Yummy Pastries, Cakey Bakey’s, Savoury, Sweet and Sour (dough). Yep. It’s that time again. As a nation, we’re about to go mad for everything baked and begin the annual worship of the the judging gods that are Berry and Hollywood. The Great British Bake off is about to commence for what’ll undoubtedly be another hit series. We’ll see some oven blessed triumphs, kitchen calamities and undoubtedly (as seems to have become the norm) more than a burnt-toast-whiff of controversy.
We wonder what we’ll get for 2016. there’s only one thing you can be almost certain of – it’s unlikely to be Berry-gate. We’ve seen bin-gate, bet-gate, phone-gate, pro-gate and flirt-gate – so we here then, is our look back at some of the bake-off controversies of previous series…
It was series 5 – 2014. The tent was hot. So making (and more importantly chilling) a baked Alaska was always going to be a tall order. Being in a kitchen and cooking to a time limit is a stressful experience at the best of times. Add in cameras, lighting, judges and other contestants and you create something of a pressure cooker environment. All the environmental ingredients were just right for an overreaction fit for a hot-headed chef. Cue another contestant allegedly taking Ian Whetters Baked Alaska out of the freezer and leaving it on the side, where it melted. In a fit of rage, he duly dumped it in the bin and left the tent. He subsequently presented the bin to the judges but was booted off the competition. Whether it was Ian or another contestant is still a topic of debate amongst fans. If it was the latter was it simply air-headed or calculated sabotage?
Viewers of Series 4 in 2013 picked up on chemistry between Paul Hollywood and contestant Ruby. There were suggestions that she was using flirting to progress to the next round. There were even rumours of an affair. But Hollywood kept his cool and the judging was all done on merit of the bakes. Ruby finally put paid to any rumours in 2014, when she revealed on Twitter that she is gay.
Professional training is strictly forbidden on Bake Off. If you’ve worked in any way professionally you’re ineligible for the competition. But what constitutes training? It emerged that series 6 contestant Marie Campbell had spent time training at Ecole Escoffier, in Paris. The internet kicked off and Bake-offisti went a bit mad for five minutes. Hang on. Does Ecole Escoffier translate as School of Scoff? Because that would be Brilliant.
Contestants are allowed to have mentors. Friends and colleagues who they are allowed to phone for advice. There was a suggestion that early Series 6 favourite Ian was getting coaching from a friend who just happened to be Head of Catering at Trinity College Oxford. The BBC since denied that it was ‘coaching’ and that Ian was working within the rules.
If that’s the case we’re half expecting to find series 7 contestants have to Blanc, Pierre-White, Ramsey, Oliver, Hartnett and Waring on speed dial.
In 2014 a high number (something in the region of 90%) of bets were placed on one contestant during the later stages of the competition, raising fears that the eventual winner had somehow been revealed. Bookies suspended betting.
Betting on series 6 was suspended almost as soon as the competitors were announced, due to a flurry of very focussed high value bets being placed after the first show. Betting was again suspended. This time it was viewed more seriously as odds for each contestant were longer as the show still had its full quota of competitors. Later in the series betting was suspended again after a flurry of unusual stakes were placed on one competitor. Ladbrokes suggested the activity was highly unusual.
Despite all the secrecy around the show, we’re still a bit perplexed that it is even possible to bet on an event that has already taken place.
Bake-Off Legends that stood the test of time…
It seems Bake Off controversies are nothing new though. They’re not even the preserve of modern media. Cooking cock-ups can become cast into the nation’s psyche for eternity, as the tale of Alfred the Great demonstrates. Sometime in the late 870’s (yeah – best part of 1200 years ago) on the run from Viking invaders, King Alfred happened on a Peasant women’s home, she took him in but asked him to watch her cakes (loaves, which were cooking in the fire). A tad more preoccupied with his own issue of trying to evade marauding Vikings, King Alfred wast paying attention and let them burn. He got a right dressing down from the old woman for ruining her tasty bake. Maybe she should have run book on it, Berry and Hollywood would definitely kicked Alfred off of Bake-Off. There’s even a memorial to the King’s visit to the area – put up by the Victorians in 1801 – if you fancy a ‘daddy-of-all-Bake-off’ controversies tour to the west country.
Tune in for the first round of the Great British Bake Off tonight on BBC One – rumour has it that it’s another bin-gate in the making!