Paul Hollywood gets baking in Margate
PUBLISHED: 16:19 23 April 2014
The baking maestro goes on tour
Paul Hollywood’s country-wide tour, which arrives in Kent this month, delves into the culinary upbringing that shaped his career. “This was the chance to do something on my own - it’s like a rock ‘n’ roll tour of baking!” he laughs.
“Baking has become quite a cool thing; it’s been a wonderful and at times slightly strange ascent, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Paul adds: “The premise is for me to be on stage and show recipes of my life, from when I was a kid, through my professional career and then starting on television.
“At the end of each show four people will come up on stage and I’ll set them a baking challenge and they’ll go and do the best in the time that I give them. The winner will be picked by the audience and there’ll be a roving microphone so members of the audience can throw questions at me.”
Paul’s show may be rock ’n’ roll but being a baker extraordinaire brings with it responsibility. “A lot of people tweet me pictures of things they’ve cooked, asking me to identify the problems.
“Mine is not the sort of job where you want to give anyone a wrong answer, so I have to go through the pictures forensically and then tweet back asking things like ‘Can you give me an angle of the right- hand side?’ or ‘Can you turn it over?’
“At least with the tour, we can do everything in person, although that’s not necessarily an invitation for people to bring along their home-made mishaps!”
Paul’s aptitude for a baking detective service stems from a flour-filled childhood. A passion for yeast runs in the Hollywood blood; the 48-year-old’s father taught him to bake after launching the family bakery chain. Previously, Paul’s grandfather held the title of head baker at The Adelphi Hotel.
“I was born and raised around bakeries most of my life. I would go in the bakery, hang out with my dad and watch him bake.
“It was such an exciting environment, and at the end of the day you’d always end up with empty shelves, ready to go again the next morning. That was a thrill in itself – every day you came back to where you’d started,” he says.
Of course, baking’s reputation among dieticians and health gurus perhaps isn’t as strong as Hollywood and sidekick Mary Berry would like it to be.
For the charismatic Great British Bake Off host, however, it’s doughnuts that appeal most. “I’m like Homer Simpson!” he laughs. “It’s ridiculous. I love doughnuts.
“Ever since I was a child, I loved that game of trying not to lick my lips when eating a doughnut - and I’m still no good at it! Of course, I can justify eating them because it’s all in the name of research!”
It’s a running theme that work and play coincide when it comes to Hollywood’s baking style. “Most of the things I do now I loved in my childhood,” he admits.
“An iced bun or a good doughnut, for instance. I put those online as a technical challenge a few years ago on the Bake Off website and they were the most downloaded recipes we ever had. I love pork pies too, and I slapped that recipe on the technical challenge on Bake Off as well. Again, it’s been one of our most popular.”
When it comes to dining out, however, Hollywood’s tastes are a little more refined. His latest venture may be taking him from village life in Aylesham, but judging by his appraisal of local eateries, he’ll be back.
“I go to a great Italian restaurant called Luigi’s in Sandwich run by a bunch of really nice Italians. The pasta is particularly good and their pizzas are excellent.
“In Kent we’re nicely influenced by some of the flavours from the continent;it makes sense for that to be the case. I go to Froggies, a French restaurant at a 15th-century pub called the Timber Batts in the little hamlet of Bodsham. The chef Joel comes from Loches in the Loire region and is a friend of ours. His food is spectacular.”
When it comes to sourcing his own ingredients, Hollywood also likes to stay within the local area as much as possible.
“Having a bakery gives you so much scope when it comes to complementing what you produce with others around you. Whether that’s eggs, fish, meat, vegetables, even fruit. It all goes with baking, so I love to reach out to see what’s around me.”
Having gained a cult following on Bake Off, Hollywood has built a reputation for making baking sexy. At the heart of that is bread, and he’s optimistic about the fate of one of the nation’s favourite foods because, as he says, we are being more demanding about what we eat. Popularity always brings attention to detail because people want to keep pushing things forward.
“That means us bakers are listening even more intently than ever, changing the way we bake, particularly when it comes to bread. The standard is getting much better.”
But Hollywood wants bread to be more than just a sideline. “In this country we have a side plate for the bread. In the Mediterranean the plate for bread is in the centre of the table, and that shows what we think of it. I want us to have more of a Mediterranean way of thinking – bread is the focal point that all food feeds off; that’s where I want bread to be.” n