21 MAY 2020 7
The power of f lour
As we wait, full of anticipation
for the return of Bake Off: The
Professionals, both hosts and
judges agree it’s the best series
yet, writes Katherine Hassell
No more queues, staggered mealtimes and
online menus could be just some of the ways
restaurants change in the wake of Covid-19.
This is the view of design company Object
Space Place, which has shared its vision of
how the hospitality sector will look when it
gradually reopens after the current crisis.
“Right now, we don’t know what the UK
regulations will be, but I expect one of the
biggest constraints will be on the maximum
number of covers,” said company founder
David Chenery, speaking at an online seminar
hosted by industry journal Code Hospitality.
David’s concept for restaurants post
coronavirus, a report called Alone Together,
features hand-washing basins in entrance
ways, separate exits and pick-up areas for
week, teams face two challenges. First, to
create dessert miniatures such as those you’d
enjoy for afternoon tea. Then, it’s a showpiece
that might take centre stage at a banquet.
The series starts by asking chefs to make
strawberry tarts and fruit salad. It sounds
simple, but they go to extraordinary lengths to
reinvent the classics. Next, they inject new life
into retro favourite the pineapple upsidedown
cake, turning it into an edible sculpture.
Expectations are high, but the pros deliver
throughout and even teach the world-class
experts who are scoring them a thing or two.
“Sometimes magic happens,” says judge
Benoit Blin, chef patissier at Belmond Le
Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. “They come up
with an idea you think is so brilliant that you
wish you’d had it before them.
“I’ve discovered lots of flavours,” Benoit
adds. “This year has been about different
cultures and countries. It’s a reflection of the
pastry industry in the UK. You’ve got people
from all over the world coming to work. There
were many ingredients I’d never heard of, seen
or tasted before. That makes a great show.”
One such ingredient is unlikely to find its
way to supermarket shelves. The betel leaf
from an Asian vine.
“Oh my days!” exclaims host Liam Charles, a
former contestant on The Great British Bake
Off. “I can’t even describe what it tastes like.”
There are tears when ideas don’t pan out as
well as they might.
“You realise how much energy and love
goes into each of the pieces they create,” says
comedian and co-host Tom Allen. “They get
very emotional. It’s not just what you see on
the day, it’s all the preparation. It’s really
upsetting if it goes wrong.”
And go wrong it often does as chefs push
themselves to be ever-more creative with
flavour, texture and design.
“One of the showpieces smashed to the
floor even before we judged it,” reveals
Cherish. “At times, I felt like I wanted to put
on an apron and jump in to help them.”
Tom laughs: “There was one time, Cherish,
when you bashed the table and the showpiece
fell apart. It was like a disaster movie. I don’t
think you were helping that day!”
Cherish explains: “I was so excited when
I saw the showpiece and banged the table.
The next minute… crash.”
The judges can come across as harsh – they
want perfection – but they have huge respect
for their fellow professionals.
“It’s the hardest cookery competition on
television,” says Tom. “While it’s sometimes
tough to see people being judged harshly,
when they get it right, they really get it right.
When you see a team who are struggling push
through, it makes it all worthwhile.”
And with the nation turning to baking for
stress relief in their droves during lockdown,
they’ll no doubt be influenced more than ever
by the pros.
“People have grown to love the show,” says
Tom. “They watch with their kids. They love
seeing the showpieces. Ultimately, it’s all a
framework for amazing chefs to do their
stuff. Everybody finds that inspiring.”
Bake Off: The Professionals returns to
Channel 4, Tuesday 26 May, 8pm
If ever there was a time for gravity-defying
chocolate sculptures, decadent desserts and
competitive cake-making against the clock,
that time is definitely now. And The Great
British Bake Off in all its guises – amateur,
pro and celebrity – always soothes our souls
with laughter, disaster and deliciousness.
Bake Off: The Professionals returns to
Channel 4 this week with its most dramatic,
theatrical and accomplished series yet.
“The standard is getting higher and higher,”
says judge Cherish Finden, executive pastry
chef of the Pan Pacific London hotel, which
opens this autumn. “Some of the pastry I
tasted was the best I’ve ever come across.”
Twelve pairs of pastry chefs from high-end
restaurants, bespoke caterers and five-star
hotels compete in the knockout contest. Each
Restaurant industry must learn to adapt to a brave new world
takeaway deliveries, easy-to-clean surfaces and
trolleys for people to collect their own food.
In other countries, restaurants have placed
crosses on tables to stop people sitting near
each other, or installed screens between them.
One Amsterdam establishment has even set
up mini private-dining greenhouses by a river.
“When restaurants eventually reopen,
there are going to be some alien elements to
our regular haunts due to physical distancing
– be it different layouts, how we order, how
we’re greeted and even the simple task of
going to the loo,” said Adam Hyman, founder
of Code Hospitality.
“A lot will come down to the confidence of
restaurants in how they deal with it.”
on a high
Photography: Channel4, David Chenery/Object Space Place