The fabulous Bake Off boys… as definitely NOT seen on TV!

The Mail on Sunday
13th October 2012
By Emily Hill

For the past nine weeks, Brendan, John and James have enthralled The Great British Bake Off’s millions of devoted viewers with their spectacular creations: perfectly formed petit fours swans, a Colosseum constructed from gingerbread, even a bicycle made of Paris-Brest pastry.
Of an initial dozen contestants, the trio have survived every gruelling round, and the ‘soggy bottoms’ and other put-downs of judge Paul Hollywood. On Tuesday, they will battle for the title of Britain’s best amateur baker in the first all-male final of Mary Berry’s series.
In and out of the kitchen, they couldn’t be more different: James Morton, an unlikely sex symbol known for his knitwear and inspired baking; Brendan Lynch, the eldest, coolly confident at the oven; and John Whaite, the handsome but accident-prone underdog. From Hillswick, a tiny village in the Shetlands, James is favourite to win, according to online polls. At 21 the youngest contestant in the series, he began baking early. ‘My gran taught me how to bake when I was tiny,’ he says.
‘I used to go to her house after school and we’d make apple and lemon meringue pies.’
He expresses his Scottish roots in his baking. The strategy has won him plaudits – for his ‘clooties’ (dumplings) – but also criticism: he uses whisky far too liberally for the notoriously strict Hollywood.
Blessed with boy-band good looks, he has many female admirers on social networking sites and has made Fair Isle tank tops and geeky glasses sexy, yet finds being a heart-throb ‘hilarious’.
‘I had 60 Twitter followers before,’ he says. ‘Now I have nearly 15,000. It began after the third episode when I got “star” baker and wore a tank top. I think people confused their attraction to the tank top with liking me. The Fair Isle jumpers were a deliberate decision as I’m a proud Shetlander. They did get a bit smelly after a long day’s filming in that warm tent, I must confess.’
A medical student at Glasgow University, James was revising for his exams during filming. ‘I thought I’d get loads of studying done on location,’ he says. ‘But when on a 12- to 16-hour-a-day adrenaline rush, you need a full day to recover. Some weeks, despite a cheery facade, I just wanted to be home.’
On past form, James is most likely to win, having already carried off the ‘star baker’ title three times – for tarts, biscuits and patisserie.
Sadly for female fans, James has a beautiful girlfriend, fellow Glasgow University medical student Fenella Barlow-Pay.
She noticed his weight balloon during filming (an occupational hazard of baking) and quickly whipped him back in shape. ‘I gained two stone,’ James says. ‘As soon as it all finished [the final has already been filmed], I went with Fenella on a tandem bike to France to cycle for two weeks.’
John, 22, had the same problem. ‘Since the start I’ve put on a stone,’ said the law graduate. ‘If you’re baking full-time, you need to hit the gym 24 /7.’ As if to prove his point, John posted a picture of himself on Facebook, looking buff and sporting just a bow tie, explaining: ‘Me before the extra stones piled on due to The Great British Bake Off.’
But he has faced greater peril than piling on pounds. In Pudding Week John slashed open his finger on a Magimix blade – yet carried on, wearing a blue latex glove. Pale and dizzy, eventually he was escorted from the tent.
Manchester-born John discovered baking as an escape when he was a child and his parents were splitting up. ‘My mum used to spend a lot of time baking with me. It’s become comforting,’ he says. ‘I’ve always used baking as a therapy in times of stress.’
He was struggling in the quarter finals – until he whipped up that gingerbread Colosseum: 100 black treacle and spice-flavoured pieces in a marvel of architectural baking. ‘It took a week to design,’ John says, adding that it was all due to ‘Paul, my amazing partner. He’s a graphic designer and works for an architect’.
John’s family insisted that baking came second to education. He won a place at Oxford University to study law but, missing home, transferred to Manchester and got a first. ‘It’s not something I really have an interest in,’ he says of law. ‘My parents wanted me to take the academic route. I wanted to pursue baking. I thought if I could prove myself by getting on the show and demonstrating what I could do, maybe they’d let me change career.’
Many see John as the outsider, but don’t rule him out. With his beautifully styled hair and tendency to redden under pressure, he may look as if he lacks the necessary true grit. But every week he goes in the tent, throws off his leather jacket, and knuckles down.
Yet to win he must see off the most experienced baker, Brendan. The company director has impressed viewers, both for his Seventies-style retro creations and his ability to colour-co-ordinate his shirt with his epic bakes. Twice star baker – in desserts and puddings – Brendan, 63, has run James a close second in many other tasks.
He lives in Birmingham with his labradoodle, Monty, but was raised in rural Ireland. ‘My mum died when I was very young and my older sisters took over the cooking,’ he says. ‘I was brought up in a very strict Catholic tradition.’
He first baked as a child. ‘Men didn’t cook or bake. It was women’s work, so it was quickly jumped on. It wasn’t till my late 20s that I took it up again. It’s been a passionate hobby ever since.’
Now semi-retired, this baking obsessive is on a two-year project to bake all the breads of the world (he has made more than 90) and his ambitions don’t stop there: he wants to be baking’s equivalent of The Choir’s Gareth Malone.
‘I saw him go into an old people’s home, gather them into a choir and take them to the Royal Albert Hall,’ he says. ‘I’d like to use baking in a similar way. My plan is to take my skills into retirement homes to allow residents to make bread and cakes for themselves and to sell.’
Surely here’s the spin-off series.

