I dare you to name a more comforting, uplifting cooking show than The Great British Baking Show (or Bake Off, depending on which naming adventure you choose). The lilting British accents, the home-away-from-home tent, the verdant British countryside, the scones, the tea! It all comes together to form the runaway hit that is The Great British Baking Show and the new season could not have come at a more perfect time. I don’t know about you, but with the craziness going on in the world these days, all I want to do is settle and watch a show where the worst catastrophe imaginable is a sinking souffle.
With that in mind, I have no idea why our beloved GBBO would choose to open this brand-new season with that horrifying rendition of Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart” – “Achy Breaky Tart.” GBBO is known for its cringey opening skits (which seem to increase in cringe-worthiness with each passing season) but this opening skit takes the cake. And seeing our beloved Paul, Prue, Noel, and Matt in the mullet wigs wasn’t even the worst part about it.
I’m sorry but if I had to look at that, so do you. If your eyes are bleeding, I understand. Aside from the wigs, the costumes, and the lyrics, I think the thing that bothered me most about this skit was the level of commitment everyone had. Paul Hollywood fake-jammed on that guitar while lip-syncing and staring directly into camera and it was so uncomfortable, I nearly needed to fast forward. The only saving grace was that once the skit was over, we transitioned right back into the traditional show we’ve all come to know and love. But those mullets are seared into our brains forever. We can forgive you, GBBO, but we will never forget.
This season starts off with cake week, where we meet twelve brand spanking new bakers and, while they might be amateurs, they’re still ten times better at baking than anyone you know. Any baker who knows how to make butter from scratch is essentially a professional on the level of Jacques Torres, in my opinion.
Let’s meet them all, shall we?
Amanda Geo, 56
Fun fact: Amanda is a detective! I’ve seen a lot of British detectives on screen but she might be the first real one I’ve ever laid eyes on. She also goes on river swims to decompress, which is just about the most classically British detective pastime one could have. Am I watching a baking competition or Broadchurch?
Chigs Parmar, 40
Chigs is very new to baking and only started tinkering around in the kitchen during the COVID lockdown, but he’s a fast learner! Noel said that Chigs reminds him of a young Robert DeNiro, but I get more Eric Bana vibes. Either way, Chigs is this season’s silver fox!
Crystelle Pereira, 26
Crystelle is one of those people who seems to somehow do everything – and she does it way better than you ever could. Quadrilingual? Check. Singer? Check. Amazing baker? Check. I predict Crystelle goes far this season!
Freya Cox, 19
Hometown: Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Freya is wise beyond her years but shows her age in the fact that she’s vegan! This excites me because I’m vegan too and seeing her bake amazing, dairy-free concoctions that I could (and gladly would) actually eat fills me with joy. She’s also a damn good baker too – even Paul Hollywood was impressed by her icing skills.
George Aristidou, 34
George is a goofy Greek guy who brings his love for his heritage to the tent, along with his smile and upbeat demeanor. He’s the first one to crack a joke and make other contestants laugh when things in the tent get too in-tents (sorry, I had to).
Giuseppe Dell’Anno, 45
Giuseppe’s also a man dedicated to his heritage, and his Italian-inspired bakes are jaw-dropping in their complexity and beauty. He’s one of those contestants who’s about the furthest thing from an amateur you can imagine.
Jairzeno Parris, 51
Jairzeno’s a sweetie, but he had me banging my head against a wall when he tried to stand up a swiss roll as the base layer of his top-heavy showstopper. As you might imagine, it did not go well. Why, Jairzeno? Why?
Jürgen Krauss, 56
Hometown: Brighton, East Sussex
Jürgen is the real German deal! He hails from the Black Forest and only moved to the U.K. in 2003. His bakes are infused with tastes of his homeland, and of course he kicked off his signature with a Black Forest-flavored concoction!
SPOILER ALERT! Jürgen is crowned star baker at the end of the premiere and no one picks up when he phones home to tell his family, which is exactly what would happen to me if I were in his shoes, so I felt seen.
Lizzie Acker, 28
Lizzie is a riot. She’s the kind of contestant who easily bats the banter ball back and forth with Noel and her Liverpool accent makes her sound like a member of the Beatles. But is she actually a good baker? TBD.
Hometown: Poole, Dorset
There’s an ongoing joke this season that Maggie and Prue are the same person. The similarities pretty much start and end with their hair, but Maggie’s a good sport and plays along with Noel’s gags. She’s a sweet, tennis-playing granny who knows her way around the kitchen. Her wisdom will likely keep her in the tent for a while.
Rochica’s a Jamaican transplant who spices up the tent with both her bakes and her outgoing personality. I stalked her on Instagram and her profile says “I like big bundts and I cannot lie” so I have a feeling she’ll fit right in.
Tom Fletcher, 28
Hometown: Maidstone, Kent
Tom’s a software developer-turned baker. He works for his family’s software company and when he’s not baking, apparently he also enjoys running, singing, and drama.
SPOILER ALERT! Tom fails to put on much of a performance in the tent, though, and his showstopper isn’t much to write home about.
Each time a season of GBBO ends, I always find myself thinking I won’t be able to love the next season’s cast as much as I did the season before and with every new season, GBBO proves me wrong! They’re master casters who know exactly which ingredients we need to fall in love again each season.
We’ve got our sweet granny who could bake a tea cake in her sleep, our young savant who could steal it all, the goofy dad who loves to bake with his kids, and a nerdy engineer who incorporates nuts, bolts, and meticulous diagrams into his bakes. I have no idea who’s going to win this season, but there’s a lot of talent in this new batch of misfits and multiple contenders who could easily bake their way to the top. So steep your tea, grab a blanket, and let’s settle in for a whole new season of the coziest show around.