On your marks, get set, BAKE! The 12th series of The Great British Bake Off starts on Channel 4 on Tuesday, and the bakers who will be vying to lift the hallowed cake stand have now been unveiled. They spent six weeks in a bubble earlier this year, cooking for Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith — but their fascinating stories, and fabulous baking, have yet to be revealed. Such as, which baker has Star Wars connections? Who is a co-worker of 2018 winner Rahul? Who is up to her eyes in dough at Goldman Sachs? And, perhaps most importantly, whose baking gets your mouth watering? ALISON BOSHOFF reports…
1. ENGINEERING BOFFIN AND PAL OF 2018 WINNER RAHUL
Giuseppe Dell’Anno, 45, chief engineer.
WHO: Dell’Anno has an engineering degree from the University of Pisa and took a PhD at Cranfield University in Bedford. Fluent in English, French and Italian, he became chief engineer at the National Composites Centre in Emersons Green in Bristol in 2017. The NCC is a part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an engineering initiative. Rahul, the GBBO winner from 2018, also works for the HVM Catapult.
Dell’Anno is married with three young sons, and his father was a professional chef in Milan, where he was raised.
BAKING STYLE: A ‘food snob’, he makes sweets for his children. He says that he loves to use Italian flavours in his bakes and has an engineer’s precision to ensure perfect results. His Instagram doesn’t show any images of his bakes, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how good he is.
CREME DE LA CREME? Given his background, four out of five.
The contestants: 1. Giuseppe Dell’Anno; 2. Amanda Geo; 3. Crystelle Pereira; 4. George Aristidou; 5. Freya Cox; 6. Rochica; 7. JuErgen Krauss; 8. Jairzeno Parris; 9. Tom Fletcher; 10. Lizzie Acker; 11. Chirag Parmar; 12. Maggie
2. GEORGE MICHAEL’S RELATIVE WHO’S A JEDI IN THE KITCHEN
Amanda Geo, 56, Metropolitan Police detective.
WHO: Raised in London with Greek-Cypriot heritage, Amanda is distantly related to the singer George Michael. She is also the cousin of Anthony Skordi, who played Admiral Versio in Star Wars. He tweeted her picture this week and wrote: ‘Yes, this is my cousin in the GBBO. Well done Amanda, from police chief to baking.’
Now living in Enfield, North London, she studied graphic design before entering the police force. Hobbies include wild swimming — she’s been known to take a dip in Hampstead’s ponds. She has two daughters.
BAKING STYLE: Amanda’s bakes are often influenced by Greek and Middle Eastern flavours. Her Instagram shows beautiful heart biscuits, a champagne strawberry jelly and millionaire’s shortbread with miso caramel, marbled chocolate and small chunks of fudge.
CREME DE LA CREME? Judging by her bakes on Instagram, she is very neat and seems at home with savoury and sweet. Three out of five.
Amanda Geo, 56, Metropolitan Police detective
3. BANKER PRINCESS WHO LOVES DRAMA
Crystelle Pereira, 26, client relationship manager.
WHO: High-achiever Crystelle is quadrilingual, went to UCL and now works for mega-bank Goldman Sachs. She was also nominated for a Women in Investment award.
Her family are prominent in the Goan community, and father Derrick is a successful businessman who runs his charity, Help A Poor Child, with the aid of Crystelle and her siblings.
She has a theatrical streak, taking part in various productions at college and joining an online choir during lockdown. Effervescent, she warns that people who aren’t used to her may need to turn down the volume on their TVs.
BAKING STYLE: She only took up baking ‘seriously’ three years ago, but who would bet against her acing it? She says she served as chief taster for her mother’s family recipes growing up, and loves to infuse her bakes with spices from the places she’s visited.
On her Instagram she describes herself as ‘90 per cent chaos, 10 per cent attempting to bake’, but the results are impressive. She’s posted pictures of a homemade Big Mac and Goan fish curry. Her cake pops are neat, as is her chocolate and peanut butter cake.
CREME DE LA CREME? Everything she does is magic: four out of five.
4. PERFECTIONIST FAMILY MAN
George Aristidou, 34, shared lives co-ordinator.
WHO: George married his childhood sweetheart, has three children, a Spitz dog and a love of sweet pastry. He grew up in a close-knit Greek-Cypriot family and learned how to cook from his mum, Babs.
BAKING STYLE: He likes to flavour his food with home-grown herbs, and on Instagram shows off his Cypriot bread and pastry.
This will surely hit Paul Hollywood’s sweet spot, as he lived in Cyprus as a young man and worked as a hotel chef in Paphos.
George is said to have an eye for ‘perfection’.
CREME DE LA CREME? Looks as if he can do it all, so four out of five.
5. HORSE-RIDING MODEL AND VEGAN
Freya Cox, 19, student.
WHO: Dressage champion Freya has axed a page devoted to her achievements in the wake of trolling since being named as a contestant. She is proud to be the show’s first vegan baker but has been criticised for horse-riding, which some vegans feel is cruel to animals. Freya, from Yorkshire, is studying for a psychology degree. She’s signed to a modelling agency and looks certain to use GBBO as a springboard to media success.
BAKING STYLE: There are lots of pictures of her posing for the camera and with friends, but precious little evidence of a long-standing love of baking on her Instagram — just pictures of one cake and some pumpkin-spiced cinnamon buns posted this week. She favours ‘the unexpected’ in her bakes, which is never a good sign.
