Inside the Great British Bake Off's new socially-distanced series

Inside Great British Bake Off’s new series with show members living together in a hotel for six weeks (with children and dogs allowed), regular Covid tests and Paul Hollywood’s iconic handshake remaining

The Great British Bake Off 2020 is due to hit screens on September 22 with the 12 home-bakers competing for the prize unveiled last week with the show overhauling its filming process to adhere to the coronavirus crisis. 

The upcoming series took place at Down Hall Hotel in Essex after five years of filming at Welford Park in Berkshire, with all cast and crew members undergoing regular COVID-19 testing in an isolation bubble amid the pandemic. 

Producers said they drew up a list of safety rules ‘longer than the Bible’ before filming started for the new socially-distanced series with Paul Hollywood’s signature handshake given the green light despite fears of spreading the virus and claims it could be replaced with an elbow bump.  

Exciting: The Great British Bake Off 2020 is due to hit screens on September 22 with the 12 home-bakers competing for the prize unveiled last week  with the show overhauling its filming process to adhere to the coronavirus crisis (judges and hosts pictured) 

At the height of lockdown, the hit Channel 4 series signed an exclusive deal with luxury Down Hall Hotel and Spa in Essex, located on 110 acres of land, to hire it out in late July for the entire series. 

The Observer reports that the country house and hotel, just a stone’s throw from celebrity chef Paul’s £1 million Grade II listed farmhouse in Kent, allowed the show to book it out on a self-catering basis with 25 members of staff on hand to help out.

The popular show had been scheduled to go into production back in April, before the pandemic, and subsequent lockdown, scuppered all plans. 

The publication claims that contestants were then allowed to move into the hotel with their partners, children or pet pooches – if they wished to do so – with measures put in place for child and dog care on set while filming for six weeks. The hit show is usually shot over a 12 week period with bakers travelling to and from their homes.  

Hollywood handshake! Producers said they drew up a list of safety rules ‘longer than the Bible’ before filming started for the new socially-distanced series with Paul Hollywood’s signature handshake given the green light despite fears of spreading the virus and claims it could be replaced with an elbow bump (pictured on the 2019 series) 

Before entering the ‘biosphere’, the contestants had to quarantine for nine days with the 130 people involved with the show tested three times before filming.  

The publication claims that the luxury country house had different wings for cast and crew with new host Matt Lucas even hosting fun nights for show members. 

Creative Director of Love Productions, Kieran Smith, told the Observer: ‘The whole point of the bubble [was] being able to be close to each other or pat people on the back, or it wouldn’t be Bake Off.’  

Elsewhere, as well as the show’s bubble, anything coming in and out of the Bake Off ‘biosphere’, including luggage and food deliveries, had to be deep-cleaned with packets of flour even cleaned several times.  

One big bubble: The upcoming series took place at Down Hall Hotel in Essex after five years of filming at Welford Park in Berkshire, with all cast and crew members undergoing regular COVID-19 testing in an isolation bubble amid the pandemic (the 2020 contestants pictured in the tent)  

In with the new: The Bake Off tent pictured in the grounds of Down Hall Hotel in Essex 

Despite being considered a high-risk candidate for coronavirus at 80, judge Prue Leith decided to make a comeback to the much-loved series.  

TV sources previously claimed producers banned older contestants who are considered vulnerable to the virus. 

An insider told The Sun: ‘There’s a real sense of urgency to get the next series of Bake Off in the can, considering it’s one of Channel 4’s biggest draws.

‘That means the nation’s baking grans and grandads have been deemed too high risk. Bake Off’s wizened contestants are often the heart of the show. Val, who would ‘listen’ to cakes to work out if they were done, and rapping septuagenarian Flo became favourites.’

Kelly Webb-Lamb, deputy director of programmes and head of popular factual for Channel 4, recently admitted it was an ‘enormous’ feat getting the show back on air.

Amazing: At the height of lockdown, the hit Channel 4 series signed an exclusive deal with luxury Down Hall Hotel and Spa in Essex, located on 110 acres of land, to hire it out in late July for the entire series on a self-catering basis with 25 members of staff on hand to help out 

The TV executive credited stringent health and safety measures, testing and quarantine regimes for the return of the baking hit. 

While fellow judge, Paul, 54, was given the green light to give out his signature Hollywood handshakes due to the bubble despite fears of spreading the virus.  

The food expert’s handshake is widely regarded as the golden ticket for bakers who aim to meet his high expectations or win Star Baker of the week. 



Isolation: The publication claims that contestants were then allowed to move into the hotel with their partners, children or pet pooches – if they wished to do so – with measures put in place for child and dog care on set while filming for six weeks (contestants Hermine, Dave and Makbul L-R pictured) 


Quarantine: Before entering the ‘biosphere’, the contestants had to quarantine for nine days with the 130 people involved with the show tested three times before filming (contestants Marc, left, and Lottie, right) 

Kieran, of show maker Love Productions, confirmed recently that his iconic gesture will take place in the series despite fears it could be scrapped. 

The first time fans witnessed his congratulatory move was in series three of the former BBC show. The show was relaunched on Channel 4 in 2017 and saw him dish out another seven handshakes in just one run.   

Channel 4 clarified they followed strict safety protocol so that all parties were free to handshake to their heart’s content. 



Close: Creative Director of Love Productions, Kieran Smith, told the Observer: ‘The whole point of the bubble [was] being able to be close to each other or pat people on the back, or it wouldn’t be Bake Off’ (contestants Rowan, Sura and Mark – L-R)


Stringent: Elsewhere, as well as the show’s bubble, anything coming in and out of the Bake Off ‘biosphere’, including luggage and food deliveries, had to be deep-cleaned with packets of flour even cleaned several times (contestants Linda, left, and Peter, right)  

GBBO revealed in August they had finished filming for the upcoming series. Posting a picture of the iconic kitchen to Instagram, they penned: ‘Filming has wrapped on the new series of The Great British Bake Off. More news soon…’   

Fellow Bake Off presenter Sandi Toksvig revealed that she had left the show earlier this year and was replaced by Little Britain comedian Matt Lucas 

Matt will partner up with fellow funnyman, Noel Fielding, 47, who originally joined the Great British Bake Off Cast in 2017.


Incredible: Kelly Webb-Lamb, deputy director of programmes and head of popular factual for Channel 4, recently admitted it was an ‘enormous’ feat getting the show back on air (contestants Loriea, left, and Laura, right) 

News: In August, GBBO revealed they had finished filming for the upcoming series by posting a picture of the iconic kitchen to Instagram

Teasers! They penned: ‘Filming has wrapped on the new series of The Great British Bake Off. More news soon…’

The first official still from The Great British Bake Off was released earlier this month, and saw judges Paul and Prue as well as co-hosts Matt and Noel pose with cake.

Matt recently revealed that he has ‘put a lot of weight’ on during hosting and he only got two hours sleep prior to his presenting debut as he was so nervous.   

The new series of The Great British Bake Off will begin on Channel 4 on September 22 at 8pm. 

New line-up: Fellow Bake Off presenter Sandi Toksvig revealed that she had left the show earlier this year and was replaced by Little Britain comedian Matt Lucas (pictured on previous series) 

GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF 2020: WHO ARE THE CONTESTANTS?

 

 DAVE

 

 HERMINE

Occupation: Armoured guard 

Why Bake Off? Dave first tried his hand at baking once he left home, after years of relying on his mother’s food. Now living with his girlfriend in Hampshire, his kitchen is filled with Bake Off-inspired appliances and his strengths lie in bread. 

 What’s he got to say? ‘I’m very pleased. It felt like a long build up and that there were many hurdles to overcome first. 

‘My strengths are the ability to learn from mistakes, take criticism and use it to improve, while my weaknesses would be feeling overwhelmed when mess builds up and struggling with some baking jargon…. And French words!’

Fun fact: Dave splits his time between work, DIY projects and looking after his pets when he isn’t cooking up a storm in the kitchen. 

Age: 39

Occupation: Accountant

Why Bake Off? Born in Benin, Hermine moved to London in nearly 20 years ago to pursue further education. She made her first cake at the tender age of eight after helping her mother bake for large family events. 

The French influence in Benin has instilled in Hermine a love of high-end pâtissérie.

What’s she got to say? ‘I thought it might not go ahead so to finally get into the tent that first morning was surreal. I could not believe I made it in. 

‘My strength is my understanding of how ingredients work together and how to get flavours right. My weakness is the ability to get a clean neat finish under time pressure.’ 

 

LAURA

 Age: 31

Occupation: Digital manager

Why Bake Off? Laura started baking as a child and returned to the art a few years ago. The Kent native credits working under pressure for being a strong hopeful in the competition. 

When it comes to her masterpieces, she focuses on mastering ‘pretty and dainty’ decorations.

 What’s she got to say? ‘I was really excited about the whole experience but I think I was especially excited to meet Matt Lucas. 

‘I saw him in Les Mis last year and he was incredible. I was very star-struck when I first saw him and made a bit of a fool out of myself. I think my first words to him were “OMG I LOVE YOU.”‘ 

Interesting fact: Laura volunteers at the Samaritans in her spare time 

 

LINDA

Age: 61

Occupation: Retirement living team leader 

Why Bake Off? Linda picked up the hobby from a young age, after frequently visiting her aunt’s dairy farm. 

As a lover of the countryside, she believes her strengths lie in home-comfort cooking and only uses homegrown produce in her cooking.

What’s she got to say? ‘I’ll never lose that magical feeling I had when I first walked into the tent and that will stay with me as one of my moments’. 

Interesting fact: At 61, Linda is this year’s oldest contestant

 

LORIEA

Age: 27

Occupation: Diagnostic radiographer 

Why Bake Off? The Durham-based chef infuses Caribbean flavours into her food, having lived in Jamaica for 15 years. 

She learnt how to bake from her grandmother and is used to working well under pressure.

What’s she got to say? ‘What stands out the most is the close bond we had made already, as well as how supportive we all were to each other, despite coming from various backgrounds. 

‘Basically, it was like catching up with long lost friends.’ 

Interesting fact: Loriea moved to the UK when she was 15 and started baking 10 years earlier with help from her grandmother

 

 LOTTIE

Age: 31

Occupation: Pantomime Producer

Why Bake-off?  Lottie from West Sussex believes she’s inherited her love for baking from her Lancastrian great-grandmother and often swapped toys for cookery books as a child. 

What’s she got to say? ‘Coming straight out of lockdown into another lockdown was weird but totally worth it and that first morning was utterly terrifying! 

‘As soon as I saw the tent it all started to feel a bit too real!’ 

Interesting fact: Lottie is a yoga enthusiast  

 

MAKBUL

Age: 51

Occupation: Accountant

Why Bake Off? Self-taught baker Makbul from Greater Manchester refined his baking skills through TV shows and famous chefs after cooking as a means to support his beloved mother. 

Pastries are his speciality, which he usually creates for special occasions like Eid. 

What’s he got to say? ‘As a baker one of my biggest strengths is that I’m not daunted by much. I will have a go. My biggest weakness is the mess I create, To see the tent for the first time was thrilling. 

‘To actually go into it was like stepping into another world, “at last, I am here!”’ 

Interesting fact: Makbul’s three grown-up children who are his hardest critics. 

 

MARC 

Age: 51

Occupation: Bronze resin sculptor

Why Bake Off? Marc from Cornwall, joined the series in a bid to defy the odds after losing his leg in a motorbike accident in 2016. 

The bronze resin sculptor credits baking cakes and pastries for healing the mental strain of his injury, after spending his youth climbing mountains. 

What’s he got to say? ‘I was incredibly excited, happy and very very nervous. [A special memory was] being surrounded by 11 other great people, all in the competition with me, and I just remember feeling the very positive and exciting energy in the tent.’ 

Interesting fact: Marc, who is a single parent, became a landscape photographer once he settled back in the UK four years after the incident. 

 

PETER

Age: 20

Occupation: Accounting & Finance Student

Why Bake Off? Peter started baking when he was 12 and has watched the series since its inception in 2010. 

Born in Edinburgh, the student ensures he incorporates his cultural background into his cooking and is the competition’s youngest hopeful. 

What’s he got to say? ‘Just being in the tent with the judges, presenters and other bakers and realising that I was on the Bake Off!..

‘I was just so excited to get baking in the tent and fulfil this amazing dream.’ 

Interesting fact: Peter is the youngest in the line-up 

 

ROWAN

Age: 55

Occupation: Music teacher

Why Bake Off? Rowan from Worcestershire is completely self-taught and specialises in French pâtissérie. The teacher also enjoys updating Georgian-inspired recipes with his own take on the 18th-century and enjoys decorating his masterpieces with flowers from his garden.

What’s he got to say?  ‘It was very exciting and seemed unreal after all the uncertainty and the vast amount of preparatory work. 

‘My strengths are ambition in ideas and design. My weakness is over-ambition and no interest in timings!’ 

Interesting fact: Rowan swims a mile in the mornings and enjoys spending time at the British Library 

 

SURA

Age: 31

Occupation: Pharmacy dispenser

Why Bake Off? Sura from London pays homage to her Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian and Indian heritage by experimenting with a wide range of seasoning in her cooking.

What’s she got to say?  ‘I was looking forward to meeting Prue the most.

‘I have watched her for many years on TV and I just loved her passion for food and flavours and her immense knowledge on it all. ‘She inspired a lot of my baking in my early 20s.’ 

Interesting fact: Sura’s passions lie in exploring her love of travel, architecture and design. 

 

MARK

Age: 32

Occupation: Project manager

Why Bake Off? Northern Irish contestant Mark began experimenting with baking during his time at university. 

As a project manager for public health research programmes, he tends to experiment with flavours of Africa and Asia after visiting the continents for work.

What’s he got to say? ‘I think I am quite a versatile baker and always up for a challenge. 

‘My biggest weakness is baking to a time limit – at home I spend hours (and sometimes days!) baking something as a way of de-stressing, so I wasn’t sure how I would deal with that in the tent!’ 

Interesting fact: Mark inspired by his Irish heritage, African and Asian flavours which he finds on health research programmes.

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