FORGET the Olympics, the biggest competition on TV is about to return to our screens.
The 2016 Great British Bake Off starts next Wednesday and, ahead of the first episode, we’ve learned more about who’ll be joining Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in the big tent.
Here are the twelve contestants who will compete to become the champion baker…
Bake Off viewers are sure to see the influence of Michael’s Cypriot heritage in his baking, as he loves to make Greek pastries with his grandmother. The 20-year-old, from London, is studying politics and economics in Durham, where he handles sharing a kitchen with four friends by baking late at night or in the early hours. He may shine in the Showstopper round as he enjoys making “big grand cakes” and combining unusual flavours.
The 46-year-old’s piping and icing skills are sure to be spot-on as she loves to decorate her cakes with elaborate designs. Originally from Merthyr Tydfil, she now works as a hairdresser in Cardiff and has developed her love of baking over the last 10 years. She is sure to have the stamina for long days in the tent as she loves mountain walks and has completed a four-day trek in the Andes.
With a grandfather who owned a bakery and a father who loved to cook, 61-year-old Jane will draw on a long family history of creating breads and cakes. The garden designer, from Beckenham, south-east London, likes to start early, getting her bread in the oven at 5am most mornings. Expect a strong showing in the technical challenges as she knows her classic cakes, biscuits and pastries.
The 28-year-old could be a comforting presence in the Bake Off tent. With his job supporting students at City University London and his experience of volunteering for charities such as Victim Support, Rav may be the first one to lend a hand to a fellow contestant in need of a shoulder to cry on. Rav lives in Kent with his parents and enjoys using unusual ingredients, taking inspiration from far eastern cuisine and vegan baking.
Like Jane, former primary school head teacher Val has a long history of baking. The 66-year-old took over the family baking aged 15 and says she can make the classics with her eyes closed. Now semi-retired, she works two days a week so will find plenty of time to practice her bakes. Originally from Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, but now living near Yeovil, Somerset, she could bring a more unusual touch to the Bake Off tent as she likes to do aerobics in her kitchen while waiting for her jams to boil.
Long hours working as a client service associate in a financial institution may leave Selasi with little time to practice, but the 30-year-old has impressed his colleagues with the cupcakes he makes for charity bake sales. Originally from Ghana, he moved to the UK 15 years ago and now lives in London.
The 31-year-old was inspired to bake by her grandmother and hopes to follow in her footsteps – aiming to be “even half the lady she was”. She grew up in the pubs her parents ran and now lives in Bedfordshire, working in pastoral care and PE teaching at a secondary school.
The farmer’s daughter from Norfolk could gain an edge by bringing in seasonal fruits and produce gathered from her parents’ farm. The 37-year-old mother-of-two has said she thrives on nurturing others and working as a nurse, so she could be a comforting figure in the tent. Sugar craft is her particular strength.
Originally from Northern Ireland, Andrew lives with friends in Derby and works as an aerospace engineer for Rolls-Royce, designing jet engines. His scientific background could lead to some very precise and beautiful bakes, with creations including a baguette Concorde. The 25-year-old will likely make use of the secret recipes passed down by his mother and grandmother.
The oldest contestant in this year’s competition, 67-year-old Lee has gone through many changes in his life – starting his career as a builder before changing direction in the 1980s and studying theology. He has worked as a pastor for the past 30 years and lives in Bolton, and will have the support of his two children and four grandchildren. He first caught the baking bug in 1984 while recovering from a back injury picked up playing cricket. He enjoys traditional flavours such as hazelnut, vanilla and chocolate.
The 26-year-old grew up in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, but now works in London as a project engagement manager for The Royal Society of Arts. Having lost 30kg, he enjoys his bakes but believes in eating them in moderation. Tom makes his own cheese and salami from scratch, so judge Mary Berry is unlikely to scold him for cutting corners.
The 23-year-old teaching assistant, who lives in south London, recently gained a first in economics and is known as a straight-A student. She could be her own strongest critic as she is not happy when things do not turn out right. Her other critic is her twin sister, who gives her feedback on her creations.
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