It’s that time of year again – the Great British Bake Off tent has been festooned with bunting and stocked with flour ready to greet the arrival of 12 plucky amateur bakers hoping to win over the hearts and minds of Paul, Mary and a nation of avid viewers. After last year’s Bingate, Nancy’s sterling rise (pun intended) to the top and a reliably bonkers string of double entendres from Mel and Sue, what does 2015 hold in store for the nation’s most famous tent? Meet this year’s contestants and read our predictions for series six…
Stu – out week one
Twitter handle: @stu_henshall
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 102
Bio: Professional musician Stu lives in Surrey with his wife and two children and has been baking from a young age. He is confident with most genres of baking and is fascinated by the science of it all. He enjoys trialling different flavour combinations, especially Middle Eastern spices.
The BBC Good Food prediction: Stu travelled the world as the lead singer of his band, so we hope for plenty of global flavours and perhaps a musical croquembouche assembled in a piano shape.
Parting quote: “The show has redefined me in a way, it’s made me think about what I want to do in life, and look at what opportunities might come my way. I felt disappointed in myself initially after leaving in the first episode, as I felt I didn’t perform as well as I could. I just hope I don’t disappoint people in my life – but it’s onwards and upwards!”
Flora – out in the semi-final
Twitter handle: @florashedden
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 237
Bio: Flora’s an assistant at a contemporary art gallery while she waits to start her history of art degree. She lives at home with her parents and two younger sisters in the Scottish countryside, 20 minutes from the nearest shop. Flora comes from a big family of bakers and can’t remember ever not baking.
The BBC Good Food prediction: What with Flora’s artistic credentials and Scottish heritage, we hope to see some creative Highland bakes not unlike those from her predecessor and fellow Scot, James Morton (series three).
Parting quote: “My worst moment was whenever something went wrong, with that horrible sense of dread waiting for the judges wasn’t fun. Game Pie didn’t go well for me in week seven, and it was hard for me to get my head round the whole retro thing.”
Twitter handle: @iancpix
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 129
Bio: Travel photographer Ian lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and two children. He started baking six years ago because he wanted them to have fresh bread every day. Ian’s passion for foraging and travelling the world, mean he’s never afraid to bake with an unusual discovery from his garden – or much further afield.
The BBC Good Food prediction: We like the sound of these unusual discoveries. Could we be in for some Rene Redzepi-style foraged feasts?
Twitter handle: @BegumNadiya
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 101
Bio: Nadiya has been baking for 10 years. Her family is originally from Bangladesh, where desserts aren’t a big feature of mealtimes, but encouraged by a school home economics teacher, Nadiya now delivers beautiful masterpieces at family occasions. Born in Luton, she now lives in Leeds with her husband and is full time mum to their three children.
The BBC Good Food prediction: Nadiya’s strong family ties should make for some hearty, traditional cooking, and we hope she draws on her Bangladeshi heritage.
Mat – out week seven
Twitter handle: @matrileybakes
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 143
Bio: Mat began baking three years ago in between shifts as a London fire fighter. He’s now mastered not only simple cakes and biscuits but bread, pastries and pies. Preferring sweet over savoury baking, Mat calls himself a “competent amateur” who “learns every time he bakes”. Mat lives with his wife in London. He says his greatest ambition is to own a dishwasher.
The BBC Good Food prediction: A “competent amateur”? We think Mat is doing himself an injustice, but maybe this constant learning will make for some philosophical musings. On another note, we need to make this guy’s dream a reality. Let’s get a dishwasher crowd-funding site set up pronto!
Parting quote: “I am a pretty happy-go-lucky bloke, and I had nothing to take from the show, I just entered for a laugh but then once you get into it you imagine you are half decent. I never took myself too seriously as you then lose the fun of it. I always reminded myself that I am on a programme that people love to watch, and if you are not enjoying it then go home.”
Alvin – out week six
Twitter handle: @alvinmagallanes
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 173
Bio: Alvin is originally from the Philippines and works as a nurse in Berkshire where he lives with his wife and their two children. He bakes at least four times a week and owns every tin imaginable. A true perfectionist, Alvin once baked bread every day for three weeks until he believed he’d got it right.
The BBC Good Food prediction: Alvin, you’ve thrown down the gauntlet – we expect Star Baker in bread week and nothing less…
Parting quote: “I feel I can call myself a good baker now, as I have moved on from cupcakes and sponges. I like to keep challenging myself, which is good I think. I was flattered and proud when Mary commented on my flavours, and to hear that is an amazing thing. How many people in everyday life get positive comments from the doyenne of baking?”
