Rolling pins at the ready! There is just one week to go until Great British Bake Off returns on BBC One – and the Beeb has given us our first glimpse of this year’s contestants.
The sixth batch of bakers to enter the GBBO tent – joined by presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins and judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood – is an almost unimprovably eclectic blend, as the show builds upon its growing tradition of recruiting not just competitors, but characters: bakers with peculiar quirks and unusual back-stories to endear them (and distinguish) them to audiences. This year, the doughy dozen range in age from 19 all the way to 66.
It’s a tactic that works, with last year’s finale picking up an astonishing audience of 13.5 million after its hop from BBC Two to BBC One. Why is it such a phenomenon? Read our recipe for GBBO’s success.
Or, if you’re counting down the days until Tuesday 5th August, scroll on for a look at this year’s bakers, including a Lithuanian bodybuidler and the Dalai Lama’s personal photographer.
Profession: Professional musician, who has toured the world as lead singer of his band.
Why they bake: He’s been baking from a young age after watching his parents in the restaurant kitchen they owned and was always amazed by the magic of “how something liquid could go in and out would come this fluffed-up awesomeness”.
Baking skills: Trialling different flavour combinations, especially Middle Eastern spices.
Quirk: He wears a hat.
Profession: Assistant at a contemporary art gallery while she waits to start her history of art degree.
Why they bake: Flora comes from a big family of bakers and can’t remember ever not baking. But standards have to be high to impress her harshest critics – her sisters.
Baking skills: Regularly bakes cakes and loaves for the family, often filling the freezer up with ingredients.
Quirk: This year’s youngest baker.
Profession: Travel photographer / house husband.
Why they bake: Started baking six years ago because he wanted them to have fresh bread every day.
Baking skills: Never afraid to bake with an unusual discovery from his garden.
Quirk: He’s the Dalai Lama’s personal photographer.
Profession: Full time mum to the three kids she has with her husband.
Why they bake: Nadiya has been baking for 10 years after wondering why her father only served ice cream for dessert at his restaurant.
Baking skills: Her family is originally from Bangladesh, where desserts aren’t a big feature of mealtimes, but encouraged by a school home economics teacher, Nadiya now delivers beautiful masterpieces at family. occasions.
Quirk: Desserts! (Baked Alaska Gate Part 2?)
Profession: Fire fighter.
Why they bake: Mat began baking three years ago in between shifts as a London fire fighter.
Baking skills: Not only simple cakes and biscuits but bread, pastries and pies.
Quirk: Did we mention he’s a fire fighter?
Profession: Works as a nurse in Berkshire.
Why they bake: He’s constantly jotting down everything from recipes to techniques so he can pass all his knowledge on to his two kids as they grow up.
Baking skills: Bread, cakes.
Quirk: A true perfectionist, Alvin once baked bread every day for three weeks until he believed he’d got it right.
Why they bake: A self-confessed foodie, Dorret has been baking for 40 years and enjoys tap dancing, ballet and salsa to counteract the calories she consumes.
Baking skills: Dorret and her husband regularly visit Michelin-starred restaurants for inspiration and ideas for their next culinary experiment, and often host dinner parties to impress their friends with their skills.
Quirk: She’s a dancer. (Expect waltzes with Mel and Sue.)
Profession: Prison governor.
Why they bake: He sees being in The Great British Bake Off as “an opportunity to show that men like me, stereotyped by our jobs, do and can love baking and that it is a skill and talent to be proud of”.
Baking skills: Enjoys learning intricate skills like sugar-work to make his bakes beautiful.
Quirk: Before being a prison governor, he performed ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace in the Coldstream Guards.
Profession: PA and administrator.
Why they bake: Ugne learnt to bake from her mother and grandmother, who used Eastern European baking methods and utensils. According to her blog, she “would like to show you, that there are ways and means to indulge nice treats and not to be worried about the waist line”.
Baking skills: She loves English baking and each day makes her family bread, pies and pastries, but also likes to incorporate traditional Lithuanian flavours into her bakes to remind her of home.
Quirk: She is a bodybuilder and aims to counteract the “sinful goodness” of ordinary baking.
Why they bake: Marie was entered for The Great British Bake Off by her daughter, but her children claim at one point when they were growing up their mum couldn’t even boil an egg – so Marie’s come a long way. The turning point came in her thirties when Marie moved to Paris with her family and was inspired by all the French Patisseries.
Baking skills: Show-stopping decorations and bread so her grandchildren have “proper packed lunches”.
Quirk: The nan of the group.
Profession: Child welfare officer.
Why they bake: Sandy started baking as a child and likens her style to the way she’d describe herself: “it might not be glamorous but it’s tasty”. Mother of one, Sandy says that she bakes to show her family, friends and colleagues that she cares about them.
Baking Skills: Unknown.
Quirk: In her job, she helps young people with emotional issues and after work Sandy also volunteers at the school, running a cookery club where she teaches children from deprived backgrounds to bake on a budget.
Profession: Trainee anaesthetist
Why they bake: He grew up in Hertfordshire where his parents moved from India in the 1960s. His older sister played a big part in bringing him up and taught him to bake.
Baking skills: Cakes.
Quirk: He is regularly asked to bake family and friends’ wedding cakes too – the largest one was five tiers.
All photos: BBC/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon