In Tuesday’s night’s episode of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4, Jürgen was named Star Baker and Tom, 28, from Kent, was the first baker to leave the tent.
Twelve new bakers made their way into a brand new bubble as The Great British Bake Off pitched the nation’s most famous tent in the grounds of Down Hall once again. Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas returned to lead the latest batch of bakers through thirty brand new challenges set by Judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.
The series kicked off with Cake Week. In the baker’s first opportunity to impress the judges, they had to produce twelve perfect Mini Rolls in the signature challenge. Next up under the gingham cloth were the ingredients for the first technical challenge - a nostalgic teatime classic to make a Malt Loaf with a pared down recipe. And finally, a showstopper that gave the bakers a chance to express their technical creativity with cakes designed to defy the laws of physics.
At the end of the first episode Noel announced that Jürgen was the Star Baker and Matt had the difficult job that no-one wants of telling Tom that he would be leaving the tent. On the show Tom said: ‘It didn’t go to plan at all. I have always been hard on myself, more than I really should be. But I am definitely proud of myself, and I never say that, so that must mean quite a bit! I am going to miss hanging out with the bakers, they are really talented and lovely people.’
Here Tom talks about his experience: ‘In the first challenge I literally ended up flinging mini rolls coated in liquid chocolate onto a cake stand with 5 minutes to go and at least 3 cameras pointed at me! It was at that point I wondered, "What have I signed myself up for!?’’
‘I came 5th in the Technical which wasn’t too bad, but my Showstopper was a bit of a disaster. I wanted something that would celebrate my love of classical music, so I made a three tiered lemon and almond sponge cake of a concert hall. The judges said that for an anti-gravity cake it didn’t really defy the laws of gravity. I was unsure of my design in the first place and then when I was running out of time I knew that I wouldn’t finish it and I really think I had missed the brief on that one!
‘Otherwise on a positive note, singing a duet with Matt Lucas while fretting over my showstopper will definitely remain one of the most surreal moments of my life.
‘I know it’s hard to go out first and it was short and sweet, but it truly was an experience that I won’t forget. I feel I have learned so much from it and it has made me a better baker and maybe a bit more confident and willing to try new adventures. One of my next ticks on the bucket list will be running a marathon, I am not sure when or where, but after Bake Off I feel if I put my mind to it I can pull it off.
‘I think I am fairly shy so I still can’t quite believe that I have been on national television. A lot of my friends never guessed what I was up to so it was pretty easy to keep it a secret. I didn’t expect to get into the tent so I feel I really have accomplished one of my goals in life.
‘I watched the first episode with my mum and dad, sister and brother in law and my nephew. I had made cakes from the show and we all enjoyed watching it together. We are a very close family that work together and enjoy each other’s company. It was very touching how they were all incredibly supportive when I was practising my bakes and when I went into the tent they didn’t take my tent time out of my annual leave, haha.
‘It’s going to be great to continue watching the series to see how all my friends are getting on in the tent, and it’s safe to say I will be baking alongside it. Being the first to go I was worried that I might feel left out, but we have a Whats App group and the Bakers have included me all along the way and I still feel very much a part of the group.
‘My local Am Dram group have just got back together and we are hoping to put on a production early next year. The group has a family feel about it and most of us have been in it for 10 years, and it’s great to get the energy from entertaining people. I am also in a rock choir group and we perform songs from the 70s to the present day, it’s all local in Maidstone.
‘I've learned so much from my Bake Off experience in preparing for the challenges, and learned new techniques and tried bakes I probably wouldn't have attempted before. I've also learned that on the whole, I can stay fairly jolly under pressure, which is nice to know!
‘Going forward I would love to have the opportunity to teach other people how to bake! Baking is something I never would have tried without Bake Off and has become my biggest passion since, so I'd love to be able to pass that on to others! I'd also like to take some baking courses myself, since there's always more to learn!
‘My favourite challenge in Bake Off was the chocolate mini roll signature. The experience of baking something in the tent for the first time was so exciting, it’s something I’ll never forget! The worst challenge was definitely the anti-gravity showstopper for me! I ran out of time to put together a lot of the elements I'd been able to get done at home, so I was pretty disappointed with how it turned out. Still, at the end of the day, it is only cake!
‘I’ll be taking away so many positives from being cast on Bake Off! It's given me a renewed sense of belief in my baking ability and I've learnt a huge amount . I've been able to experience taking part in a major (and the best!) TV show and most importantly, I've made an amazing group of new baking friends who I know I will keep in touch with.
‘I am really looking forward to being the first Baker on An Extra Slice and it’s exciting to be meeting Jo and Tom and the celebrity guests.’
Tom will join Jo Brand and Tom Allen on The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice on Friday 24 September Channel 4 at 8.00 pm.
Q&A with Tom:
*We filmed this series in a covid secure bubble again this year, how did it feel to be meeting and living with your fellow bakers?
Living with the other bakers in the bubble was my favourite part of the whole experience! They’re a lovely group and massively talented, so spending time with them all was a huge amount of fun!
