We can all create beautiful cakes when it is just us. Photo: Jordane Mathieu

Competitions are not real life situations

Are you a fan of the Great British Bake Off? If so, you might like Bake Off: The Professionals.

It’s a completely new ball game with professional pastry chefs and a harsher critique than Paul Hollywood would be able to.

Judges Cherish Finden and Benoit Blin are accomplished and award winning pastry chefs in their own right, putting the teams of two through their paces with time limited challenges that scare me.

Constructions of 15 inch tall sugar creations that have to be moved to the judging table stop me breathing until it has been safely placed without collapsing.

In week one, the teams had to recreate the famous Jaffa Cake – easy enough you might think but not when working in a hot kitchen, limited time, cameras around you and hosts asking you questions.

Saying all that, some teams cope with the stress better than others. The first team to leave the kitchen were Alex and Stacey from a catering college in West Anglia. Now, I don’t want to be in their shoes when they return to college to teach new pastry chefs but they have left with their heads held high, stating that it is important for their students to know that it is ok to lose.

And here it is, competitions are not real life situations. In your own kitchen, in your own time we all can create beautiful cakes and desserts when it is just us.

I don’t think less of Alex and Stacey – having to leave the show didn’t mean that they are not talented. It simply meant that the stress got to them. With more time, I am sure their creations would have stood the test of the judges. Speaking of the judges, French man Benoit works for Raymond Blanc as Chef Pâtissier, leading a team of 13 pastry chefs. He has won Pastry Chef of the Year, is chairman of the UK Pastry Club(need to check if we have one here in Ireland) and has been given the title of Master of Culinary Arts, the highest accolade for a chef.

His fellow judge, Cherish Finden, stems from Singapore and is the scary one. She has worked at The Langham since 2009 and in June 2020 joined Pan Pacific as their Executive Pastry Chef.

She is no stranger to competitions having won over 25 medals, 18 of these were gold, and has been crowned Pastry Chef of the Year in 2012. She is the smallest person in the room most of the time, but she can reduce even the tallest person to a crumble with one snip of her finger. As much as I love a challenge, so far I haven’t tried to recreate any of the dishes presented at the show and I think, looking at the high standard again this year, it might take a while before I do attempt any baking on this level. My friend Agnes and I are texting each other at every episode, trying to guess who will be leaving or winning the show. Agnes is also an accomplished baker and even she hasn’t tried her hands on any of the creations yet. There might be a project in our future. Happy baking!

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