The nation’s most famous tent was pitched in the grounds of Welford Park once again. Presenters Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas returned to lead the latest batch of bakers through brand new challenges set by Judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.
In Tuesday’s night’s episode of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4, Syabira was named Star Baker and Kevin, 33 from Lanarkshire left the tent.
It was the seventh episode of The Great British Bake Off and this week the bakers celebrated all things custard. In the signature they put their twist on floating islands, they tackled a summer staple in the technical and in the showstopper, custard was truly the star as the basis of a set gateau.
At the end Matt announced that Syabira was the Star Baker, and Noel followed with the hardest job of announcing that Kevin would be leaving the tent.
On the show Kevin said: ‘I am nothing but proud. The imposter syndrome was real, coming into this competition I didn’t feel I deserved a place. I feel I can count myself as one of this talented bunch.’
Kevin talks here about leaving the show: ‘Well Halloween week was a bit scary for me and then I had to face Custard week! Prue and Paul liked my Showstopper for its flavours which was good to hear but they did admit it looked a bit of a mess!
‘I almost made it to the quarter-finals so I consider that pretty good going. I felt relieved when I didn’t have to leave in Week 1. I actually love making custard but I couldn’t get it all right this week. My first challenge of the floating islands I called Everything is Coming Up Roses, but unfortunately that wasn’t a good omen for me! In the technical my chocolate on top didn’t look good, but the judges liked my praline, ice cream and cone. Trouble was it started melting really quickly!
‘You go into the competition not knowing what to expect. But when I saw the others baking and what they produced across the board I knew that it could be tough for me, and I didn’t imagine at the beginning I would get to Week 7. With all that I felt so proud of everyone else and what we collectively produced in the tent. We all finished the Technicals successfully, and we all finished our Showstoppers. They are such a great bunch.
‘The reaction from my music students has been really great, I think they have been quite tickled by the fact that their teacher has been on TV making cakes. They all know that I bake cakes so they were rooting for me from the start. I really hope I have encouraged my pupils to have a private passion and follow that whatever the results.
‘I also hope I have made Lanarkshire and Scotland proud, as well as my fellow teachers, musicians, and church family. I was blown away by all the support from everyone who got in touch - it really warmed the cockles of my heart!
‘I will continue to be watching my fellow bakers. Everyone cheered each other on in the tent, and it was great for morale. I will be their chief cheerleader from here on and I can’t wait to see the remaining episodes. Although we are spread apart geographically we all still keep in touch.
‘It was just so lovely that we got so many messages from past bakers, they were a great support. And it was even more special as they had been in the tent, and well acquainted with the ups and downs of the whole experience. I feel so honoured to be part of this wider baking family.
‘I don’t have any huge baking ambitions, but I have an open heart to whatever may come next. What I will take away from my experience on Bake Off is a good story to tell in 10 years. And a ragtag group of friends for life.’
Kevin, 33, Lanarkshire, Music Teacher
Surrounded by family and much-loved animals, Kevin is devoted to his nearest and dearest and spends as much time as possible with his wife, Rachel, and his sisters and their partners, laughing, eating and playing board games. A talented musician, who not only teaches but also performs, Kevin is principally a saxophonist, but is accomplished at the flute, the piano and the clarinet too. He began baking when he was 17. His ethos in the kitchen is to use the best, seasonal ingredients and to spend time refining technique – with these in hand, he believes the presentation will take care of itself. His loves interesting combinations of fruits, herbs, nuts and spices.
Kevin looks back at his time in the tent:
‘I miss the end of each challenge where we got to taste each other’s bakes. We were supposed to wait for it to be boxed up and sent to the green room, but I’d just grab a fork out of my drawer and scran the lot before I could be told off. Proceed until apprehended.
‘I managed to keep it secret that I was filming in the tent, that was easy. Being a supply teacher, I just told my pupils that it was time for me to move on to my next school. I told them I’m like the Mary Poppins of music teachers, I have to go where I’m most needed. Being a teacher was also a good alibi for my friends. I just told them it was a hideously busy term. It’s true every other year.
‘I’ve learned that I’m still pure gash at a cake challenge. But also that I’m starting to find my own style of baking and building up my own vocabulary of flavour combinations and techniques. Bake Off forced me to ditch the recipes and create something of my own.
‘Oddly, I think my final bake was both my best and worst moment in the tent. It should have been my best creation of the whole series, but it went spectacularly wrong. That hit me hard. But at the same time, I finally made a perfect batch of macarons, I presented a bake that was fighting against me. I had the support of the other bakers, I gave the judges something they’d never tasted, and they really loved it. In the balance of things, I’m proud.
‘My favourite challenge has to be the biscuit mask. That’s when I first felt that I’d finally beaten the pressure of the tent to produce something I was really happy with. And my worst challenge was The Smörgåstårta. I was not excited by that challenge. It showed.
One of the funniest moments in the tent was Syabira putting sweetcorn in a cake. She’s bonkers. I actually thought it tasted great, but the judges gave her so much flak for it. Either that, or Abdul setting fire to his S’mores in Halloween week.
‘It was really cool to see how the filming all works. There’s a saying along the lines of ‘every actor wants to be a musician, and every musician wants to be an actor’. I don’t think it’s universally true, but I really appreciated watching how a television production is put together and produced. It’s a whole art form of its own.