*What did you enjoy most about being in the bubble and what did you miss most about being away from home?
I loved being in the bubble; it meant that us bakers had a lot more downtime together, we got to experience baking in the practice tent and had some pretty amazing food! It really added to the whole experience! I’d like to say there were things I missed from home, but I was having too much fun to really think about it! I did keep in touch with my family most days and I think they were just as excited as I was!
*Did you pack a lucky item for your stay?
My sister Lottie crocheted an amazing doll of me wearing a Bake Off apron to celebrate getting onto the show, so I bought it along as a lucky charm!
*During the filming time when you were away from home, where did you say you were to friends?
I told my friends that I was working away in Manchester for a while. Sadly, we couldn’t use that excuse when our customers in Manchester wondered where I had got to!
*Can you describe the bakers as a group this year?
The bakers this year are absolutely brilliant, we all clicked straight away and there’s always something going on in our group chat! We’re a creative bunch and everyone is very passionate about baking, so hopefully the audience will enjoy watching the show as much as we enjoyed taking part!
*How nervous were you when Paul and Prue started judging the first signature challenge and how does it feel when they are judging the technical challenge when they don’t know who has baked which item?
I actually wasn’t too nervous about Paul and Prue judging the first signature; one of the main reasons I applied for Bake Off was to learn from the experience, so I was quite happy to take on their feedback. The judging of the technical is definitely the most relaxed judging experience though; if you’re nervous about any mistakes, you at least get to hide amongst the other bakers for 10 minutes before you have to own up!
*Having watched Bake Off in the past, was the first day in the tent what you expected?
The tent felt strangely familiar after having seen it on TV for so many years, so physically it was roughly as I expected. The biggest surprise for me was the energy given off in the tent! There are so many people there working on the production, it had the same excited feeling as performing on stage!
*Are you a messy or tidy baker?
I’m absolutely a messy baker! How anyone can keep everything tidy as they go is beyond me!
*Who is your baking inspiration and what age did you start baking?
I was introduced to the world of baking through Bake Off, so I draw my inspiration from all of the previous Bake Off bakers. Everyone who takes part in the show has a unique perspective when it comes to flavours and design concepts, which I find to be a great source of inspiration to fuel my own ideas.
I first started baking when I was around 23/24, so it’s been around 4 years. Having said that, I was the only boy at my school’s cookery club when I was 10. The teacher described me as a little Gordon Ramsey…without the swearing!
*The Bake Off family is a very exclusive club, how do you feel being a new member?
I still don’t think it’s really sunk in yet! Bake Off is what inspired me to start baking in the first place, so to have joined the Bake Off family is completely surreal and a huge honour!
*The warmth and love you get in the Tent is a very special feeling, what is the nicest thing in baking you have done for anyone/or given them?
It’s hard to pinpoint the nicest thing I’ve done for someone, since it doesn’t feel that generous when I’m also getting the enjoyment of baking it! I do enjoy baking birthday cakes and gifts for my friends and family though, as I like to give them something unique and incorporate their favourite flavours and interests into the design.
* What is the cake you get asked to make the most for friends and family?
My tiramisu cake is my family’s favourite, which combines chocolate sponges, mocha crème mousseline, coffee whipped cream and plenty of brandy! I most often get requests for macarons though; in every flavour you can think of!
*If you were a cake what would you be and why?
I’d be a coffee and walnut cake: it can be sweet and well presented on the outside, but nuts on the inside!
*In three words how would you describe yourself?
Optimistic, patient, clumsy!
*Are there any bakes or flavours that you really dislike? and why…
I can’t stand anything with rose water. I once tried flavouring a cake with it and the taste kept getting stronger as time went on, by day two you might as well have been eating soap!
*When baking at home what do you have on in the background – music/TV/podcast/radio?
Because I have a stupid number of hobbies, I’m rarely at home during the week, so I usually multitask and catch up on any TV/videos while baking.
*Does it all seem a bit surreal that you have joined The Great British Bake Off family?
I still don’t think it’s completely sunk in yet! I’ve watched every series of the show so far and I never dared believe that I would make it onto the show myself!
*Do you think work colleagues and friends will be shocked to see you on TV?
I think a lot of people are going to be massively surprised when they see me on TV. I don’t think some of my friends and family are aware of how much baking I do, so they definitely won’t be expecting it!
* What do you think it will be like watching yourself on television? Behind a cushion or on delayed record?
My strategy will be to cringe and bear it!
Biography - Tom, 28
Although he proudly remembers his place as the only boy in his primary school baking club, Tom discovered his true passion for baking a mere four years ago, when he made his dad a sticky toffee pudding cake. Now he bakes several times a week, rustling up everything from pies and quiches to bread. His mum describes him as the ‘midnight baker’ – before he moved out of the family home, she would often wake up to a sweet treat… and a pile of washing up! Tom likes to take the foundations of a recipe and make it his own, creating bakes that are fun and often follow a theme. Away from his stand mixer, Tom works for the family software company and loves amateur dramatics and singing. He is also a keen runner.