Get a Rise Out of These Tasty Great British Baking Show Secrets

Or is it Great British Bake Off? Why the beloved show has two different names and more secrets revealed about the competition that has made life a little sweeter for everyone watching.

By Natalie Finn Mar 01, 2021 8:00 AMTags
Great British Baking Show, Paul Hollywood, Mary BerryZumapress; E! Illustration

In case you had any doubts about just how important The Great British Baking Show has become to the health of the nation's psyche, rest assured.

Poet Amanda Gorman, the rising star in the world of letters who's been credited with no less than reviving America's collective spirit thanks to the poem she read at President Joe Biden's inauguration, spent a lot of her mandated stay-at-home time during the COVID-19 pandemic binge-watching the show on Netflix.

So there you go. No word on whether it was a dozen perfect éclairs, perfectly proved baguettes or cakes in the shape of an inspirational person's head that served as the direct conduit to the 22-year-old's soaring words, but consider her soul soothed.

Gorman's, and countless others.

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The show was already four years into its run in the U.K. when it first premiered in the U.S. in 2014, a curious new confection airing before Masterpiece and other assorted prestige programming on Sundays. Slowly at first, because it always takes a beat to spread the word, and then all at once—audiences on this side of the pond fell in love with judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins and the top-notch amateur bakers ages 17 to contestants old enough to be that teenager's great-grandparent. Every week they emotionally and intensely—but also politely and supportively—battle it out each week for the title of "star baker" and, ultimately, the championship. 

Mixers whir, chocolate tempers and dough rises, challenge after challenge, and in the end, the winner gets... a small glass cake stand.

Because it's not about money, people. It's about challenging yourself, testing your limits, staying cool under pressure, and proving that you and your baking know-how are enough. (Which you always are, even if it's just not your day in the tent.)

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Naturally, we wanted it for our own, as evidenced by the rise of The Great American Baking Show, which premiered in 2015 on ABC and was perfectly edible.

But nothing, nothing, could compare to the charm of the original, nine seasons (or series, or collections) of which are streaming now on Netflix and, even if you know who wins in the end, are endlessly rewatchable.

Yet while the finished product has served as the perfect balm for these stressful times, The Great British Baking Show is still a complicated production, one that requires everything to come together just so, and that's before the human errors—the nicked fingers, curdled custards, soggy bottoms and baked Alaska in the bin—can be captured along with the winning confections.

Not to mention, the past decade has seen beloved faces leave the tent and a controversial jump to another channel. Really, the heaping helping of drama could have deflated a lesser entertainment, but somehow this winning recipe has remained intact, through summer storms, 37-degree heat (Celcius, that is) and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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So, while we wait for our next treat and, in lieu of sharing a slice of cake with birthday boy Paul, who's turning 55 on March 1, it's time to peek between the layers of The Great British Baking Show:

1. If you're in the U.K. you're watching The Great British Bake Off. But in the United States, it's The Great British Baking Show. Why?

Well, if the term "bake off" sounds a bit nostalgically familiar to you, perhaps because of a certain little roly-poly chef with a pokable belly, there you go. Pillsbury trademarked the term in the U.S. after its nationwide contest, started in 1949 (the company's 80th anniversary), for the best amateur recipe using its brand-name flour became the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off®.

Hence, that part of the name was already taken on these shores.

2. The famous tent is located in Berkshire's Welford Park, in the southeast of England.  

It takes 12 to 13 weeks to film a 10-episode season, and unlike most reality shows where everyone lives in a hotel nearby (if not the same rose-strewn house), the competitors go home to their normal lives during the week. So, those two-day rounds, signature and technical challenges on Saturday and showstoppers the next day, are really two-day, all-day rounds.

"You haven't really got a life other than Bake Off. No social life," season four winner Frances Quinn told Cosmopolitan UK in 2019. "That was the most stressful time. We had to get a train down on the Friday and we'd have a wake up call at 5 a.m., we'd be in the tent at 7 a.m. We'd wrap filming at about 8 p.m. and then it would be the same again the next day. I'd get back at about midnight on the Sunday. It's not just a two-hour bake with a few buttercups."

They do have to stay over Saturday night, of course, but even going back and forth to the hotel on the shuttle was stressful, Frances recalled. "It was like going towards an exam, and then on the way back, some people had done really well in the exam and some people hadn't done so well and it was the next day when you know someone is going home," she said. "It was tricky trying to deal with everyone's different emotions."

3. When they say these are the best amateur bakers in all of the U.K., they mean it—or they're at least the most determined.

