The Great British Baking Show has risen from cult status to legitimate hit in the US over the past year, but it’s been a staple of British TV since nearly its inception in 2010. There have been six winners — including two from seasons that never made it stateside and not including the most recent season’s champion (which we’re not about to reveal here) — and all of them have graduated from amateur bakers to pros in their own right.
Most of them have books, but many of their exploits are limited to the eyes and ears of Brits only (though many of their shows are available somewhat less than legally on YouTube). Maybe this will be the year that we start seeing the bakers outside of the tent on American shores?
Season 4 of The Great British Baking Show premieres on Friday, June 16 at 9 p.m. on PBS.
It’s been almost seven years now since Kimber won the first Great British Bake Off (the first two seasons still aren’t available in the U.S., so we might as well call it by its original name), and he’s been busy. After a brief stint at the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Manoir, Kimber began touring and teaching classes worldwide. True to his working class roots — he was a debt collector before he became known as a baker — he favors simple recipes and finds inspiration in places like Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar in New York, “where they flavour their milk with cereals like cornflakes and fruit loops,” he told the Telegraph. He’s written three books, the first named after his blog, The Boy Who Bakes. He also has Say It With Cake and Patisserie Made Simple.
(Photo: Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Here’s part of what makes GBBS so different from American reality shows. At the time of the show’s taping, Wheatley’s husband was serving a seven-year sentence for money laundering. Rather than turn it into an “X-Factor-style sob story,” according to Wheatley, the producers withheld that information from the judges and viewers. Instead, she got to showcase her skills which led to two books — Home Baking and A Passion for Baking — as well as a cooking school — Jo’s Blue AGA — that she runs out of her half-million pound estate in a small village in Essex. And despite the teaching and the writing (both books and columns for local papers) and parenting, she’s still looking to open a gastropub.
Whaite’s baking skills have landed him a regular spot on the British morning show Lorraine as well as a co-hosting gig on the cooking competition Chopping Block. He’s written three books — John Whaite Bakes, John Whaite Bakes at Home, and Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients — the latter of which finds him moving into some non-baking areas of cuisine. He also runs the Kitchen Cookery School out of a farm in Wrightington where you can learn everything from tea cakes to barbecue. And even if all this hard work doesn’t pay off, he’s always got his law degree to fall back on.
(Photo: Lorne Thomson/Redferns)
Quinn has written a book — Quinntessential Baking — and has appeared on a number of TV shows like the quiz show Pointless Celebrities, but doesn’t have a recurring slot anywhere. She does have one claim to fame that no other winner has: During the competition, she had a reputation for over-the-top presentations, so it makes sense that she would hold the Guinness World Record for largest Jaffa Cake. A British specialty of sponge cake and orange jelly covered in chocolate, the cake was four feet in diameter, beating the previous record holder by a foot.
(Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Birtwhistle may have the quietest career surge of any of the GBBS winners. Of course, as a retired grandmother of eight, she doesn’t have anything to prove. She likes to do charity events once a month or so, and continues to do regular local appearances. She’s been the featured guest on a British cruise line, doing Q&As and cooking demonstrations. Unlike the rest of her compatriots, she has yet to write a book. Originally conceived as an encyclopedia, she’s now waiting to tie it in with a potential TV series. At last count, she had some 350 recipes, so it should be worth the wait.
(Photo: SWNS TV via YouTube)
The most recent winner is the most prolific yet. She’s written four books with one more on the way — Nadiya’s Kitchen, Nadiya’s British Food Adventure, the novel The Secret Life of the Amir Sisters, and children’s books, Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story and the forthcoming Nadiya’s Bake Me a Festive Story. She’s done her own two-part TV series, The Chronicles of Nadiya, where she visits her family’s village in Bangladesh to explore the roots of her cuisine. Her turn as a judge on The Big Family Cooking Showdown is part of an overall deal with the BBC that will keep her on the air for some time to come and the show is intended to be direct competition to The Great British Bake Off when it returns in its non-Mary-Sue-Mel incarnation on a rival channel. Oh yeah, and she baked a cake for the Queen.
(Photo: Graham Stone / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)