Thursday, 29 August 2013

An Interview with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

The baking duo return to Bolton Food and Drink Festival for a second year

So I interviewed the Great British Bake Off's Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry again. No biggy. Cool as a cucumber...

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to meet Paul and Mary for the second year running, but all hopes of remaining calm went out of the window the second I stepped into that tent. Hands clammy, cheeks cranked up to 'inferno' level, and yes... a total inability to speak in a coherent fashion. 

This year I had my baking buddy Jenny (of BakingBad fame...) taking pictures and generally steadying my nerves. Jenny is calm and collected, and generally renowned for getting the job done. Saying that, I had just plonked her feet away from Britain's most famous baking double act... We were poised.

Paul and Mary put on a fantastic show. They may be chalk and cheese, but they are both wonderfully quick witted and have the sort of chemistry which turns out a belting bake. Although they are there to demonstrate two of their signature bakes, the show is all about their personalities. Mary is ever the unshaken professional, oozing glamour from every pore, whilst Paul is the cheeky chappy cracking the jokes. 

Totally stone-faced, he convincingly told the crowd Mary is 105, that she wrote her memoirs just after the Great Fire and informed the crowd she was actually his mother. Although Mary did grass up a rather hung over Mr Hollywood for snaffling a pork pie from Bolton Markets at about 10am. Someone had been playing out with one Andrew Nutter the night before... Paul also referred to one of the Bake Off contestants as the 'bloke who looked like a turtle'. I spotted him on Tuesday. Yes.
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry at Bolton Food and Drink Festival
After the show, Paul and Mary sat signing autographs and posing for pictures. Paul looked like he may well combust at one point, which I am sure was the moment his hangover well and truly kicked in. It was a crying shame... Ish. 
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry signing autographs
Before the interview, I had asked my Twitter and Facebook friends if they had any burning questions for the dynamic duo, and well butter my butt and call me bread, you all came up with some corkers!

What is your baking nemesis?
Paul: ~looks deep in thought~ For me it's sourdough, but that means it's also my best. I had to master it, so it's my weakness, but now my strength.
Mary: I think all cake baking really.
Jenny and I sit aghast...
Rachel: Really?! But you're so good at it!
Mary: I know, but I can always get better! There are often new methods, new ingredients, so it's how you get round that and stay good!

What's the best way to avoid a soggy bottom?
Mary: You've got to bake blind properly. Make sure it's dried out when you take the beads or whatever off, then dry it out completely before you put the filling in.
Paul: And preheat the tray...
Mary: You can put an egg wash on to seal the base, particularly if you've pricked it.

The Bake Off is going strong, and it has been for a number of years now. How much longer can it go on for?
Paul: About a hundred and fifty years.
Rachel: A hundred and fifty years precisely?
Paul: Perhaps a hundred and fifty one... 
Mary: I think it will go on for quite some time yet. It's such a simple and happy programme. I think people want a family programme, and that's what you've got.

Other than the Bake Off, what's your favourite programme on TV?
Paul: I would say Bread by Paul Hollywood... Other than that, Top Gear by a mile.
Mary: My only favourite programme is Downton Abbey.
Paul: That's us together! Top Gear versus Downton Abbey... 

If you could only have one cake, pie or pudding for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Mary: Lemon Drizzle! (said with some vigour)
Paul: Definitely a pork pie.
Mary: He's had one this morning already...
Rachel: So I've heard...
Interviewing Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry
Paul and Mary were also asked a number of questions by the crowd during the show...

What would you have been if you weren't a baker?
Mary: I enjoy gardening. When the children were little they played football there, and now the grandchildren play there too. I love watching Gardener's World. To put it into perspective, Gardener's World get 2.5 million viewers, which I thought was a lot. Then I was told that the Bake Off has 5.6 million viewers!

Testing Mary Berry's Lemon Cake
Sampling Mary's Lemon Cake...
How do you judge a bake if you don't like the ingredients?
Paul: Mary doesn't like coconut, but you have to trust us. We know what it should taste like, and how the texture should be.
Mary: Paul doesn't like booze in cakes
Paul: She does... We've baked in some of the best hotels and kitchens in the world. We know what we're talking about. On last year's Bake Off we criticised Mary-Anne's syllabub because the alcohol was too strong. She got all stroppy about it! You have to trust our taste buds.

What percentage of the instructions are missing in the technical challenge?
Mary: It's the baking times that are left out, sometimes temperature.
Paul: There were over 10,000 entries for this year's Bake Off, so we expect them to already have good technical knowledge.

Which do you prefer? The adult or junior Bake Off?
Mary: The junior Bake Off is enchanting. There are no parents in the tent, and the children are full of confidence. It's the parents who are uptight! The children just enjoy it. There were over 2000 junior entries this year.
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry
A huge thank you to Paul and Mary for taking time out of their manic schedule to speak to me, and even bigger thanks to Jenny for doing such a cracking job with the pictures. She's the only person I know who would dare tell Mary Berry she wasn't looking at the camera! 

Here's to three years in a row eh?

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  1. Loved the interview - would so love to meet these two. They are Gods in my eyes!Plus Paul is such a sexy silver fox ;)

  2. You are so lucky! I don't know how you kept your cool Rachel!!

  3. Woohoo! I would have been such a nervous wreck; well done you! Fantastic interview :)

  4. Such a brilliant interview =) and I'm just a teensy bit jealous...

  5. Brilliant! You really got to the heart of them, Top Gear and Downton Abbey says it all!

  6. Fab interview Rachel! And great photos! Loved Paul's cheeky answers ;)

  7. awesome interview and pics. I would have been struck speechless!

  8. A great interview and stunning pictures x


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