"It's a long application form. I think it's designed to put some people off, essentially," season four semifinalist Beca Lyne-Pirkis of Wales told BBC News in 2015. "It asks you about everything you have done, good and bad. It's designed to get information about your character, stories, mishaps and successes."

The producers, meanwhile, are just as on the ball. "Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call, not 24 hours after I had pressed send on the original email!" season five contestant Jordan Cox wrote on his blog Muffin Impossible. The phone interview lasted about an hour, and "we discussed my baking, hobbies, and work life. They even tested my baking skills, asking me to describe how to make a few baking staples off the top of my head."

Acknowledged Beca, "You need to be able to do a bit of everything, with a bit of creativity and flair—different but not too different."

Christine Wallace of season four recalled to BBC News that, at her first audition, "we had to [make] a sweet cake and a savory bake. I did a very elaborate chocolate cake with a raspberry mousse heart and a chocolate ganache—and a quiche with smoked salmon and asparagus." And then there are more auditions. "We are honor-bound to keep the details a secret," said Christina's fellow competitor Glen Crosby, "but in one audition we had to cook a specific recipe, under timed conditions with people asking us questions about what we were doing."

4. While it's no secret that each episode takes place over the course of two days, the contestants still wear the same outfits on both days.

Asked about that seemingly unnecessary requirement, season seven finalist Jane Beedle explained it was for "continuity," just in case.

"The show is filmed in the same order it's shown on screen," she told the Mirror in 2019, "and they never re-shoot a bake but sometimes they might want to redo an interview from the day before, so they want you to be in the same clothes for that."

Frances Quinn told Cosmo UK, "They just have to get so much footage for an hour show. You're being interviewed about eight times a day, just so they've got every type of answer and every type of question has been asked. They don't want to miss a thing." About wearing the same clothes two days in a row, she said, "Luckily they change the aprons so we don't look like a Jackson Pollock painting by the end of it. I think layers [help], but even then you still have to wear what you had on, on top. Difficult. And everyone was always like 'Did you buy two of everything?' and I was like 'No, you're spending so much money on butter and eggs...'"

5. While the show's larder is stocked with all the butter, flour, eggs, etc. that any baker might need, only so much of their expenses are covered for practicing at home or if they want to bring in outside items.

"It's funny the amount of ingredients I used to have in my kitchen," Frances recalled of preparing her recipes. "People would come in and I'd just got used to seeing that amount of butter and using so many eggs. Me and my fridge needed a detox after the show."

And while some contestants brought honey cultivated from their own bees and special spice mixes, some items were much more basic. "Even bananas," Frances said, "if you need the really ripe ones if you're making a banoffee pie and the ones they got in from the online order were green. You have to take it to the next level."

Jane told the Mirror she couldn't remember how much, exactly, the show gave them for expenses, but "once you're in the tent they provide everything you need, all the ingredients and equipment."

"If you want to go over the budget you can, you can go mental, but that's your choice and of course you pay for that yourself," she added.

6. Just as with The Voice or So You Think You Can Dance, if this isn't your season, maybe the next one will be.

Season five winner Nancy Birtwhistle told BBC News that she had tried and failed to make it onto the show just the previous year. "Undeterred, I continued to read and learn and applied again for Series 5 and this time I was successful in 'The Tent' ahead of 16,000 other applicants," she shared.

7. The crew checks the ovens every day before the bakers arrive by test-baking a dozen cakes.

"We mark each one, then get a runner to stand at each station with their cake mix so we can be sure they've all gone into the oven at the same time and can be properly tested," food researcher Georgia May, one of the show's secret weapons who's basically in charge of making sure there are zero problems with the ingredients or equipment, told The Observer in 2014. "We just have to be certain we're fair."

She continued, "We've got to make sure the contestants are happy. They can specify what brand of a product they want, we have to get it and then de-brand it for screen."

Another staffer is stationed at a nearby supermarket each morning, ready to run in and grab any necessary last-minute items. "Sometimes [the bakers will] be awake in the middle of the night and they'll have decided that, oh, figs will be the thing that will make their bake."

Or, May added, "I remember a few series back, someone wanted freeze-dried raspberries so I had to pick them out of a box of Special K one by one."

And no wonder Frances was so stressed out. "Last year Frances Quinn had a showstopper that required 150 ingredients," May recalled. "It filled the whole of that table. [Another time] we did a chocolate showstopper and that alone used 50 kilos of the stuff."

