THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE-OFF: Tuesday 14th August, BBC2, 8pm
Take one eclectic group of British amateur cooks (making sure not to include too many middle-class ladies and at least a couple of ethnic minorities). Stir in a generous helping of Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, add some vague culinary history, pre-heat an oven to 200c and voila! But wait, we’ve forgotten one vital ingredient! Mary Berry! Here are ten things you never knew about The Great British Bake-off‘s iconic judge (or ‘The Queen of Cakes’)..
1. If Berry was going to be on Mastermind, her specialist subject would be the AGA (a massive cast-iron cooker which originally used coal to create a slow-burning low-intensity heat, ideal for cooking and baking). Incidentally the name AGA is an abbreviation of Aktiebolaget Gas Accumulator. Aktiebolaget were the Swedish company who invented the things back in the twenties you see..
2. She was branded ‘hopeless’ by all of her school teachers – apart from Mrs Date, who taught her domestic science. She packed her off to Le Corden Bleu school of cookery in France at the age of 17 (apparently the exams were “dead easy”). But she cried all the way through her first meal because the Frenchies served her horse-meat!
3. Berry has written more than seventy cook books since her first book was published in 1970, selling over five million copies. As yet, none of them have been made into films.
4. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to culinary arts (cooking).
5. Berry loves Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons restaurant, but claims that her favourite place to eat is The Old Queen’s Head, in Penn, High Wycombe. I suppose it helps that she only lives round the corner..
6. She’s had many jobs in her time, including cooking for a range of hilariously-named food related bodies such as ‘The Egg Council’ and ‘The Flour Advisory Board’. Oh how we wished we worked for The Egg Council.
7. She told an interviewer that she can’t abide swearing in the kitchen as it’s “not good for the profession”. It’s safe to say that she’s no fan of Gordon Ramsay’s work then..
8. Now in it’s third series, The Great British Bake-off has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2010. Over five million people tuned in to watch last year’s final and Marks & Spencer reported sales increases of up to 20% in baking ingredients, while at John Lewis there was a 15% increase in sales of muffin trays and cake tins.
9. Mary is no stranger to personal tragedy after her youngest son died in a tragic car crash at the age of 19. “William was a bright button,” she told The Daily Mail. “He was at university in Bristol studying business when he came home that weekend. It was a sunny Saturday in June and he went out in the car with his sister, Annabel, to get a newspaper. He was normally such a careful driver but that day he simply drove too fast. When the two of them didnât come back for lunch I thought: âThatâs funnyâ? and then a policeman came through the door. Since the accident, weâve become very close as a family. His death has taught me all sorts of things.”
10. She’s got her own website! Check it out – not bad for a grandma! http://www.maryberry.co.uk/