the instructions given by 2 judges and 2 hosts. Each contestant has an oven, refrigerator, and all the tools and ingredients they will need. No one fights for a machine or the last of some ingredient. Devious actions play no part in the outcome.
The contestants (pictured above), in addition to being good bakers, come from a variety of careers. For example, Andrew was a straight A student at Cambridge and presently works for Rolls Royce, designing jet engines. (He finished runner-up.)
Mary Berry (a writer of 70 cookbooks) and Paul Hollywood –his given name? (a top artisan baker) serve as judges. Hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc give instructions to the bakers and provide some comic relief.
Contestants voice the normal jitters, but say and do things a bit differently from other cooking shows. One young man, sitting during a break, said to no one in particular: “I’ve never been so stressed about dough in my life.” He was gone the next week, without complaining.
Occasionally, if a baker finishes their work early, they offer help to another baker still working. One such baker rubbed a competitor’s back and reminded him, gently, to “breathe.”
The 2 hosts (pictured below) are a bit different, as well. At the start of every baking assignment (3 are given each week), they give instructions and both say –in unison—“Ready…Set…BAKE.” The same 3 words sound different every time they are used, often for comic effect. During the competition, a host will announce how much time remains, and may offer encouragement to a baker. After 2 hours of a 3 hour project, one host told the group of busy bakers: “As Anne of Cleves (knowing her fate) said to Henry VIII: ‘You’re two-third’s done.’” (For those unfamiliar with Ms. Anne, she was the 4th of King Henry VIII’s 6 wives. Plus, since the show is made in England, everyone got the joke.) And once, as bakers were readying themselves to work, a host said: “Get ready, my Lords and Ladies.” The 12 bakers, 6 male and 6 female, smiled. One host heard a harried baker saying to herself: “It will be fine.” The host replied: “The more we say it to ourselves”…and then the host and baker said, jointly: “the more it WILL BE Fine.” And later, it was.
In my opinion, the judges (pictured above) are the biggest difference between this and other cooking shows. Near the end of each show, the 2 judges discuss how the bakers performed. Their exchange of opinions always results in agreement on who was the best and weakest baker –the one who will not return to the show. But their comments to competitors, while baking is being done, are most unique. Here are some remarks that were given to bakers. “You’re spot on with the flavors.” “Your lovely flavors go so well together.” “You’ve done a really good job on your textures.” “It’s too sweet –but so good.” “Oh, I think I’m going in for another bit (of food because it’s so good).” “It’s such a lovely thing and a pleasure to eat.” A judge, so happy with a person’s baking, said: “I’m feeling a bit giddy.” Once, a judge said to a baker: “You’re taking on a lot (for this assignment).” The baker spoken to responds, sadly: “I always do.” Her work earned her the weekly best baker title of “Star Baker.” She made it to the final competition –and won.
In this cooking show, baking skill is rewarded. Plus, the values of encouragement, compliments, cooperation, and humor appear. Unfortunately, this season’s 10 episodes have finished. Hopefully, PBS’s broadcasting of The Great British Baking Show will resume in the future. It is one of a few “must see” TV programs for my wife and I.
Here are pictures of a variety of the program’s bakers’ finished work: