Tent Pressure #1: 'Scouse me?
Let's meet our contestants on this season of Bake-Off.
Welcome to Issue #1 of Tent Pressure, a newsletter about the Great British Bake-Off.
This newsletter is completely free, so subscribe if you like.
If you don’t know me, I’m Tom Ziller and I write Good Morning It’s Basketball, a popular newsletter about the NBA and WNBA.
Let’s start with some initial reactions from the first episode of this season, in no particular order.
The Liverpool accent, for me (a Californian who has spent zero time in the United Kingdom and doesn’t watch a lot of British television), is by far the hardest to understand among all the glorious accents we hear on Bake-Off. It has overtaken Welsh (remember Michelle from a few seasons ago?) and Scottish, and is far more difficult for me than the continental-inflected accents like Jürgen’s German or prior contestants’ French. The Caribbean accents can be a bit tricky for me, too. But the Scouser accent. Are we sure that we are speaking the same language here? I might need some subtitles.
(Yes, I Googled whether Scouser was a derogatory term.)
By the way: Lizzie, the baker from Liverpool, mentioned she has a dog named Prudence. Here’s the dog’s Instagram. It’s a good dog.
We’ll talk more about Jürgen later — I have a feeling he’ll be in this show until the end — but I feel like it should be illegal to have such a charming life-at-home montage: playing trombone with his family for passersby from their Brighton seaside cottage, with a pet bunny named Humphrey scooting around underfoot. That sentence describes everything great about Bake-Off.
I always love the “new baker” trope, but it takes extra resonance coming out of lockdown. Ergo, Chigs taking up baking during the pandemic and getting to this competitive level so quickly is a real avatar for all of us who have … uh, made exactly three loaves of bread in the past 18 months. Right.
Noel’s incredible fashion continues unabated. And he has a co-conspirator now!
Was that “Achy Breaky Heart” intro send-up simply a two-minute insult of Americans?! If so … well played.
I really don’t know how to feel about Matt singing the entirety of the theme song to The Flintstones in (seemingly great?) German. But I do know how I feel about Jürgen’s reaction, which was to say that he cannot determine whether it was an accurate translation because he has not “reviewed the text” in some time. Incredible. More on Jürgen below.
OUT: Tom — He apparently runs a model train shop with his parents (this is so stereotypical American-view-of-what-British-people-do it makes my teeth hurt) and is extremely realistic about what went wrong in his showstopper cake, both design and execution. Should have baked a train, though. Happy trails, Tom!
11. Lizzie — We have our annual super casual contestant! I just love a player on any competitive show with a complete lack of urgency. Like this is just another part of their day, and they can’t be arsed to show any concern or panic.
10. George — George is ultra relatable.
Other than the above, my favorite George moments are when he left the oven door open during the Signature Challenge (so the oven didn’t heat up properly) and when he had to count the eggs he had broken into his mixing bowl three times due to being distracted by the camera in his face.
9. Amanda — She’s a detective for the Metropolitan Police. She kind of struck out on all three bakes in Week 1? The rolls were falling over (just lay them down!), the loaf had flour pockets and the Showstopper didn’t have anti-gravity cake, just anti-gravity decoration. And she acknowledged that the cake rarely worked during practice.
Just waiting for the bit with Noel and handcuffs or a billy club.
8. Jairzeno — Incredible twist in that Jairzeno’s mini rolls for the Signature Challenge looks absolutely perfect. Then he tried to do a rolled cake for the Showstopper Challenge and it was a complete and utter disaster. And he simply … has no back-up plan or any urgency to try to fashion anything! That success in the Signature kept him on the show. That, and it being Week 1. I’m hoping that was just a rare miscue and not a sign that his first bake was the outlier.
7. Chigs — High hopes for Chigs.
6. Rochica — According to her official GBBO bio, Rochica took up baking when an injury forced her away from dancing, her lifelong passion. Really promising start!
5. Maggie — [whispers] I don’t think she much looks like Prue. I do love how she is ready to burst out laughing in every minute of every bake!
4. Freya — A vegan baker! And her stuff worked! I think she’ll stick around a while for a few reasons: GBBO loves to keep a younger baker around, she’s clearly talented and having a vegan contestant go deep would be a really good story. The question is how many weeks until I actually figure out what aquafaba is.
Freya also gave us the phrase that Americans will start using in everyday conversation for the first time ever: “It’s a bit of a faff, really.”
3. Crystelle — She had the best looking Showstopper, in my opinion.
Perfect decoration, met the brief, seems like good flavor choices. A force to be reckoned with. She’s a relatively new baker according to her bio, so I’m eager to see if cakes are her high point or if she can handle the other genres as well.
2. Jürgen — The people’s champion after Week 1, obviously. And our first Star Baker. And an absolutely incredible call home after being named Star Baker, too.
In addition to the trombones, the rabbit, the seaside cottage, the deadpan Flinstones theme song reaction, the Everything: Jürgen reveals that the book he used for his Showstopper was the first book he read entirely in English: Utopia by Thomas More. WHAT THE WHOLE HELL, dude. The character development for Jürgen in Week 1 is second to none.
1. Giuseppe — Powerhouse. I’ve never been so confident in a person’s eventual championship.
He’s an engineer, so he’s got the science and attention to detail down. He’s artistic. He’s charming. His dad was a professional chef. He bakes for his young children, who he does not feed mass-produced sweets. Young children are honest! They will tell ol’ Giuseppe if the biscuits aren’t up to snuff.
We haven’t seen Giuseppe hit any turbulence yet, so the first time that happens will be a key indicator. Let’s see what he does when the tent pressure rises. Until then, he’s the favorite.
This has been Issue #1 of Tent Pressure. Subscribe for free to get weekly issues the rest of the season. Tell a GBBO-loving friend, if you like.