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Bake Off: The Professionals - 'I felt like I wanted to put on an apron and help them'

Bake Off: The Professionals is back with a fresh batch of pastry chefs ready to battle it out. Georgia Humphreys takes a look in the kitchen


Bake Off: The Professionals (Mark Bourdillon/Channel 4)

Bake Off: The Professionals (Mark Bourdillon/Channel 4)

Bake Off: The Professionals (Mark Bourdillon/Channel 4)

You can expect the new series of Bake Off: The Professionals to be the most theatrical yet. The tasks the competitors are given this year "have a real air of play about them", based around things like "gardening, the secret world of bugs and even magic", according to Bromley-born comedian Tom Allen, who presents the show alongside former Great British Bake Off contestant, Londoner Liam Charles.

And the teams of chefs - from various backgrounds, ranging from owning their own patisserie to a five-star hotel - have really raised the bar this year.

Singapore-born judge and celebrated pastry chef Cherish Finden was blown away by the techniques they brought in. "And some of the tastes, I've never tasted before, like artichoke mixed with other ingredients. Things that I have never experienced," she says.

"For me, this year has been about different cultures, different countries, different backgrounds," adds fellow judge Benoit Blin, a Frenchman who is the head pastry chef at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford.

"What I found really amazing is that some of the teams have really taken it on themselves to bring their home to the competition. So, there are some interesting ingredients such as one called the pickle leaf."

This is the third series of The Great British Bake Off spin-off to air on Channel 4 (before that, it was on the BBC, with different hosts).

It sees 12 professional pairs from across the UK go head to head in a series of heats to impress the judges.

In each episode, the expert duos will be challenged to two rounds, testing both their professional ability and their creative flair.

So, were there any big disasters while filming this series?

"One of the showpieces did not stand and it smashed to the floor even before we judged it, so my heart goes to the contestants and I really, really felt for them," confides Finden. "I felt like I wanted to put on an apron and jump in and help them."

Luckily, hosts Charles and Allen are on hand to cheer up the chefs when things go wrong like that.

Discussing their techniques for this, Charles, who also presents Channel 4's Junior Bake Off, notes: "It depends on what the chef is like; you kind of have to gauge it. If they're one of those chefs that don't like to show their emotions, then you have to crack a joke, or make it light-hearted.

"If they have their cake hearts on their sleeve, you have to go in with a hug and be very sympathetic, which is natural because most of us have experienced something bad happening to our bakes."

"Liam is much better at it than I am, I can be, I don't know what the word is, but I'm not very good at being soothing I suppose," quips stand-up-star Allen.

"There was one occasion where, I got sent in, which was a silly mistake when one of the teams were upset and I had to try and comfort them and they had a real disaster.

"I tried to be like Liam, but no one believed it and I think I actually made it worse. But, you know, that's the trials and tribulations, isn't it, that I suppose makes the show hold together. In the end, I just made them laugh."

Obviously, the hardest part of the job for the judges is deciding who should leave the competition each week.

"The more we do this show, the more we understand what we like and don't like. Cherish has got her own style and I've got mine, but we appreciate and respect each other very much," says Blin.

"The judging we give is the one we are happy with. We both agree it's the right call."

"Something that's not always seen is how much time Cherish and Benoit spend with the chefs after the judging and after the team going home has been decided," elaborates Allen.

"They sometimes come across as very severe, but I think sometimes people don't realise how much love and respect both of them have for the chefs."

Continuing with the behind-the-scenes reveals, Allen says when he and Charles first started the show, they were quite timid about trying the bakes made during filming.

"But now we're much better at elbowing our way to the front, I would say. If we're very worried about it, we just eat during the judging now," he admits.

The main thing that Charles, who has released his own cookbooks since reaching the quarter finals in the eighth series of the main Bake Off show, has learnt is to be tidier.

"The chefs that don't do well are the untidy ones," he says.

"So, when I'm doing home baking, I always try and make sure I'm washing up as I go along!"

Bake Off: The Professionals, Channel 4, Tuesday, 8pm

Belfast Telegraph