* It’s your second series filming together and how has that been, more laid back?
If we were more laid back we would be lying flat. There was a big pressure last year on the move to C4 but this year we have all relaxed into our roles and we have had a really good time filming this time round, everyone has found their niche quite easily and naturally.
*And the Hollywood Handshake?
I don’t know when the Hollywood Handshake really started, I shook a baker’s hand once to say well done, and it’s followed on from there. It’s normally given out when they are pretty much perfect. This series I have had moments when I have given out 3 in a challenge, and I have given one out in a Showstopper.
Even Prue now says ‘go on, give them a Hollywood Handshake’, but I won’t unless I feel they have really earned it.
*It’s very rare to get a foursome who gel so well how would you describe why the 4 of you work
I don’t know why it works so well. We are a dysfunctional family and it shouldn’t work but it does. The camaraderie is very tight, it’s very natural and genuine and we enjoy each others’ company. At Christmas last year we even had our own Christmas Bake Off lunch at Sandi’s for a Danish roast which was delicious and some excellent wines. I think it’s my turn this year!
We spend so much time together, and we are all very different personalities. It’s naturally happened, nothing is forced. Noel and I share an arty side, and the comedy element across all 4 is the binding thing, we share the same sense of humour.
*And the chemistry between you and Prue?
I am similar to Prue as we have such a love of food. We hit it off from the first moment we met, I knew there was something there. She is so natural and very easy to work with. She knows her stuff, what is right and what’s wrong. Prue is great and steps up to the mark every time.
*Paul you always knew that it would work with Prue – how do you feel when it was received so well last August?
Justified! Initially we did a lot of casting with a variety of different people, and they were all fantastic. But I just felt with Prue that she was the one, and the way we were chatting off camera – I just knew it would work. I did help her at the beginning of last series, a bit of initial hand holding, but I don’t need to do any of that now.
*Why and when did you first get the baking bug?
I think it was when I was standing on a chair watching my mum on a Sunday making apple pie or ginger biscuits. It was invariably after a roast chicken dinner, the apples would be from the garden and the pastry would be crispy and perfect.
*From this year’s series are there any trends from the Bakers that have come through?
There is a lot of spice this series, and there has been a lot of frangipane used this year. The ideas and flavour combinations this year are excellent.
*How skilled are the Bakers this year?
The baking standard overall is fantastic, they are a really talented bunch. I can honestly say that the bakers have been exceptional this year. They are highly skilled in flavour combinations and they have worked outside the box and have ignored the fact that I like citrus flavours, which is fine.
*Do you both pretty much agree when it comes to judging the Bakers?
We do from the beginning to the end, and we give marks at the end of each bake, and they are always within half a point of each other.
*What’s your favourite Bake Off moment?
I loved Lee Mack on Celebrity Bake Off earlier this year, the exchange between us talking about his wife’s sponge. He cracked me up, the same with Harry Hill talking about Camilla Parker-Bowles when they were on a desert island. They both made me laugh so much, it was hard to keep it together.
*You are referred as bad cop always getting the pantomime villain role, how do you react to that?
Everyone has always tried to wrap me up as that role inside and outside of Bake Off. I am not a villain, I am straight down the line. When it comes to judging I am always fair.
*Anything you wouldn’t eat?
Not really. The only thing I wouldn’t want to eat is tripe, and I don’t really get that offered on Bake Off.
*Describe Prue, Sandi, Noel in 3 words
Prue – Charming, Beautiful, Knowledgeable
Sandi – Intelligent, Small, Humourous
Noel – Odd, Funny, Artistic
*The show is very popular amongst young people why do you think that is and what are they like when they meet you?
They are very complimentary. A lot of the younger bakers in the tent like Selasi and Liam end up having a fan club. Younger people are baking more, and I think Bake Off really has got people baking and made it popular, and there is a genuine interest. The last series we doubled the youth viewing figures and I think that is predominantly down to Noel!
*What’s next in your baking or anything else world?
Next for me is a series of US Bake Off, then another series of Celebrity Bake Off. And I will be filming a road trip across America for UKTV.