Star Baker

Star Baker

Paul Hollywood talks baking, bikes and those blue eyes…

The Great British Bake Off has been off our screens a mere few weeks and we’re already left with a cake-sized hole in our Wednesday nights. A record 14.5million people tuned in to the final to see Nadiya Hussain crowned 2015’s Bake Off queen, making it the most watched programme of the year.

“This year the contestants were exceptionally good from the off,” says Paul Hollywood. “They didn’t bond like some of the other groups did right from the beginning, but from week three or four they did. They were so into their work and very professional in the way they attacked everything.”

Fans of the cosy baking series, which moved to BBC One last year, will be familiar with the way the 49-year-old can reduce contestants – even the “very professional” ones to jelly-like jitters when he and fellow judge Mary Berry assess their efforts.

Despite the steely glares and his tough judging style though, Hollywood isn’t without a sense of humour about himself.

“My sense of humour’s good,” notes the master baker, who lives in Kent with his cookery author wife Alex and their teenage son Joshua.

“I’m from the North West and that’s where my sense of humour comes from. You’ve got to have a sense of humour doing TV. If you haven’t, there’s something not quite right with you.”

Hailing from a long line of bakers, Hollywood relies on that sense of humour when he finds himself being bombarded with questions about the colour of his eyes.

“They’re blue, you know what I mean?” he says. “Some people say ‘if you had brown eyes, would you be a different person’? What kind of ridiculous question is that?! I mean, you are what you are. Mary’s actually got the same colour eyes as me. It is something that runs through both judges.”

Judging is something Paul can’t seem to escape from, even when the series isn’t on prime-time TV.

“People will come up and say, ‘Can you judge that?’,” he reveals, joking that he tends to get nervous whenever he sets foot in a bakery. “I get that in petrol stations, in pubs. I try not to go to supermarkets now.”

As well as a lover of cake, Paul also has another passion – vehicles.

He recently filmed a programme for BBC Two, License to Thrill: Paul Hollywood Meets Aston Martin, which saw him train up to race and join one of the Aston teams.

Paul, who is a keen racing and motorbike fan confesses he is an adrenaline junkie, although his fellow Bake Off stars aren’t quite so enthused.

“Mary sat on one of my bikes last year, but she hasn’t been on a ride on it,” he says. “She did say she’d go on the back of one of them, so maybe that’s one for the future… Maybe for her 90th, I’ll stick her on the back!”