Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

Karen Shaw interviews Paul Hollywood

by Karen Shaw

Paul Hollywood

I’ve never been a keen baker, in fact I’ve never baked very much at all, but when Paul appears on TV with those piercing blue eyes and begins kneading his dough, I’m immediately engaged. So when I was asked to interview him I jumped at the chance, I was given just 15 minutes, one can achieve a lot in that time… chocolate crispies for example.

He has a day of interviews ahead of him, it’s going to be a long day with no time for a break, so I was shocked to hear that he hasn’t so much as a ginger nut for a snack.

“I’ve got nothing to eat, which is a bit of a pain in the arse!” he laughs.

Damn it I should have brought the ginger nuts! Having played to over 30,000 fans across the country with his first tour ‘Get your Bake on’ Paul is back! With 20+ dates across the country, like his interview schedule his tour is also pretty relentless, an absolute killer…

Paul readily agrees “It is. The last tour was full on, it was manic, a different hotel room every night… it was quite rock n roll really. It was great fun. I’m doing exactly the same with the November tour but the recipes are different, I’m going for a festive theme this time.

British Baking Live will see Paul demonstrate recipes and talk about some of his favourite regional baking. He will reveal some of the secrets of being a TV chef and take the audience on a culinary tour of the UK, showcasing some of the country’s best-loved regional specialities. The show will culminate with four lucky, randomly chosen audience members coming on stage to bake with Paul.

“The warm up guy picks the audience members because if I pick out someone who is pretty, I’ll get into trouble, if I pick someone who is less pretty, I’ll get into trouble! So you know what, I don’t want to pick anybody!” he laughs.

This is the first time on the tour that he’ll be performing in his home city, Liverpool. “I’m looking forward to it, my mum and my mates are all coming down, we’re going to have a ‘right crack’.”

All I have to do is look at cake and I put on 10lbs, so what’s Paul secret to staying healthy when he’s constantly shoving buns in his cake hole?

“A personal trainer,” he replies, “not just to lose weight but to get fitter, I used to do a lot of weight training years ago and I’ve started doing that again, and to be honest I’m aching from head to toe. I’m trying to get back to how I was 20 years ago.”

Aren’t we all…

His latest book ‘Paul Hollywood’s British Baking’, is out now and features some of his favourite recipes chosen from his travels around the country. He loves Bakewell Tart, Chorley Cakes, Eccles Cakes, “That’s my kind of thing, but Manchester Tart has got to be my all-time favourite,” says Paul “and it must be served with custard. I love custard, everything with custard, even a ham sandwich.”Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

When it comes to cooking, Paul admits he’s not brilliant, although he reckons he’s a pretty accomplished pasta maker, he loves to cook steak with Roquefort sauce and jokes next time he may leave the sauce and try it with custard!

Buns really do run in Paul’s blood, his dad was a successful baker, and his grandfather four times removed baked at The Adelphi, so in his humble opinion who does Paul believes is the better baker… “My dad was a good baker, but I‘ve baked longer than my dad, so probably me!”

I suggest a family bake off would be a good idea, perhaps they could drag Mr Kipling in to get the numbers up. “Is he alive?” asks Paul. “We’re not related, you know!”

The recent ‘bingate’ episode on The Great British Bake Off descended into chaos when bearded competitor Iain Watters binned his pudding after the ice cream in his baked Alaska melted in the 25C heat. He stormed out of the tent and later presented his dripping offering in a kitchen bin!

“He messed up, he was running out of time, he didn’t have his ice cream in the freezer for long enough, I felt sorry for the lad, but he should have brought what he had to us, he shouldn’t have chucked in the bin that was a massive mistake,” says Paul.

Paul admits that there’s been many a time when he’s wanted to throw his efforts in the bin. “But that’s when I’ve been in a kitchen and not a competition. In a competition you have to bring what you’ve got, you can’t just through it in the bin like a petulant kid. That was a fatal error. That’s encouraging people to give up, and you never give up.”

And if you ever wondered who gets to eat all the goodies after the show, it’s the crew, the world’s luckiest and no doubt fattest crew.

When it comes to his co-presenter on the Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry, he openly states that he hasn’t learnt much from her. “You see, Mary comes from a home background and I come from a professional kitchen, completely different. I’ve learnt how to scale my recipes down. I’ve always done 50 kilo mixes whereas Mary tends to do 50 gram mixes. She’s like my mum!”

With the winter evenings upon us, I’m a firm believer in one pot grub, if I dare say so, I’m rather good at conjuring up tasty stews, but when it comes to baking, I’m a flop. What can a novice baker like me attempt, “Whatever you put on a plate, you can put in a pie. If you’re bone idle, buy some ready-made pastry, line a tin, pour in your stew.”

Paul is firm friends with Yorkshire lad James Martin, in fact James is Godfather to Paul’s son, so when they get together I wonder if it’s mixing spoons at dawn. “You know,” he laughs, “he’s never baked anything for me, not even a Victoria sponge cake, he’s too scared!”

When it comes to baking, he believes that having a passion for it and the skills are the perfect ingredients. He firmly believes that every baker should have a pair of good weighing scales, “There’s quite a science to getting the right quantities, and if it goes wrong you’ve got to have the passion to keep trying.”

In his formative years Paul trained to be a sculptor at art college, but his dad insisted he joined the family firm. “I still dabble,” says Paul “but nowadays the materials I use tend to be more sugar pastry or dough!”

His dad’s bakery was based in York and he has fond memories of the city, however, despite that he chooses to live in Kent, when I accuse him of being a southerner, I receive a sharp reply “I’ll always be a northerner!”

And with captivating eyes like his, I’m not going to argue!

Quick Fire Round

Jam roly poly OR spotted dick?
“Spotted dick.”
Cornish pasty OR sausage roll?
“Sausage roll.”
Is it a ‘scon’ OR a ‘scoan’
“My mum and Mary Berry call them scones – end of conversation! And by the way mine are better than Mary’s!”

For details of Paul’s tour date visit