The tasks the competitors are given this year “have a real air of play about them”, based around things like “gardening, the secret world of bugs and even magic”, according to comedian Tom Allen, who presents the show alongside former Great British Bake Off contestant Liam Charles.
And the teams of chefs —from various backgrounds, ranging from owning their own patisserie to a 5-star hotel — have really raised the bar for the new series, which begins on Channel 4 on Tuesday at 8pm.
Twelve professional duos face two challenges. In the first round, they must produce two different types of miniature classics — strawberry tarts and fruit salad. For the second challenge, they must reinvent pineapple upside-down cake and transform it into an incredible fine-dining experience, complete with towering edible showpiece sculptures.
Singapore-born judge and celebrated pastry chef Cherish Finden was blown away by the techniques they brought in. “And some of the tastes, I’ve never tasted before, like artichoke mixed with other ingredients... Things that I have never experienced.”
“For me, this year has been about different cultures, different countries, different backgrounds,” adds fellow judge Benoit Blin, a Frenchman.
“What I found really amazing is that some of the teams have really taken it on themselves to bring their home to the competition. So, there are some interesting ingredients such as one called the pickle leaf.”
This is the third series of the The Great British Bake Off spin-off to air on Channel 4, since it left the BBC.
So, were there any big disasters whilst filming it?
“One of the show pieces did not stand and it smashed to the floor even before we judged it, so my heart goes to the contestants and I really, really felt for them,” confides Finden.
“I felt like I wanted to put on an apron and jump in and help them!”
Luckily, hosts Charles and Allen are on hand to cheer up the chefs when things go wrong like that.
Discussing their techniques for this, Charles notes: “It depends on what the chef is like; you kind of have to gauge it.
“If they’re one of those chefs that don’t like to show their emotions, then you have to crack a joke or make it light-hearted.
“If they have their cake hearts on their sleeve, you have to go in with a hug and be very sympathetic, which is natural because most of us have experienced something bad happening to our bakes.”
“Liam is much better at it then I am, I can be... I don’t know what the word is, but I’m not very good at being soothing I suppose,” quips Allen, laughing.