The Great British Bake Off

by Mark Broadbent

Mark Broadbent has enjoyed a food-obsessed career spanning three decades. He’s cooked in Five star Hotels, Two star Michelin restaurants, Gastro Pubs and Member’s Clubs, delivering unforgettable cuisine or acting as a consultant. London’s Bluebird was just one of his success stories. Under his creative direction, the restaurant achieved huge critical acclaim and was especially loved by AA Gill.

Like 13 million other people, I’m nursing a giant cake-shaped hole in my Wednesday evenings following the brilliant series finale of the Great British Bake Off.

I’ve always enjoyed the show, but this year’s offering most definitely took the biscuit, with Nadiya Hussain the most deserving winner in its history.

There’s a multitude of reasons why millions of us tuned in each week: Mel and Sue’s snigger-inducing quick wit and endless supply of double entendres, the high drama of the showstopper challenges, Paul Hollywood’s no-nonsense judging and Mary Berry’s matriarchal homeliness.

Throw in panoramic vistas of the great British outdoors in summertime and a generous dollop of good-natured competition and you have all the ingredients for wholesome, feel-good TV at its best.

But what really struck me this year was how much I enjoyed the ingenuity and inventiveness of this year’s contestants.

Of course, coming up with original ideas and methods is to be expected, but this year’s participants went far beyond the norm. They brought with them that most British of traits which makes our cooking some of the most exciting in the world: eccentricity.

And in this respect, Nadiya was always the hands-down winner. Probably the most instinctive baker the show has ever seen, Nadiya’s skill in bringing together flavours from across the world and concocting her own magic ingredients was mind-blowing.

Her wonderfully bonkers but awesomely executed fizzy drinks-themed cheesecakes was a masterclass in thinking outside the box, while the majestic peacock she produced for chocolate week was the moment we all realised who the winner would be.

Nadiya richly deserves her new title of queen of cakes, for many reasons. She’s intuitive, full of natural flair, highly skilled and bursting with creativity. What’s more, she has a glint in her eye and a playfulness which she brings to all her culinary creations.

But for me, the main reason Nadiya deserved to walk away as the winner was for reminding us all of what can be achieved in our own kitchens with a little spark of imagination.

So long Bake Off for another year – here’s to more of the same in 2016.

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