Saturday, 25 September 2021

Bake Off is new Sunday lunch for family gatherings says Mary Berry

MARY BERRY says The Great British Bake Off has replaced Sunday lunch in bringing families

MARY BERRY says The Great British Bake Off has replaced Sunday lunch in bringing families together.

The food writer and television presenter, who has quit the show following its departure from the BBC to Channel 4, said: “Family life is terribly important to me and I think it’s good family viewing.

“Sunday lunch has largely gone by the board these days and families rarely sit down to eat together but they will crowd around the television to watch Great British Bake Off.

“It has really united people and it’s something to talk about at work or school the next day. It has also got children interested in baking.”

Berry, 81, was speaking at a charity event at Phyllis Court Club in Henley on Thursday last week, which was attended by about 200 members.

She said she had decided not to switch to Channel 4 out of loyalty to the BBC.

Berry said: “It wasn’t a difficult decision. The programme has been going for seven years and was introduced by the BBC, which has given us all something wonderful. I feel very loyal to them as they are ultimately you and me.

“I’ve had such fun with it and everybody I’ve worked with has been wonderful, from the people who develop the recipes to the camera crew. I’ve become terribly attached to them and hope to work with them again.”

Berry said the show would be “different” on another channel but she was sure the quality would remain high and she wished her fellow judge Paul Hollywood, who is staying with the programme, every success.

She recalled being invited to judge the show, whose viewership peaked at more than 15 million, when it started in 2010.

She accepted immediately as it was “right up my street” but told the producers she needed a second judge as she felt she lacked expertise on making bread and they chose Hollywood. “I’m absolutely delighted with how successful the programme has been,” she said.

Berry, who lives near High Wycombe, said she was not academic at school but excelled at domestic science, which at the time was dismissed as a subject for children who were “as dim as a Toc H lamp”.

She said growing up in the post-war years, when rationing still applied, taught her to make the best of limited ingredients and joked: “I could manage quite nicely without chorizo or extra virgin olive oil!”

Berry said her favourite Bake Off contestant was mother-of-three Nadiya Hussain, who won last year’s sixth series and was subsequently commissioned by Buckingham Palace to bake the Queen’s official 90th birthday cake.

She said: “She just got better and better as the series went on. She could have messed things up in the final but she stayed calm and was very successful.

“She has got a lovely family and is a great ambassador for the show. We’re all proud of her — it has been an excellent start to her baking career.”

Berry was interviewed by journalist Tom Fort before taking questions from the audience and stayed behind for almost an hour afterwards to sign copies of her latest book, Mary Berry’s Family Sunday Lunches, and posed for photographs with guests.

She was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a selection of goods by the Fragrance Foundation, whose chief executive Linda Key is a member of the club.

Mr Fort, who lives in Sonning Common, said: “It was rather good fun. I’ve never met her before and, as more of a bread maker than a cake maker, I wasn’t sure how we would find any common ground!

“She was very straightforward and easy to talk to. It was a real delight because she came across as a human being rather than someone just delivering pre-scripted response.”

Organiser Barbara Northcote, of Phyllis Court Club’s charity action group, said: “Mary came over as relaxed and confident while Tom did a great job and asked some really interesting questions. It was very entertaining, the membership enjoyed it very much and we hope to host similar events in future.”

Proceeds from the event will be divided between the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed, Henley’s community first responders and youth and community project Nomad.

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