8. If you've ever fretted watching the judges pop one of a dozen canapés into their mouths or eat a few forkfuls of cake and move on, worry no more. All that bread and pastry does not go to waste.

"The crew eats all the leftovers," Jane Beedle told the Mirror. "We get some brought to us in the green room so we can taste each others bakes, but it's only slithers." However, "If there was loads of your bake left then you'd know it was awful."

9. Yeah, so original judge Mary Berry is kind of a baller. (Not that we needed to tell you that.)

The English baking maven, who has more than 75 books to her name and a mindboggling number of TV credits, had a droll experience clubbing in Ibiza once. When she was in her 70s.

In around 2006 she found herself, along with some mates, headed to Pacha on the island infamous for its debauched party scene. "They stamp you as you go in, and you can see the steam coming out as you go up the steps," the married grandmother told the Daily Telegraph in 2014. "It was like a rabbit warren: lots of little rooms and in every room there was music, there were bars, there were strange drinks, there were people smoking or sitting on the floor."

And while her personal style runs to high street looks from Zara and Oasis, "There was every type of clothing you could imagine: miniskirts; some of them with hardly anything on," Mary recalled. "The noise was amazing and of course the boys couldn't stand it. They went outside and waited for us on the stairs, and the girls all hung together inside. We didn't want to miss a trick."

It was just a slight descent then, really, to the underworld of cooking meth. "It's shocking! Then you get into it and you think, 'Have I seen episode four or five?' You get hooked," she recalled binge-watching Breaking Bad on set of The Great British Bake Off. "It's better than motor racing, which Paul [Hunnings, her husband] watches—though I'd prefer Downton Abbey."

Apparently they were going through the whole AMC lineup, because Frances from season four remembered Paul, Mary, Mel and Sue "watching Mad Men and stuff when we were having mad episodes of baking! They'd be watching boxsets."

10. Frances remembered plucky presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc being the absolute best, telling Cosmo UK, "I always said that Mel was amazing at helping you clean your work surface down. You used to have to put out Sue-friendly bowls because she would just go around eating stuff off your work bench and you'd have to be like 'no Sue, I need that.' They're genuinely as lovely as they come across. You just wanted to have more banter with them but you have to concentrate on your caramel not burning."

11. Perhaps the most bitter moment in Bake Off history was its jump from the BBC to Channel 4 in September 2016, which resulted in the exits of the tipple-appreciating Mary, as well as Sue and Mel. The BBC did raise the $410,000 (in today's conversion from pounds) per-hour licensing fee it was usually willing to pay to $685,000 an hour, for 30 hours, to keep what had been its most-watched show of 2015. Channel 4 outbid its fellow public broadcaster, offering $833,000 an hour, or almost $25 million for the whole batch. "The BBC's resources are not infinite," one BBC executive told The Guardian at the time.

But though Channel 4 said it planned to keep the show intact, most of the cast (none of whom were involved in the licensing negotiations) chose not to follow it to its new home.

Mel and Sue said they were leaving the day after the new deal was announced, on Sept. 13, stating they were "shocked and saddened" by the move, which they had made it clear they did not want. "We've had the most amazing time on Bake Off, and have loved seeing it rise and rise like a pair of yeasted Latvian baps," the comedians said, in top form till the end. "We're not going with the dough. We wish all the future bakers every success."

Nine days later, Mary announced that her loyalty lied with the BBC and she wouldn't be making the move, either. "What a privilege and honor it has been to be part of seven years of magic in a tent…The Bake Off family, Paul, Mel and Sue, have given me so much joy and laughter," said the busy octogenarian, whose shows since have included Britain's Best Home CookA Berry Royal Christmas (featuring Kate Middleton and Prince William) and Mary Berry's Simple Comforts.

She also said, "I am just sad for the audience who may not be ready for change, I hope they understand my decision. I wish the program, crew and future bakers every possible success and I am so very sad not to be a part of it. Farewell to soggy bottoms."

12. Paul, however, knowing on which side his bread was buttered, said that he was happy to be continuing on as a judge with the show. (Plus Channel 4 offers fewer restrictions for talent to capitalize on commercial opportunities outside the series.)

Cue the nationwide controversy, with appropriately named media commentator Lord Sugar calling the production company "greedy" and predicting a "total disaster."

Awkwardly, season seven with the original cast was still about to premiere, as were two Christmas specials—but all were a smashing success. The season finale was the most-watched TV show in the U.K. in all of 2016, with 15.9 million tuning in. A year later, 7.7 million watched the season eight finale on Channel 4—but 9.2 million watched the season 11 finale and a five-minute peak of 10.2 million was the channel's biggest-ever overnight audience.

