With the sixth series of GBBO almost upon us, Claire Goodwin introduces the latest contestants and reflects on the extraordinarily complex audition process that led to her own appearance on the show.
Twelve months ago, the fifth series of the Great British Bake Off aired. I was in it and it has changed my life. Not because I now have a baking career and everyone wants a slice of me. No, my dream was crushed by Bezza and Hollywood (OK, OK, I was a bit crap in there).
It has changed my life because I have discovered things about myself that I never knew before. I can write pretty well, for one, and have been given some exciting opportunities doing so. Also, I have made incredible friends in the shape of the Class of 2014 bakers and their families.
And now, 12 fresh contestants are bracing themselves to sit back and watch their experiences unfold on screen. I imagine they’re also breathing a sigh of relief that the last eight months of auditions and baking madness are finally over. It’s great fun, but bloody hell, it’s tiring.
Meanwhile, that wait, that lull between filming and watching is excruciating – you wait with awful apprehension knowing you have absolutely no control over any of it.
So how does one get on Bake Off?
Well, you fill in a form that is quite literally a trillion pages long. From these applicants, casting producers whittle the thousands down to ones they want to conduct telephone interviews with. The press stance is usually that applicant numbers are around the 15,000/16,000 mark, but we were told by the production company that it was double this – publishing those numbers puts people off applying.
Telephone interviews reduce the numbers again, leading to auditions where applicants take their sweet and savoury bakes to be judged by food researchers/home economists. Then it’s pictures, interviews and screen tests. Then you’re informed whether you are through to the final 45, who are auditioned in a live ‘bake off’ while being filmed and interviewed. The final 14 are sent to see a psychotherapist – I thought it was all over for me at this point – and then, finally, you get the call if you are a Chosen One.
And when you get the call, it is MEGA exciting. You’re part of the talent search. Yes, that is what the contract says, not “competition”, as this has legal implications. *everyone reading this raises their eyebrows a little*
So, who is popping their head through the tent flaps this year?
Well, the great thing about this year’s bunch is that they represent what our wonderful country is – a brilliant mix of people from all over the place. That means the baking is going to have an eclectic influence of worldly flavours. Can’t wait! Good luck, guys. It will be one of the most fun things you will ever do.
A bodybuilder, originally from Lithuania, married to another bodybuilder; they both think cake is “nutritiously sinful”. Ahem. It’s a cake show. Ugne is a vegan and cooks gluten and sugar-free bakes. Check out her website (ugnebakes.com). Those cakes certainly don’t look fun-free.
A nurse, originally from the Philippines, now living in Berkshire with his wife and kids. A self-confessed perfectionist, his Instagram (caleb_adam) demands to be seen, with a varied and pretty selection of bakes.
A typical Bake Off contestant, Dorret appears to be more middle-class than Waitrose. But we like that she is a foodie, a ballet dancer, a Michelin starred-restaurant connoisseur and that her family hails from the West Indies, which is sure to influence her baking. Bringing a ‘bit of posh’ to Bake Off.
The youngest of the group, a 19-year-old Scottish art gallery assistant who is clearly prepared for the media onslaught. You need to see her beautiful website and Instagram – her photography is to die for. (florashedden.com).
A forager, personal photographer to the Dalai Lama, daily maker of fresh bread, househusband and winner of the Great Wilbraham Bake Off.
I like to picture him living on a farm like the one in Babe.
Child welfare worker Sandy runs ‘baking on a budget’ groups with kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, and also bakes with young people who have emotional difficulties. She is my kind of woman. I predict she may be the new Mary-Anne Boermans or Glenn Cosby.
With Bangladeshi roots and a family that owns a restaurant, I’m expecting culinary genius from Nadiya. Upset by the fact that the restaurant’s desserts consisted only of ice cream, Nadiya went about changing things. And now, she brings those bakes to the tent.
This year’s hipster. Brace yourselves for sesame seeds in croissants, Earl Grey in buttercream and goat pubes in pasties (possibly).
And hopefully an array of charity shop clothes and exciting millinery.
The Great British Bake Off starts on Wednesday 5 August on BBC One.1974 Views
Claire is a speech therapist, baker, cake decorator, sometime radio guest and writer. She writes about food, being fat and living with mental health problems @bake_therapist; www.baketherapy.co.uk; www.facebook.com/CakeChemistryUK