Great British Bake Off 2018, episode one review: France 1, Britain O
PUBLISHED: 14:06 29 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:06 29 August 2018
Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions (Channel 4 images must not be altered or manipulated in any way) CHANNEL 4 PICTURE PUBLICITY 1
Guest reviewing for us throughout The Great British Bake Off is chef Richard Hughes who enjoys a surreal week in which contestants made Mount Fuji, Bristol, the London Marathon, Kilimanjaro and Las Vegas out of...biscuit.
Great British Bake Off, episode one, Channel 5, Tuesday, 8pm (contains spoilers)
One of this year’s intake of GBBO hopefuls compared competing in the marquee with playing at Wembley in the FA Cup Final: it’s appropriate as the series finale now brings in more viewers than any celebrated football match.
Just like the early rounds of the Cup, it’s hard to get too attached to the sides.
There are always a few non league/not-much hopers struggling to make an impact and a couple of big hitters who you can mark down as favorites from the off.
The very first task was, controversially, biscuits. Now that really piqued my interest, as I survived on three packets a day from the 20p biscuit bin in the NISA shop on Northgate Street in Great Yarmouth from 1977 to 1980 when I started in my first job in a professional kitchen.
Biscuit and crisps form the standard chef’s diet, so who better to pass judgment than I? Alas there were no custard creams, no Nice and no fig rolls, just a variation on the one biscuit that’s always left at the bottom of the barrel, the shortbread.
The brief was to reflect the contestant’s regionality. Thankfully we have no Norfolk contestant this year: the Norfolk Nob really doesn’t travel well (I think it gets lost in translation).
Prue (Leith, judge) said she wanted biscuits of imagination and colour, much like her outfit. Put her alongside Noel’s shirt and contestant Kim-Joy’s make up and they look like a walking, talking box of broken Party Rings.
(An aside - I, alone it seems, love Noel’s new look. As he said himself, he’s rocking the hybrid Elvis/Shakin’ Stevens look. I’d go so far as to add in a soupcon of Paul Shane from Hi De Hi and I think you’d have his measure)
We have the usual suspects competing, among the more memorable are Rahul, a nuclear physicist who’s scared of marshmallow and Karen, a lovable but slightly dotty grandmother who eats a packet of salt and vinegar crisps as she cuts her cookies. Gentle baking enthusiast Terry seemed a nailed-on certainty to be the first to pack his bag with a batch of (according to Paul) “rough old biscuits” covered in chocolate sheep.
As per usual, they all complained that it was too hot in the famous Bake Off tent: not surprising with twelve ovens in a marquee during a heatwave, although they all acted as if it was a shock. Worst of all was the man who admitted he sweated profusely on a regular basis to Sandi (Toksvig, presenter) before wiping his forehead with the same cloth he was using to take food out of the oven.
The technical challenge threw the contestants another curve ball, with perfect Paul (Hollywood, judge) asking the baking dozen to produce a set of Wagon Wheels. Not an easy task, involving as it does, biscuit, jam, marshmallow and chocolate. Some succeeded, others looked as though they had been dipped in a mug of tea before being presented. Some looking as if they’d been run over by a wagon.
Biscuits and then Wagon Wheels: it was all going so swimmingly before it descended into farce.
The finale involved making an edible biscuit ‘selfie cake’. Who knew there was such a thing? When I won pastry student of the year at Norwich City College in 1982, I had to make a bread and butter pudding, marzipan fruits and a Swiss roll amongst other pastry creations. Thanks God selfies weren’t about in the late 1980s.
I found myself eating humble pie, however, as most of the crazed biscuit plaques resembled not only the artist’s impression of them but also their owner, although I’m not sure I’d want to eat any of them.
The judges tried to take it seriously, telling poor Karen that she’d created a masterpiece and then whipping away the cloth when they pointed out it lacked rosewater flavour (they had, earlier, warned her not to use too much rosewater). Contestant Ruby, meanwhile, has obviously got the huff with the judges from the off and looked close to throwing a tantrum most of the time until she pulled some impressive Wagon Wheels out of the, er, chocolate.
In the end, Terry saved himself after two terrible bakes with a Picasso-esque brandy snap-snap of himself and Imelda was shown the door - despite her half decent set of coconut and oat cookies – due to a lacklustre portrait of her by a grim looking stretch of beach.
Unsurprisingly, French competitor Manon won Star Baker. She’s French: of course she’s going to be the best cook. She also knows how to play the PR game in claiming she fell in love with baking after moving to the UK from France. You. Cannot. Be. Serious. Has she seen how our bakeries compare with the ones over the channel? Zut Alors!
Let’s see how her newfound friendship with Briony matures as they realise they are head, shoulders and chef’s toques above the others, with Karen worth a nod on the outsider stakes.
The show has hooked me in from the off, it’s spectacular TV, there’s terrific chemistry from the hosts and visually its a veritable riot of colour; from Prue’s ‘I got dressed in the dark’ outfit to Antony’s turmeric Goosnargh cookies, the sickly psychedelic icings to the Viva Las Vegas delicious diorama rendered in biscuit.
I’ve pressed series record and also fiddled with the colour contrast on the box. Here’s hoping for Hob Nobs next week.
* Richard Hughes is Chef Director of The Assembly House in Norwich.
IMELDA THE FIRST TO LEAVE THE GBBO TENT
“I’m disappointed to be the first off, but it was better to be there for one week rather than not at all. Even though it was short and sweet, I feel that I learned a lot about baking and also meeting new people and making friends for life,” said Imelda.
“I have to say it was 100 per cent one of the best experiences of my life. I didn’t have a bucket list, but if I did, this would be a big tick off it! I have always found social situations awkward, but since being on Bake Off they really don’t scare me as much. Being on the show has totally changed me as a personality, it has made me more confident. If I wanted to set myself a personal challenge – then this was it, and I would say it has really worked for me.
“My best moment overall was meeting the other bakers, and when I got positive feedback from both Paul and Prue for my Signature challenge. I was beaming, as I am so proud of my oatmeal biscuits!
“My worst moment was obviously when my name was called out, but I did know it was coming. I knew I was going home, I did mouth it to one of the other bakers, and that was all fine. If I did it all again, I just wish I had done more with the Selfie Biscuit. I think I should have been a bit more creative, and I took the challenge too literally! Afterwards I didn’t want to take the biscuit home absolutely not, I never want to look at it again!”
‘I am so thankful to have been involved in such a special group of people that have actually got into the tent and achieved the experience of all of that. I have to say for me it is a dream come true. I even genuinely enjoyed the audition process and especially meeting all the bakers. It’s really been phenomenal, and I won’t forget a moment of it.
COUNTY TYRONE, Northern Ireland
COUNTRYSIDE RECREATION OFFICER
Imelda is one of four siblings and grew up in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, where she learned to cook and bake from her mother, in their family home. Now juggling a busy job and family life, Imelda spends her evenings and weekends making soda breads, biscuits and treats for her father and son, and cakes that she takes into work to share with her colleagues. She lives surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins, which means catering for friends and family at large sociable gatherings is just part of normal, everyday life.