As a young man, Paul Hollywood initially refused to follow in his father’s footsteps and assume the baking mantle. Persuaded to change his mind, however, Hollywood has gone on to become one of the nation’s most treasured celebrity chefs. We catch up with the baker to talk about his one-man show – the ‘Get Your Bake On Tour’ – just as series 5 of the Great British Bake Off hits our screens.
The baking profession may be of long and humble tradition, but Paul Hollywood, with his sharp blue eyes, distinguished silver hair and glamorous surname, was always destined for a rise to stardom. After making his name on the remarkably popular BBC show The Great British Bake Off, the 47 year-old is now taking his talents on the road as part of a UK tour. It’s been quite a journey for the Merseyside lad, from the smaller stage of the family bakery to selling out concert venues across the country with a hands-on baking gig. Prior to facing crowds of adoring fans, how does he feel about the tour?
“I really enjoyed doing demonstrations for the BBC Good Food show, so I’m not unfamiliar with the format. This was my chance to do something on my own though, and it’s like a kind of rock ‘n’ roll tour! The whole idea of the tour is to pass on my knowledge, what I’ve learnt over the years to people who are struggling or have problems with their baking.”
Hollywood’s desire to pass on the knowledge perhaps harks back to his own baking beginnings. His knack with a rolling pin comes from a flour-filled childhood. “Mum looked after the pastry side, the apple pies, the biscuits,” he tells us. “My dad looked after the yeast side. So with the two of them as my parents I became a hybrid.”
So what kind of things is our fusion baker performing on stage?
“The premise is for me to show off the recipes of my life – back from when I was a kid, right through my professional career and from starting on television to dishes that I cook now. And at the end of each show, four people will come up on stage and I’ll set them a baking challenge to go and do their best with in a set amount of time. The winner will be picked by the audience. There will also be a roving mic so members of the audience can throw questions at me.”
Although the professional chef was brought up around the craft, and cites good friend Tom Kerridge as an inspiration, not to mention Michel Roux Junior, who he describes as “quite frankly, a God,” the route to the very top of his profession was perhaps a lonely one. A younger Hollywood had to look to old cookbooks rather than motivating head chefs to help him break the mould.
“My family have been my inspiration throughout my whole career. But one of my problems was that when I moved into these big flash restaurants to go and work there I was head of the tree; I was the head baker and there was no one higher than me who I could ask for advice.”
In baking, it seems that sometimes looking backwards can be the way forward.
“So I was reading the old bakery books, and getting inspiration from what was going on in baking a hundred years ago, or 200 years ago. That’s where I’d get my inspiration. I couldn’t get it from other bakers because they are almost doing the same thing.”
The “George Clooney of baking”, as Jonathan Ross described him, has been kneading dough for around thirty years. But when the last loaf is taken out the oven and the apron comes off, what is it that Hollywood likes to do to relax?
“I really enjoy walking the dog,” he smile. “He’s a Labrador called Rufus – I named him after [comedian] Rufus Hound, who’s a friend of mine. That’s my relaxation – walking Rufus or going out for a ride on my motorbike – it’s a sports bike though, I hate Harleys.”
What about hanging out with Mary Berry? Do the pair get on as well off screen as they do on it?
“Working with her is such a laugh. I do get the giggles a lot. Mary is lovely. I see a lot of her outside work, and am very fond of her and her whole family.”
For tickets and information to see Paul Hollywood on his ‘Get Your Bake On Live Tour’ go to www.paulhollywood.com