CREME DE LA CREME? Doubtful. Two out of five.
6. INJURED DANCER TURNED BAKER
Rochica, 27, junior human resources business partner.
WHO: Rochica, who lives in Birmingham, comes from a big Jamaican family and bakes treats for her nan and aunties. She was a talented dancer but gave up on that due to an injury.
BAKING STYLE: She loves biscuits and cakes reflecting her Caribbean heritage. On Instagram, she posted a picture of a hexagon marble cake, topped with a white-chocolate drip and apple pie macarons.
She wrote: ‘Getting on the show gave me a huge confidence boost and I have a whole album of my bake so it’s time to finally start sharing them!’
CREME DE LA CREME? Hexagonal? Covered with marbled buttercream? Amazing. Four out of five.
Pictured: Jairzeno’s Bundt cake
7. BREAD BLOGGER AND TROMBONIST
JuErgen Krauss, 56, IT professional.
WHO: A graduate in Physics from the University of Freiburg in Germany, he was raised in the Black Forest but now lives in Brighton with his wife and son Ben. He plays trombone in the Sussex Jazz Orchestra alongside his boy, and calls himself a ‘guardian of 17 goldfish and family man’. He has run a baking blog since 2016.
BAKING STYLE: He was prompted to take up baking after being unable to find traditional German bread in the UK. Challah bread is a speciality and he seems to be at home with using ingredients such as green spelt, nettles and goats’ cheese.
His Instagram handle is: ‘juergenthebread’. If he doesn’t conquer all in bread week, questions will be asked.
CREME DE LA CREME? Bread’s great but how will he cope with mousses and glazes? Three out of five.
8. UBER BAKER AND CHARITY WORKER
Jairzeno Parris, 51, head of finance.
WHO: Jairzeno only started baking in 2014. He works for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and lives in London with his partner Graeme, an ex-RAF serviceman, and Maxi the greyhound.
Born in Trinidad, he has a BSc from the University of the West Indies and an MBA from America’s University of Michigan.
BAKING STYLE: A fan of Caribbean spices and the perfect patisserie finish, he says: ‘Baking is like breathing.’ The crumb on his wholemeal sourdough on Instagram is enough to make Paul Hollywood weep, his croissants are airy delights, and his dobos torte with sugar-work is a showstopper.
CREME DE LA CREME? If it tastes like it looks, he must be a finalist. Five out of five.
Pictured: Freya’s biscuit-topped creation
9. THE AM-DRAM MIDNIGHT BAKER
Tom Fletcher, 28, software developer.
WHO: Tom bakes several times a week, often at night, hence the nickname ‘the midnight baker’ from his mother, who finds fresh breads and pies the next morning. He works for his family’s software firm in Kent, loves amateur dramatics and running, and has been baking since he was a schoolboy.
BAKING STYLE: Cute, high concept cakes such as an allotment cake and a cherry blossom cake. It all looks very good on his Instagram, but it’s not quite to the professional standard of some of the others.
CREME DE LA CREME? He’s good, but is he great? Three out of five.
10. SAMBA LOVER WITH ‘CAKE’ LIP TATTOO
Lizzie Acker, 28, car production operative.
WHO: Livewire Lizzie lives with her partner Daniel and their Bedlington dog Prudence in Liverpool, where she works in a car factory. She’s a criminology graduate and fan of samba dancing, and posed with Cher on a trip to Las Vegas. She recently had the word ‘cake’ tattooed on the inside of her lip.
She also set up a company, The Happy Cakery, with her partner in July, just after filming was completed. The day after the firm was set up, she resigned as a director. What can it all mean?
BAKING STYLE: No Juergen-style precision here — she likes quantity and flavour. Her favourite bakes are cake, and she is against cheese in bread. There’s very little in the way of baking on her Instagram, aside from a picture of a ‘melty’ peanut butter cake.
CREME DE LA CREME? She might surprise us all, but judging by her social media: two out of five.
Pictured: Tom’s allotment cake
11. LATE-BLOOMING LOCKDOWN LEARNER
Chirag Parmar, 40, sales manager.
WHO: Cheery Chirag, known as Chigs, only took up baking at the beginning of lockdown in 2020. He began with sourdough. He taught himself by watching online videos. He lives in Leicester and works for Domestic & General. He loves bouldering, skydiving and climbing, and calls himself ‘thelatebloomer’ on Instagram.
BAKING STYLE: Clearly Chigs is a natural. On Instagram his Florentine cups are neat, his doughnuts a treat, but his almond croissant looks overbaked… and who wants a cupcake which tastes like ‘cereal milk?’
CREME DE LA CREME? A thrillseeker who thrives under pressure, but will he have the finesse? Three out of five.
12. OUTDOORSY OAP IS A TRADITIONALIST
Maggie, 70, retired nurse and midwife.
WHO: Maggie, from Poole, Dorset, is Bake Off’s oldest contestant. She enjoys canoeing, kayaking and sailing.
BAKING STYLE: She loves traditional bakes. Bread’s a favourite and she says baking comes naturally as her family constantly cooked and baked. She’s not on social media, so there’s no peeking at her form.
CREME DE LA CREME? Surely she knows what she is doing? Three out of five.