Home #Hwoodtimes Celebrity Chef Paul Hollywood Shares Sweet Moments From  ‘The Great American Baking...

Celebrity Chef Paul Hollywood Shares Sweet Moments From  ‘The Great American Baking Show’ 

Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, judges on The Great American Baking Show

New York, New York — The Hollywood Times — 5/23/2024 — While Paul Hollywood, the often crusty judge on The Great American Baking Show loves to be known as the bad guy. It is a bit of a secret that he can also be quite tender-hearted.

Hollywood, a celebrated cookbook author, celebrity chef, and reality TV judge known for the numerous seasons of The Great British Baking Show, believes that both shows strike a chord with viewers because most of us crave the comfort associated with cakes, cookies, bread, and other delectable baked goods. 

The Great American Baking Show, a Roku Original, is the American version of the most beloved baking show on the planet, The Great British Baking Show bringing together passionate, talented bakers from around the country to see who will be named America’s Best Amateur Baker. 

In April, Roku approved Season 3 and three specials for the show.

As Season 2 of the U.S. show gears up on The Roku Channel, Hollywood was eager to talk about working closely with his co-judge Dame Prue Leith and the talented contestants.

A celebrity chef on The Great British Bake Off since 2010, Hollywood began his career at his father’s bakery as a teenager and went on to serve as head baker at several British and international hotels. 

After returning from working in Cyprus, he appeared as a guest on a number of British television programs on both the BBC and ITV.  After beginning his broadcast career in food programming, he diversified into other areas, including motoring.

I can’t bake my way out of a paper bag. But like other viewers people love these two baking.  What do you attribute that to for both shows?

Paul Hollywood:  I think it’s easier than people realize. That’s a big thing.  I think people have thought about baking, but never quite got around to it.  When you make something like a Victoria Sandwich, which is just flour, baking powder, eggs, and sugar all blended together, and you come up with a cake and they eat it and go, “That’s the best cake I’ve ever had,” because it’s fresh, then I think that’s the spark.  

So, people say, “I want to learn more, I want to get better.” You can start with the basics and there are lots of ways for you to go and it’s a big ladder; there’s lots to learn. I think people enjoy the journey.  It’s really nostalgic, as well. 

I’m still looking for the butter cookies with the chocolate drops on top that they sold at my favorite bakery where I grew up. I can’t find them anywhere.  Food is definitely tied to memories and love.  

The only thing you can do is find a good recipe, make them yourself and then tweak it to be like those cookies you remember when you were young. I think baking is nostalgia. I love doing it because I remember things when I was a kid, like iced buns filled with cream and jam. Basically, it was a sweetened bread roll, with a bit of icing, that was filled with cream and raspberry jam.  It was delicious.

Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Casey Wilson and Zach Cherry getting ready to make an announcement on the Great American Baking Show on Roku Photo credit: Courtesy of Roku
Paul Hollywood, Dame Prue Leith, Zach Cherry and Casey Wilson

Talk about the kind of mood, the difference between Season 2 and Season 1. 

I think there’s been a massive improvement again with the bakers. The thing is with the U.S. baking show is over the years they’ve gotten better and better. Now they are rivals to the British one but it’s taken them a while to get there. 

For Season 2, the bakers stepped up to the plate. I was shocked by the standard. It was extremely high. It was a pleasant surprise because the U.S. is quite distanced from the UK. We take it for granted, we just expect people to know The Great British Bake Off.  Then we realize that actually the bake-off is quite big. When we did the American one, we started attracting very good bakers, and it showed. From the beginning the bakes were unbelievable. 

Did you know Prue before you two started working together as judges on these shows?

I knew of her. I’ve been working with Prue now for, what, eight years? I knew of the programs she’d worked on before, but we’d never met.

The contestants on Season 2 of The Great American Baking Show

The handshakes that you give out mean a great deal to the bakers.

Yes, they seem to be over the moon. I get a lot of woo-woo and very Americanisms, which on the British one you just don’t get. But it always makes me smile. The standard was incredible this year and I think the bakers really did celebrate some great American classics, utilizing the flavors from the States to come up with something unique. I like things that are different, as well. But the standard this year is spectacular.

Do you do personal appearances for your books or speaking or anything like that?  What is it like to meet your fans and the baking show fans?

I’ve done it in New York when I had the book out, I did a little bit of a book signing thing. I did travel once from New York to LA on a big dog sort of chopper and I went via New Orleans and up through New Mexico and across to LA.  

I used to stop to refuel, so I stopped at these little diners on the side of the railway track. I didn’t think anyone would know me. I thought I would grab a coffee and a bit of cake. But people knew who I was, which really shocked me. So, then I got a chance to sit down with people and chat about the baking show. It seemed it was just all over the place wherever I stopped, people knew the baking show.  

If I came to your house or you were trying to impress me what are a couple of bakes?  What would you be making me? Bread? Cake? Petit fours?  

