Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

People Only Know Me as This Panto Villain. Paul Hollywood Thinks We've Got Him All Wrong, and Wants to Set the Record Straight with His Autobiographical Show, a Baker's Life. He Tells Francesca Gosling All about It

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

People Only Know Me as This Panto Villain. Paul Hollywood Thinks We've Got Him All Wrong, and Wants to Set the Record Straight with His Autobiographical Show, a Baker's Life. He Tells Francesca Gosling All about It

Article excerpt

IT is almost impossible to work out what is going on behind those steely blue eyes, as they gaze inquisitively at a quaking amateur baker over a dozen miniature loaves.

Paul Hollywood gives away nothing as he chews slowly and thoughtfully. Will the loaves be under-baked? Or might he raise a hand to bestow that coveted prize, the Hollywood handshake? While the Wallasey-born presenter, 51, is best known for providing the culinary yang to Mary Berry's yin over six years of The Great British Bake Off, he insists there is more below the stone-baked exterior.

And he plans to share it with the nation in his new show, A Baker's Life. It will take viewers on a journey through his personal and professional history, from his early mornings in a bakery as a teenager, to his first steps into the big white tent, with some favourite family recipes thrown in.

"It's time for the public to see a little more about me," he says.

"They know this pantomime villain and what they've read about me in the press, but, actually, nobody knows who I am or where I came from. This programme was a way of exorcising the demons of the villain of Bake Off."

We are sitting in his north London studio. There's a plate of his chocolate muffins nearby. When we meet, it's a few weeks before he and his wife of nearly 20 years, Alex, announce in a joint statement that they are separating. But in-keeping with his inscrutable Bake Off image, there is no sign that there is anything amiss.

In fact, his manner is relaxed and confident and he is pleased that Bake Off's debut on Channel 4, with a fresh batch of hosting colleagues, has proved a success.

In his words: "It's done much more than I thought it would ... and we got a much higher youth audience than we did with the BBC."

Paul chuckles as he remembers going back over series one footage for his new show. "It was very funny. I was wearing all those hideous shirts, the floral ones and the stripes.

"One week, I wore a black shirt and one of the BBC commissioners said, 'Ooh, love Paul in black'. So I wore a dark shirt the next week and got rid of all the florals."

In A Baker's Life, Paul treats viewers, used to his discerning judging, to a view of him being judged. Two Bake Off favourites, Val Stones and Selasi Gbormittah, are invited back to the tent to scrutinise him.

"I sat behind the bench and they said, 'Paul, your challenge is to make a roulade in one hour, and your time starts now'. Then they came round and asked, 'So what are you making?' I replied, 'A roulade with rosewater'. They teased, 'Rose is quite a strong flavour'.

"So I know how the bakers feel now. Initially I thought it was stupid, but as soon as they said 'Go' and it went quiet, I thought, 'Hang on, I don't like this.'" ."

But the pressure was nothing compared with the work Paul put in to cut his teeth in the baking world while sharing a Wirral bachelor pad in the 1990s. …

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