Dorret – out week three
Twitter handle: @dorret_conway
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 99
Bio: Dorret’s family are from the West Indies but she grew up in Preston and works as an accountant. She’s been baking for 40 years and she and her husband regularly visit Michelin star restaurants for inspiration and ideas for their next culinary experiment. Mother to a 21-year-old daughter, Dorret’s dream is to go to the Cordon Bleu school in Paris.
The BBC Good Food prediction: A Michelin starry-eyed lover of classic French cooking? We hope Dorret is all about classic dishes executed to perfection.
Parting quote: “Being on the Bake Off was such a rollercoaster, it represents achievement but it is also nerve wracking. It was fantastic meeting the other 11 bakers and we still text and support each other. What it has proved is that I can cope with pressure, I like to push myself and try new things, and that I am a reasonable baker.”
Paul – out week eight
Bio: Paul lives in Wales and has been a prison governor for eight years. He sees being in The Great British Bake Off as “an opportunity to show that men like me, stereotyped by our jobs do and can love baking and that it is a skill and talent to be proud of.” Paul enjoys learning intricate skills like sugar-work to make his bakes beautiful. When not baking, Paul loves the outdoors and exploring the Welsh countryside with his wife and three sons.
The BBC Good Food prediction: Hear, hear Paul – we love your mission to challenge gender stereotypes. Sounds like we have another Richard Burr on our hands. Will Paul make it to the final, too?
Parting quote: “Memorable moments that will stay with me are when Paul liked my biscotti. Twitter went crazy with everyone comparing me to Paul Hollywood. They called us Paul A (that was me) and Paul B. On week one, Paul got more favourable comments but on bread week, they replaced my face with the Lion Face and I got treated more favourably, so that was quite funny.”
Ugne – out week five
Twitter handle: @Ugne_Bakes
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 116
Bio: While baking is her main hobby, Ugne is also a bodybuilder. Originally from Lithuania, she now lives in Essex with her partner, also a bodybuilder, and their two young children. She loves English baking but also likes to incorporate traditional Lithuanian flavours into her bakes. Ugne enjoys being ambitious with her presentation and ingredients and isn’t afraid of the odd theatrical bake.
The BBC Good Food prediction: A bodybuilding exhibitionist? These bios just keep getting better. Ugne sounds like she could be a fabulous firebrand.
Parting quote: “It was really hard work, but I would go back and do it all over again in a heartbeat. At home each week I follow the theme of the episode and bake something relevant and then sit with the family and watch it. Sometimes I have a glass of champagne to celebrate the episode, but I know from now on I will be toasting my fellow bakers.”
Marie – out week two
Bio: Marie was entered for The Great British Bake Off by her daughter, but her children claim at one point when they were growing up their mum couldn’t even boil an egg – so Marie’s come a long way. The turning point came in her thirties when Marie moved to Paris with her family and was inspired by all the French patisseries.
The BBC Good Food prediction: We like the sound of someone whose inspiration is patisserie. Bring on the towering choux structures.
Parting quote: “The show has given me more confidence in my baking, and where Paul said my Madeira cake was perfect on the show, I just have to keep rewinding that bit on the tape!”
Sandy – out week four
Bio: Sandy is a child welfare officer who lives and works near Bradford. Mother of one, Sandy says that she bakes to show her family, friends and colleagues that she cares about them. Sandy started baking as a child and likens her style to the way she’d describe herself, “it might not be glamorous but it’s tasty”. After work, Sandy also volunteers at a school, running a cookery club where she teaches children from deprived backgrounds to bake on a budget.
The BBC Good Food prediction: We loved Kimberley Wilson’s (series four) approach to packing tonnes of flavour into her bakes. Could Sandy be a chip off the old block?
Parting quote: “What has been wonderful about Bake Off – is that it throws you together with people you wouldn’t expect to gel with. I had such a giggle with Mel & Sue and found them genuinely warm and we also talked on quite profound levels. They pick up your wobbles and give real support – they have that light humour and depth when you need it.”
Twitter handle: @DrRayBakes
Twitter followers pre-Bake Off: 40
Bio: Tamal is a trainee anaesthetist working at a hospital in Manchester. He grew up in Hertfordshire where his parents moved from India in the 1960’s. His older sister played a big part in bringing him up and taught him to bake. She gave Tamal the ultimate compliment when he was asked to bake her wedding cake. Since then, he is regularly asked to bake family and friend’s wedding cakes too – the largest one was five tiers.
The BBC Good Food prediction: Tamal’s experience stacking wedding cakes should make him a natural at constructing towering showstoppers.
Catch The Great British Bake Off on BBC One every Wednesday at 8pm from 5th August 2015. We’d love to hear your predictions for this year’s batch of bakers, too – who’s your money on?