"We'll always be mates," Paul said of Mary on The Jonathan Ross Show after the split. "I was with her last weekend, we had such a giggle." Asked to confirm that his decision hadn't affected their relationship, he replied with a smile, Night King-blue eyes twinkling, "Why would it? How could it?...No, no, no, she'll always be my TV mother, as well as Mel and Sue will be my sisters. We are like a dysfunctional family."

And he and Mary did talk while they were making their respective choices, Paul shared, acknowledging that he'd been called plenty of nasty things online. "I think ultimately it was our own decisions [to stay or go]. We're all at different points in our own careers." He said that Mary told him, when he told her he'd be staying, that "if I were your age I'd do the same thing." Moreover, "I love doing my job, I really do," and yes, he was going to be paid a bit more to do the job he already loved. "I had to stay." (And if their friendship could survive Mary writing "Love, Mary x" with a Sharpie on the door of his very posh car some years back... it could survive anything.)

Asked who was in the running to join him, he suggested Keira Knightley and Kylie Minoguefellow guests who happened to be sitting on Ross' couch with him. "Can I be Mary Berry?" Keira asked, intrigued.

13. The hunt to replace Mary was a big freakin' deal, with bookmakers taking bets on the names that were bandied about, including Nigella Lawson and season six winner Nadiya Hussain.

Ultimately it was boldly accessorized restaurateur Prue Leith (you can also see her passing judgment on four-course meals on The Great British Menu, streaming on Amazon Prime) who joined Paul at the judges table, while The Mighty Boosh funnyman Noel Fielding and writer-comedian-activist Sandi Toksvig were tapped as the new presenters. Days before the March 16, 2017, announcement, Prue called the rumors that she was in the running "complete nonsense," but also that "there's not a cook in the country who doesn't want to do that job."

She told Jonathan Ross in 2018, one season under her belt, that she actually didn't feel all that much pressure at first because she didn't fully realize what a national treasure the show had become. "I just thought, well, yeah, it'll be fun to do that—and then, when I went to have an audition, and then another audition, and meet this guy [gesturing to Paul], then I wanted to do it!"

Deciding she'd put her technical know-how on the line, she baked a Gugelhupf cake to bring to her second audition—but her husband took a look at it and advised, "That'll never get past Paul Hollywood." So she didn't bring it!

14. Prue has proved a worthy addition, though Mary would never have ever accidentally tweeted the name of the winner six hours before the season eight finale aired (for starters, Mary's not on Twitter), a faux pas Noel and Sandi duly made fun of the following season.

"Do you know, I think that was one of the worst half an hours, that first half an hour when I realized what I'd done, which was the most idiotic thing in the world," she lamented afterward on This Morning. Prue was in Bhutan at the time and, seeing a reminder to congratulate the winner, she flubbed the time change and sent her congrats to Sophie Faldo zinging into the Twitterverse way ahead of schedule.

She realized fairly instantly what she'd done, "and then I went into a kind of panic mode where I couldn't work my phone. I did not know how to delete it quickly, and I couldn't think. And in the end, I just rang my trusty [assistant]." Who had already deleted it, like a champ. "But that was 89 seconds after I'd done it, too late." Asked how she felt, Prue offered, "Suicidal. I mean, awful."

Mainly feeling terrible about taking any attention away from the winner, she emailed Sophie, who replied, "'Don't be silly, it's fine.'" And everybody was actually really nice about it, Prue added, and she got a lot of understanding messages from people, some very famous, reassuring her, "I could've done that."

15. Though the recipe stayed the same for 10 years, give or take an ingredient swap, season 11 was baked in half the time but at double the temperature, metaphorically speaking (don't try it with actual cake). To pull off the most recent season in the era of COVID-19 (luckily before the U.K. entered an even stricter lockdown period toward the end of 2020), the contestants and 130 crew members were relegated to a bubble at the Down Hall Hotel & Spa in Essex for six weeks. The hotel operators agreed to have 25 staffers on hand to run the place.

"We drew up this whopping list of protocols in conjunction with our medics and health and safety officers," executive producer Richard McKerrow explained to the Telegraph. "It's quite a piece of work—not as big as the Bible but not far off. Everyone had to quarantine for nine days, have two COVID tests and have food delivered to their doors."