What are the odds? Brendan is second favourite to win, with 25 per cent of votes cast. Brendan, pictured left in the Seventies, has won plaudits for his retro style.
A nice, even bake? Celebrated for his theming and decoration, he excels at puddings and desserts. His most delicious-looking design was a set of tiny, choux pastry swans. Judge Mary Berry has said: ‘You looked at them and thought, “He’s arrived.” ’
Soggy bottom? Brendan’s Disney-style gingerbread house looked gorgeous – but judge Paul Hollywood was scathing about his decision to use mini Shredded Wheat for the roof tiles, saying every feature should be scrumptious.

JAMES HORTON, 21, Hunk In The Tank Top
What are the odds? Fifty-eight per cent of those surveyed want James to win.
A nice, even bake? Well-known for his sometimes eccentric experiments, James’s best creations include that show-stopping bicycle made of Paris-Brest.
Soggy bottom? Although he is rarely in Paul or Mary’s bad books, James – pictured left with girlfriend Fenella – may want to brush up on his desserts for the final, after being criticised for his fig, chestnut, cherry and ganache meringue.

JOHN WHAITE, 22, The Brave Battler
What are the odds? Near-disasters mean just 16 per cent of viewers want John to win, according to an online poll.
A nice, even bake? A bread master, he’s won the technical challenge with a plaited loaf before finishing off with bagels.
Soggy bottom? Not soggy – brave. After slicing open his hand, he soldiered on.
Soldered on: John, who cut himself while trying to bake a strudel during the competition, has only 16 per cent of viewers wanting him to win
Soldered on: John, who cut himself while trying to bake a strudel during the competition, has only 16 per cent of viewers wanting him to win

My tips for the final? Don’t let Sue near your food!
Edd KIMBER – the first-ever winner of The Great British Bake Off – has gone on to write a bestselling cookery book and teach master classes in macaroon-making since taking the title in 2010.
The 27-year-old, from Bradford, who was taught to bake by his mother, says his life has been transformed by the show.
His first book, The Boy Who Bakes, was an instant bestseller while his second, Say It With Cake!, is to be sold at clothing chain Urban Outfitters. Here he offers his tips to the last three contestants:

1 Try to make Mary grunt: ‘I made her grunt with my macaroons. I think it was one of the only times in my series she made that noise – the guttural ‘‘uhh’’ is her ultimate seal of approval.’
Edd Kimber, the first-ever winner of The Great British Bake Off, offers his tips to the last three contestants
Dos and Don’ts: Edd Kimber, the first-ever winner of The Great British Bake Off, offers his tips to the last three contestants
2 Do everything really well: ‘It sounds obvious but it’s very important. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple or complicated recipe, provided that it is executed well.’
3 Learn Paul and Mary’s favourite flavours: ‘Paul loves banana but Mary doesn’t. As for booze, you need enough to suit Mary’s taste for it but not too much for Paul.’
4 Watch out for Sue Perkins: ‘She eats everything in front of her so it’s dangerous to let her near any rare ingredient. In the first series she ate someone’s special chocolate – without realising.’
5 Avoid getting hit by fake food. ‘Mel, Sue and Paul would see how hard they could hit each other on the bottom with plastic bread. Even Mary hit Paul with it once.’

1 Argue: ‘Especially with Paul – he is so far into his career it is hard to disagree with him about technique.’
2 Talk too much: ‘If you’re not concentrating you can make fatal errors. The toughest thing is how to balance baking with being on camera. Producers usually want to talk during stressful times!’
3 Lose sight of your best bakes: ‘In Bread Week, Paul had told me my focaccia was the best he had tasted outside Italy in years. After filming, it disappeared and I found out he’d taken it home to serve at a dinner party.’
4 Forget it’s a reality TV show: ‘The winner might not be the one who has stood out so far.’
5 Fail to prepare: ‘Contestants get six weeks to practise, so their timings should be tight, provided they plan really well.’

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