A great croissant is very difficult to beat, and also a great baguette. Very simple, actually, in the sense that the flavors are very direct. But a good one compared with a poor one, it’s like the difference between a Mini and a Rolls Royce.

What TV do you watch to relax? Cooking shows? 

Oh no. I watch things a lot of shows like Top Gear a lot, the car programs. But cooking programs, no. I sort of spend my life with them. I think watching TV for me is really relaxing. I do like a good box set and I like sitting down after a nice shower or bath, putting my dressing gown on putting my feet up, and watching a bit of telly. But that’s a rarity nowadays.

Is this life fun?  It looks fun, the show looks fun, and the people look like they are having fun.

The show is always fun to do, it always is. There’s always the kickback from a personal point – there’s poor Hollywood on the TV and there’s the poor Hollywood outside TV. Obviously, because the show’s quite popular as a global thing you lose your anonymity, you lose your privacy to a large part. That takes a while to get used to. Sometimes you never get used to it, you just accept it. 

Actually, it’s probably the hardest thing about getting known.  I was always quite a private kid. My mom always said, “I can’t believe out of all your brothers you’re the one that ends up doing telly.” I was the quiet one. So, that takes a little bit of time.

Celebrity Judge Paul Hollywood on The Great American Baking Show

Getting to know the bakers on both shows, and going through the season with them and all the ups and downs is it hard to say goodbye?  

 No, I just cut them loose. I think you can’t do that. You’re a judge, and you have to stay in that role as a judge. If you’ve got connections or you really like them you don’t want it to interfere. So, I’m straight as a die. I tend to keep them at arm’s length and when they’ve been kicked out then I might say to them, “How’d you get on?  Or “Are there any questions you want to ask me?”  Up until that point I’m very keep away.

What do you hope for the future of this show?

Bigger and better. We’re happy to make more series. The beauty of the baking show is sometimes when someone becomes popular. You see it all the time. Literally, 3,000 episodes. I think ramming it down people’s throats too much isn’t particularly healthy. But I think what we do is all about quality, not quantity.

Can you tease any surprises for my readers about this particular show, something that stood out?

I’ve been giving out more handshakes this year than I have done for a long time. That’s all I’m going to say.

Why do you think the contestants bond as much as they do? After all, they are competing.  But this is a happy show. They’re not cutthroat; they’re kind of rooting for each other.

It’s not like everyone’s fighting against each other. Technically they are. It’s very easygoing  There’s more cutthroat in the States than there is in the UK version. I don’t know why that is. There’s no money involved. All you do is get a little cake stand and that’s it. It’s not like you get $250,000. 

You get a cake stand and the title of American baking show champion. That’s it. Because I’d been doing the program for so long, they managed to give me one of these stands. If I stick it on eBay no one needs to enter then, do they? [He joked].

What is your best advice for someone who might be on the fence about whether or not they should do it or not?

If you enjoy it and love baking, enter. If you enjoy it, you love baking and you’re really good at it, enter. If you enjoy it, you’re really good at it and you bought a couple of my books, definitely enter, you’re going to do really well!

If you had a chance to sit down with a dozen or so of my readers who appreciate the show and are considering putting their hat in the ring. What would you say to them?

I think you need to latch on. If you see a bake that you particularly like and it makes you salivate and you think I need to learn how to make that, make part of that your journey.  Make a beeline for what captures your attention. Most of the recipes will be on the website so what you can do is download the recipe and then copy what you do and basically get into baking from the basics first.  Don’t try and run before you can walk.  Start with the very basic scone, an Irish soda bread, or other bread then build up slowly. Don’t rush yourself, but be sure to enjoy the journey.

Judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, with show hosts Zach Cherry and Casey Wilson

Are any new books coming out? What’s going on for the future for you?

I’ve got a book coming out next year, which I’ll be over in the U.S. next summer. It’s a book about celebration times, whether it’s the holiday time or it’s Easter, Christmas, and Halloween.  I’m doing bakes all associated with that on the global thing.

Take me off-camera for a minute. You and Prue are sitting down enjoying some delectable or whatever. What are you talking about other than baking?  What kind of friendship is it?

 I love Prue. She’s really into her garden and gardens. Her husband, John, is such a nice guy. He rides motorbikes, as well, like me, so we often talk about motorbikes and gardens. She’s into sculptures and buying sculptures for her garden. To be honest they look amazing. I was at her house before Christmas and it was fantastic. We like each other’s company. We talk generically about what’s going on in the world. I like her company and that’s a good place to be.

Are you the one in the family who is expected to always bring confections or bread or something to Christmas or to parties?

Normally yes. I try not to because I think you just spoil them. I enjoy baking anyway, especially when you’re doing books because you’re testing all the time. Yes, I do make a lovely chocolate cake. I put them previously frozen in fresh raspberries all the way through it. It’s an extremely rich, chocolate cake. You cut into it and have that with a bit of pouring cream. It’s just delicious.

Are you looking forward to Season 3?

Yes, we are already developing ideas for it now so, yeah, I’m pretty confident.