Then, he continued, "They had a deep-cleaned rental car delivered to their house five days in advance, then travelled to the bio-bubble without stopping on the way. They stayed in their room for 24 hours while a third COVID test was done. Only then were they in and sealed off."

The result: a season that looked rather normal, minus the acknowledgment of the bubble—and the finale that didn't include the finalists' families or the previously cast-off contestants. But it was totally worth it.

As Love Productions creative director 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."

Seriously, if there's no hope for a Paul Hollywood handshake for a job exceptionally well done, why even show up?

16. "The next question was, how do we move people? We have bakers who had children," Smith said. "There was the whole legal and compliance issue. The filming was sort of the easy part."

Most of the contestants did move into the bubble on their own, with the noticeable exception being single dad Marc Elliott, a sculptor from Cornwall whose daughters came with him. Partners and kids, if a contestant was a primary caretaker, and even dogs were welcome if they were willing to abide by the strict protocols.

17. Even inside the bubble, there was at least one coronavirus scare that threatened to halt production. "Somebody spoke to our medical team because they were showing symptoms that could have been COVID," Smith told Radio Times in September.

"We had very strict protocols about what to do. They were isolated immediately, as was anyone who had been in close contact with them. They were tested immediately. We paused filming for an afternoon. The test came back negative and we resumed filming the next day."

The creative director added, "We were lucky, but it felt it like we would need to be extremely unlucky for it to be positive."

18. Location, of course, wasn't the only thing different about season 11. While Sandi and Noel, who already had a cult following from his irreverent work as half of The Mighty Boosh, brought more ribald humor to the tent (and it already had quite a bit with Mel and Sue), the addition of Alice in Wonderland actor Matt Lucas as Noel's partner in "ready, set…bake" this past season sent the cheek quotient skyrocketing.

And just in time, according to critics who felt that the formula had become a bit bland after 10 seasons.

"Matt and Noel were great to be with in the tent, it was always fun," recalled season 11 winner Peter Sawkins. "They were always doing random silly things that would never cross my mind. They kept it very light and would also give really good reassurance in a controlled and kind way, when they knew you wanted a bit of warmth and support, along with the mad stuff."

While quarantined in the bubble, Matt hosted a bingo night for the bakers, who passed a lot of the time watching movies and playing soccer. 

"He'd been shielding prior to coming in so for him it was quite liberating," Smith told The Observer of their new presenter. "It was a good atmosphere on set. People had been staying in their homes, the majority of them loved it… it was an opportunity to be normal. We had fun. It was a long time but it had a special atmosphere to it this year. We thought we were in the safest place in England by the time we were a week in and no one was showing signs."

Smith thought Noel, too, seemed happier in the bubble than he'd been lying low at home. 

"He'd pretty much been shielding in one location for several months," he told Radio Times, "so the ability to walk in a green space and be able to talk to people face to face was liberating. It was the same with quite a few others. By the end, I was desperate to get out, but there was a freedom to it as well."

19. Second place, meanwhile, was kinda on fire for season 11 runner-up Laura Adlington. She revealed on the series' wrap-up show, An Extra Slice, that she received a DM of encouragement from none other than "Emilia Clarke, mother of dragons from Game of Thrones." The actress told her, "'Laura, me and my friends love you. Thanks for brightening up our lockdown. We hope you win.'"

Laura said, "I think she called me a 'baking queen.' So my life is now complete, quite frankly. Friends with Matt Lucas and Emilia Clarke. Doesn't get better than that, does it?"

20. The moment in 2014 when Iain Watters chucked the components of his baked Alaska into the bin because the ice cream had gone soupy, and therefore had nothing to show the judges at the end of the day, resulting in his elimination, was so shocking, it immediately became…bin-gate!

"For any Americans wondering why #justiceforiain is trending, a man on the telly made a cake and threw it in the bin. Best TV in the world," tweeted one rapt fan when the show was airing on Aug. 27, 2014.

And if you're the type of person who never got over the seemingly stolen pea puree on Top Chef, this is the controversy for you. Fellow contestant Diana Beard had taken Iain's ice cream out of the freezer—but she insisted it had only been for about 40 seconds before he went to get it. That didn't keep the accusations of sabotage and other vitriol from being hurled at the 69-year-old online. "I'm glad Mary's not on twitter this would upset her.. #enoughnow," Paul tweeted. Added Sue, "Iain's Alaska was out of the freezer for 40 secs. That's it. No sabotage. 40 secs of normal temp would NOT be enough to reduce it to liquid."

