The secret I've kept, even from my mum
Paul Hollywood lefts off steam when he talks to Su Carroll about a new venture.
It's all getting rather heated. The Great British Bake Off final is next week and viewers are starting to get a bit hot under the collar.
Last week lovely Beca left, leaving Ruby with a place in the finals – much to the irritation, it appears, of gossip columnists and the Twitterati. They think Paul Hollywood has a bit of a soft spot for the 20-year-old student.
After weeks of being grilled by virtually everyone he bumps into about the merits of the contestants, he is still rather good-natured about being asked, yet again, about the process of judging carried out by himself and Mary Berry.
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He says he understands the public obsession with the show.
"Look," he says, "what it all boils down to is people getting emotionally attached to the contestants. What you have is ten contestants on TV and around seven million judges at home.
"What I say is that you can't judge a book by its cover. Mary and I have over 70 years' experience. We really do know what we're talking about.
"Everyone else can go away. Every time I go somewhere someone will tell me who they thought was the top baker. They don't know what they're talking about.
"We taste it, we know what we're trying to impart. We can smell it, look at the structure, chew and taste it. We are the judges."
Paul is right, you know. The national obsession with Great British Bake Off has grown over the four series – "which, frankly, staggers us" admits Paul.
It is reaching a climax now with the final on Tuesday. But Paul won't be letting slip whether it's Ruby, Frances or Kimberly who will be lifting the trophy.
"I haven't even told my mum – that's part of the pleasure for people, not knowing who's won. People try and quiz me. Even people in the industry, I haven't told them.
"It's going to be such a big surprise. The other channels might as well just put a test card up!"
Paul's rise to fame comes on the solid foundation of a career in baking, which began in the chain of bakery shops his dad owned.
"It was my mum who really started me off on pastry. And now here I am, filming for a series on pies and puds. It has been such a great laugh, dragging my mum's old recipes out and creating something people love; something people can make at home."
After learning the basics in his dad's business, Paul took his skills into hotels, baking for The Chester Grosvenor, The Dorchester and Cliveden.
Then he went to live in Cyprus where he learned how to bake Mediterranean-style breads before returning to the UK and setting up his own bakery.
Bread remains his one true love.
"It's one of the basic foods, but done properly you can't beat it," he says.
"One of the best dinner parties I ever had was some bread I'd baked, some cheese, pate and wine. We had a wonderful evening."
Paul is hoping that his next big venture will provide a "wonderful evening" for his guests.
Tickets go on sale on Wednesday for a show next spring, Paul Hollywood Live – Get Your Bake On! which includes a date at Plymouth Pavilions on May 20.
In the show Paul will demonstrate some recipes, reveal some of the secrets of being a TV chef and take the audience on a journey through his life in baking.
Audience members will hear how the lad from Merseyside was persuaded by his father to ditch his path as a trained sculptor and join the family baking business. And there will, of course, be anecdotes from his time filming The Great British Bake Off, which returns next year with a new, prime time BBC One slot after transferring from BBC Two.
The live show will culminate with four lucky audience members being chosen at random to come on stage to bake with Paul.
"That's pretty much it," laughs Paul. "It's the kind of thing I've been doing with the BBC food shows for ten years.
"There will also be a Q&A session. I want people to get to know me, not just the Bake Off judge guy.
"I love communicating my passion about bread and baking. And I love live teaching. It's like a massive masterclass."
Paul thinks it's important to pass on skills to the next generation, which includes his teenage son, Josh. "I basically teach him what goes into the food so that he understands. Then kids can change it to make it their own."
Television has made him a household name and he is good-natured about the teasing he gets, particularly from hosts Sue and Mel on Bake Off, about being a "silver fox" and the middle-aged woman's pastry pin-up.
"They also call me the silver squirrel or the silver moose," he laughs. In reality, he says, the adoration just amounts to women sending him pictures of their muffins!
As The Great British Bake Off hangs up its pinny for another year, Paul still has plenty on his plate.
His Bread book is still a popular choice, How to Bake came out in March and there's a Pies and Puds book on the way, to accompany a new TV series. "They're my mum's recipes and I'm updating them," he says.
There's food festivals – including one in South Africa – and appearances including The BIG Cake Show at Westpoint, Exeter, in March, ahead of his live tour.
The one disappointment, though, is that his busy schedule doesn't allow much time for the one thing he really loves to do. Baking.
Paul Hollywood Live – Get Your Bake On! is at Plymouth Pavilions on May 20, 2014. Tickets go on sale at the venue on Wednesday at 10am.