Bake Off's Andrew Smyth 'blown away' by start of new series
Andrew Smyth, the Northern Ireland Great British Bake Off star from last year, has said he was stunned by the high standard already on show for the first episode of the new series.
There was intense scrutiny on the popular baking competition last night as it began on Channel 4, with regular judge Paul Hollywood joined by Prue Leith and presenting duo Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig.
"I was blown away by it to be honest, I think the standard this year is already phenomenally high," said Andrew.
The contestants were immediately challenged with an 'illusion cake' show-stopper described by Hollywood as "the most complex showstopper challenge ever set in the first week of Bake Off".
"I was just looking at the screen, gaping at the standard of them," said Andrew.
"It's week one of 10 and it's already at a high level so I'm really excited to see how things will be by the end."
Regarding the chemistry of the new presenting line up he added: "I think they're really getting into their stride actually.
"At the beginning of the episode they had their arrival in a hot air balloon which I wasn't entirely taken with, but by the end of the episode they had really gotten into it. Prue held her own, and she and Paul work really well together," he said.
"I think Sandi and Noel have that essential caring quality in the tent. The bakers were nervous and I remember that feeling on week one."
As the 12 new contestants grappled with the demanding challenges, many ended up binning their first attempts in frustration.
"It was like bingate all over again," said Andrew.
"But I think they were right to restart, some times when it's not right you have to make the call.
"I know the difficulty of making that decision so my heart was in my mouth for them.
"It's so easy for people to ask 'why are they getting so stressed over cake' but it's an intense atmosphere when you're first there."
Star baker Steven and biomedical scientist Yan were picked by Andrew as his two top contestants so far.
"I thought Steven came across really warmly and was very clever and had great flavours.
"Yan's got such a sciencey thing going on and I've high hopes for her."
The introduction of adverts to the beloved Bake Off has been a sore point for many die-hard fans, but not for Andrew.
"I'm hooked again now. I even loved the ad breaks on Channel 4 because I'm in France at the moment and was able to nip to the patisserie for a pastry. It's perfect, I'm going to be a lot fatter by the end of the series now."