And then Diana voluntarily left the show the next week due to an illness, but the BBC was compelled to insist that no one had sabotaged anything and that her exit had nothing to do with Iain's ice cream.

"I feel bad for Diana because she's had quite a mauling on Twitter and I don't like all the nasty comments that have been directed towards her," Iain told The Guardian the next day. "I think it's a bit unfair and I do think they could have edited the episode a bit better."

He also insisted, however, that his ice cream had not just been taken out of the freezer.

"I've chatted to Diana a couple of times since but I've never asked her why she did it," he said. "The Bake Off told me it was out of the fridge for only a minute but I think it had to be a lot longer than a minute to melt as much as that. I was just really shocked that it had been taken out of the freezer. I don't know why it was taken out."

They were down to three freezers from five after two malfunctioned, he recalled of that June day, and he had tucked his dessert into a different one than he'd used that morning.

"I had no reason to believe it would get taken out by anyone," the construction engineer from Northern Ireland continued. "I was outraged but I was more frustrated because I had been so focused the last hour and I had all the components made and I was frustrated that it had been taken out. It would not have been melted and ruined if it hadn't been removed from the freezer."

A lot of his fellow bakers felt that no one should've been eliminated, he said, since what happened wasn't his fault—but, as Paul pointed out, he didn't present anything at the end of the day. Still, "I don't regret throwing it in the bin," Iain declared. "I would do it again. I didn't want to serve something in that state. I'm not a complete perfectionist but I'm someone who likes things to turn out as I intended them to. It was more frustration."

21. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Bake Off Twitter is as intense a Twitter there is. And when the wrong contestant goes home in the eyes of the people, the angst is real. In season 10 it was the inexplicable elimination of Dan Chambers instead of Jamie Finn in week one that burned (and makes even less sense the more you watch it), and this past season the ouster of Hermine over Laura had the Internet fuming.

"After a full night's sleep and morning to contemplate things, Hermine going home is still the biggest scandal of 2020. Look at that Fu**ing cake she made, Laura couldn't make that if she snorted Mary Berry's ashes off Matt Lucas' head. #bakeoff #2020 #GBBO," tweeted one very concerned viewer.

22. A more surprising revelation came from season three (or The Great British Baking Show—The Beginnings if you're watching on Netflix) winner John Whaite, who suffered a gnarly cut to the hand from his food processor blade and needed to leave the tent. He was allowed to return to the competition the following week, though, and he stormed back to win it all.  

But the taste of victory soon turned sour, John recalled in a 2019 essay in The Telegraph, seven years after he became, at 23, the youngest-ever winner at the time (20-year-old Peter passed him last year). "Some days I'd wish I had never been on the show, because in reality, it totally derailed me from a steady lifepath," he wrote. For a year, the former law student was in demand, with publishers, product companies and TV bookers clamoring to work with him, which led him to quit his job at the Royal Bank of Scotland. But then public interest trailed off as the next batch of bakers rolled in, John explained, leaving him adrift. He started drinking heavily and became depressed, "waiting by the phone like an anxious 1980s teenager urging their crush to call."

Recalling how no one from the BBC or the production company gave him any guidance about navigating his strange, new world, he continued, "perhaps in the wake of reality TV star meltdowns and suicides, there should be a serious reform of the way contributors are prepared for, and guided through, their post-show life. But I don't think it would have made an ounce of difference even if they had [in my case]. Addiction to the razzle dazzle came naturally to the youthful me."

John acknowledged that he was lucky to have saved his money from the lucrative cookbook deal immediately offered to him and various media opportunities. He broadened his culinary horizons by enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu for a pastry certificate. He's released three books and in 2018 he opened a cooking school on his family's farm in Lancashire.

"Take the opportunities while you can, take the money and run if you want to, but do not take it too seriously," he concluded concluded. "Most importantly don't let yourself be diluted by it all. The person you were before the show is the best version of you; that's the person you were always supposed to be."

23. These bakers really do stay friends. Five years after their time in the tent together, season five alums including winner Nancy, Richard Burr, Claire Goodwin and Chetna Makan all attended Martha Collison's 2019 wedding. Better yet, they brought show-stopping cakes! They were joined by Kate Henry, Enwezor Nzegwu and... Diana and Iain, together again!

The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings (season three), TGBBS collections 1-8 (seasons four through 11, though not quite in that order), TGBBS Holidays and TGBBS Masterclass are all streaming on Netflix. Plus, you can watch episodes on PBS and PBS Living.

Seriously, just go find it.

(Originally published Jan. 30, at 3 a.m. PT)