How would you describe your role in Junior Bake Off?
Well I am the light relief to a certain extent, and I suppose I am kind of the Baker’s friend and advocate, I am the only non Baker in the tent. Everyone else is an expert or very good, so hopefully my ignorance is refreshing.
What did you enjoy the most working on the series?
The interaction with kids. Often they would make me laugh, or I would make them laugh, they were the good bits for me.
Can you tell us your signature bake or what you get most asked to bake for family and friends?
I can make a mean shepherds pie, and my favourite meal to make is a Sunday roast even though I might cheat on the Yorkshire puds but everything else I make myself. I also love making the Christmas Day lunch. My brother is a farmer so I will get the turkey from him and I will cook the traditional meal with all the veg and trimmings.
Who is your best/worst critic?
My family are my best and worst critics.
Where is the location for Junior Bake Off?
It is a 15th century school in Kent. Really good location, it was great actually.
And walking into the tent for the first time?
Well I have been in the tent before because I was in Celebrity Bake Off. When you take on a gig like this you have a certain sense of responsibility. You are very aware of what you are taking on, Mel and Sue and Noel and Sandi have presented before me, and I was a bit nervous. Definitely it’s a really big show and it’s something that I haven’t done before. The show is not scripted and I used to take on gigs because they were in my comfort zone, but recently as I have hit 50 I have decided to be a bit more adventurous.
Do you know Noel, did he give you any advice?
Yes I do and I nearly texted him before I took on the gig, but I decided not to. I didn’t watch all the previous series either as I wanted to work out how to do it my own way. But in the end the show is all about the Bakers, and the format is King.
How was working with the young bakers?
You have to try and earn their trust, the last thing you want to do is try too hard, it has to be a bit more natural. Spoiler alert: there is a ‘Flossing’ moment which gelled us.
What do the presenters and Judges do backstage when they are not filming?
I thought I would be able to read a book, or write the novel that I never have, but in reality as the presenter you are in the tent a lot of the time. So any break I did get was to have a bit of kip in one of the single beds in the dormitories of the school!
Any disasters with filming where you got the giggles and had to start again?
There were a couple of times in Cake Corner where Liam and I really did start laughing if Prue said something inadvertently funny not knowing that she had. But of course we are professionals and recovered the moment.
Can you describe the atmosphere on set for the first and last day?
Liam and I were the new boys and both a bit nervous about it on the first day. Prue was so great and welcoming and always laughed at my jokes, and she was always very positive in feedback about what I was trying to do. It was really sweet of her I thought.
On the last day of filming all the Bakers came back and you can’t help but get a bit emotional seeing them again. There are 20 0f them, and my biggest anxiety was remembering all their names, but oddly enough I did remember all their names as they have such great individual characters and personalities.
At school were you a good pupil?
I was good at English Language, Art, particularly good at Biology. I was a bit of a swot really, I wanted to please people and wanted to do well. PE and Maths weren’t my strength! I went to a massive comprehensive in Kent and then later to a grammar school. We did home economics at school and I do remember making Chelsea Buns, I was average and I could follow a recipe! There is a lot of science in baking and I enjoyed that part of it.
What is your best childhood memory of baking?
I guess we did make mince pies and stuff like that, but there were five of us as kids, and age wise fairly wide spread. But I did make fry ups, also camping at cub scouts, we would cook on an open fire.
Will your kids love watching you on Junior Bake Off?
I think so, my kids were keen for me to do it and it’s something that they can watch. They asked every day after filming how it went, who got through. They love the main series of Bake Off.
Who was your favourite teacher and why, and what was your best subject at school?
I had a few great teachers, my History and Biology teachers took an interest in me, and the Art teacher really encouraged me. I think my best subject was English Language, and when you were asked to write a story the teacher would then read out the best story at the end of the lesson, and quite often he would choose mine.
Can you name your best moment filming Junior Bake Off, And your worst.
There was a moment where we are playfighting, and one of the kids was pretending to hit me, and then he did actually hit me in the face [by accident], and he burst out laughing, it was so funny. The worst moment for me is in the first episode when one of the bakers has a baking accident but I can’t reveal what that is!
How will you watch the show, and will you have cake?
If the kids are around then we will watch it together, but I wouldn’t force them to watch it with me, that would be strange.
Do you think baking should be on the national curriculum and taught in schools?
School is so boring if it is just all work, and even if you don’t like cooking it’s a nice break. You might not become a baker from it, but at least you can take away a couple of recipes for life.
Did you learn anything from the kids taking part this year, anything that surprised you?
Kids are generally very unguarded they don’t carry the baggage that adults have. They are spontaneous and they are in the moment most of the time. A lot of my comedy is me being a bit of a kid.
Bake Off is all about encouraging the bakers to do the best they can. Did the kids grow in confidence ?
Definitely yes, it was very gratifying to see. After a couple of episodes, they started to relax, and you could see their confidence, and if they were shy at first, towards the end they were answering me back. They did start calling me Hazza, but it was all a joke.
You have officially joined the Bake Off family – how proud are you to be a member and how did they welcome you?
I am really proud to officially be part of the Bake Off family. The whole team were so welcoming and it made it an easy introduction for me. It’s a very nice institution to be in, and I really recommend it.
Do you think Camilla and the grandchildren will be watching, or can’t you say?
I would be very surprised if they weren’t watching it. Not sure if the grandchildren would be glued to it, probably too young.
Desert Island holidays – I know you have shared these with a special person. What would your desert island dish be?
I think we would probably have a Victoria Sponge, with just jam and fresh cream inside.
As a trained doctor if anyone got a food allergy on set could you save them and how?
No I don’t think I would. I would leave it to the trained medic on set or call an ambulance.
About 20 years ago, I did once give a baby the kiss of life on the kitchen floor, who had a nut allergy, he was about 18 months old.
What do you get recognised in the street most for?
My humanitarian work ….. and from TV Burp. If I am in a cab, the driver will recognise my voice.
And finally, if you were a cake at a child’s party what would you be?
I think I would probably be a butterfly cake with stunning edible wafer butterflies and some fun sprinkles.