Q&A with Kevin:
How much did you practice at home before going into the tent and how did you juggle that with life and work?
I was still working as a full-time teacher, teaching private music pupils in the evenings, co-ordinating the music ministry in my church, and doing gigs here and there, so my recipe development and baking practice had to be done in between all of that. There were quite a few occasions when I saw the dawn from the wrong end.
How big is your love of baking and how many hours would you bake a week?
Baking serves a few purposes for me. It’s decompression time after a particularly hectic day. It’s also a way of showing love to my friends and family. Additionally, as a supply teacher going into a new school every year, it’s important to earn the trust of my new colleagues. A chocolate Guinness cake is the surest way to do that. I bake as often as I have time because I have a baking wish list as long as my arm.
Did you pack a lucky item for your stay?
Can you describe the bakers as a group this year, and are you all on a what’s app group?
It’s such a ragtag bunch. We made a wee trip into town on one of our days off and one of the other bakers pointed out, what kind of backstory are folks going to think of when they see this bizarre group of people hanging out together?! I think we cover the polar ends of every demographic scale imaginable, but everyone came with cracking banter and an open heart.
How nervous were you when Paul and Prue started judging the first signature challenge and how did it feel when they judged the technical challenge?
Before the first judging, I had no idea how my baking compares to the standard they’re looking for, so I really couldn’t tell what was coming. It was a big confidence boost that they didn’t spit my food straight back out and ask me to leave there and then.
Is Paul Hollywood scary in real life and how did you cope with the blue eyed stare?
I don’t really find people scary, so I wasn’t intimidated by the blue eyed stare. I think he’s just an introvert at heart. Then he gets bombarded with all these bakers wanting to interact and show him some love.
Having watched Bake Off in the past, was the first day in the tent what you expected?
Watching past series, you see the bakers glowing with wit and charm, baking to the best of their ability. So I wondered whether the tent would imbue some sense of confidence and composure, but I got handed crippling imposter syndrome vibes instead.
If you could travel back in time what year/decade would you like to go back to and why [related to baking, ie anything retro]
I honestly think we’re living in the best time for baking right now. We have a world of ingredients within reach, recipes documented for everyone to access, and no shortage of inspiration on social media. I also love how we’re balancing that with things like sourdough breadmaking, seasonal fruits, locally sourced ingredients, regional recipes, substance over style.
What was it like having the team clean up for you after all your bakes. Did you feel guilty if you made a mess?
Not really. I don’t tend to clean up immediately after I’m finished. I prefer to go do something else and come back to the cleaning up. If the team had left the mess alone for long enough, I would have tidied up eventually.
Who is your baking inspiration and what age did you start baking?
I started baking when I was 17 and was in my last year of school. I dropped most of my subjects and had 22 free periods on my timetable. I should have used this to practise saxophone, but realised that I could eat all the cake I want if I make it myself, so I did. That’s growth mindset, people.
The Bake Off family is a very exclusive club, how do you feel now being a new member?
I’m not really sure what to expect. There are over 100 past bakers now, but it’s still a very niche interest group. What are the rules of social interaction? Is it acceptable for me to assume that they are all now my best friends? Or will there one day be a huge battle royale along the lines of the Jets and the Sharks performing balletic fight sequences to a Leonard Bernstein score? Which series’ contestants will survive to the bitter end? My money is on Kim-Joy carrying the whole of Team Series 9 and annihilating everyone in her path with unbridled fury.
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
I made a selection of macarons in 4 different flavours for my friends’ wedding, but the bride is an artist and illustrator and made the most exquisite little menu replicating my designs out of paper-cuttings and let me keep it afterwards. She stayed up past midnight on the eve of her wedding to make it!
What is the cake you get asked to make the most for friends and family?
Chocolate Guinness cake with cream cheese icing. You could lose 10 years of your life to that stuff.
If you were a cake topper what would you be and why?
Ugh. Cake topper is the worst part. I’d be the icing between each layer.
On a Bake Off Island you are allowed to take one utensil – what would it be?
Nothing can withstand the ruthless efficacy of the rubber spatula.
In three words how would you describe yourself?
And how would your friends describe you?
I dread to ask.
Are there any spices or flavours that you really dislike? and why…
Cucumber gives me the absolute dry boak. I can smell it across a room. Avocado and raw tomato have a similar effect.
When baking in the kitchen at home what music do you have on in the background, or is it just the hum of the fridge?
It depends on what mood I’m in, what I’m playing myself, or what I’m baking. It could be anything from Steely Dan to a Stravinsky, from Jose Gonzalez to a Sondheim musical, from Rival Schools to Rodrigo y Gabriela. Everything except pop. I’m not young and cool enough for that.
Does it all seem a bit surreal that you have joined The Great British Bake Off family?
I don’t think it will completely sink in until it airs on TV. At time of writing, we’re all still in a bit of a limbo thinking ‘did... did that really just happen?’
Do you think work colleagues and friends will be shocked to see you on TV?
I think they’ll only be shocked that I managed to keep it a secret.
What do you think it will be like watching yourself on television. Are you looking forward to it or terrified?
I don’t take myself too seriously, so I have no issue making a show of myself. I just hope I give people a laugh and produce some decent bakes along the way, and that they can see through the silliness and see a genuine passion for baking.