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Northern Irish baker Mark Lutton among this year's Great British Bake Off contestants

Twelve amateur bakers will put their skills to the test when the competition begins on Channel 4 next week.

An amateur baker from Northern Ireland with a taste for African and Asian flavours is to spice up this year's series of The Great British Bake Off.

Mark Lutton is one of 12 contestants competing for the title of Britain's best amateur baker, one fewer than the baker's dozen who competed last year.

The 32-year-old fell in love with baking through a Edinburgh pie shop he visited every day while at university.

Mark, who lives in Liverpool, loved the shop's mac 'n' cheese pie but started experimenting with his own baked goods, including a lemon drizzle cake and multi-tiered wedding cakes.

His cuisine is influenced by Northern Ireland and the flavours of Africa and Asia, where he travels regularly for his work as a project manager for public health research programmes.

When he is not baking, you can find Mark walking in the Lake District, indulging his passion for wildlife or exploring new places with his wife Laura.

“I think I'm quite a versatile baker and I'm always up for a challenge,” he said.

“My biggest weakness is baking to a time limit. At home I spend hours — and sometimes days — baking something as a way of de-stressing, so I wasn't sure how I would deal with that in the tent.”


Mark shared the news that he had been selected for the competition on his Instagram page (@thebakingbuddha), where he posts mouth-watering photographs of his efforts, including a Veda recipe he perfected after moving to England, where the product is unavailable.

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Mark will put his skills in the kitchen to the test when taking part in The Great British Bake Off (C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon)

Mark will put his skills in the kitchen to the test when taking part in The Great British Bake Off (C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon)

PA

Mark will put his skills in the kitchen to the test when taking part in The Great British Bake Off (C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon)

Alongside a picture of himself sieving flour into a bowl, he wrote, “So, the secret is out… it was me. I bought all the flour (and toilet roll),” joking about stockpiling the essentials during coronavirus lockdown.

The new series of The Great British Bake Off was delayed by the pandemic, but producers have promised fans that the show will look the same as it usually does.

Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith will return as judges, but comedian Matt Lucas is replacing Sandi Toksvig as the programme's co-host alongside Noel Fielding.

The bakers were selected by April, but coronavirus restrictions meant the filming schedule had to be rewritten, with the result that the series will reach screens a month later than usual.

The Channel 4 show is normally filmed over three months, largely at weekends.

However, this year the producers asked the contestants to take six weeks off work and stay in a secure filming location.

Down Hall Hotel in Essex was chosen as the show's new base, housing the production team, bakers, hosts, judges, hotel staff and cleaners all together, with extra temporary accommodation set up in the car park.

Previous Northern Ireland contestants have had mixed fortunes on the programme.

Holywood man Andrew Smyth came second in 2016, but engineer Iain Watters memorably lost his cool after his Baked Alaska melted, causing him to throw it in the bin in a rage.

Edited highlights saw fellow contestant Diana Beard remove the dessert from the freezer, leading to claims of sabotage.

The Great British Bake Off returns to Channel 4 on September 22.

Belfast Telegraph