The answer to both of those questions is yes, and yes!
Even Mary Berry as the doyenne of baking has a twinkle in her piercing blue eyes when she looks at Paul, as many women also do when watching the Great British Bake Off. But there is a lot more depth behind Mr Hollywood, who has extensively studied, worked and travelled to achieve perfection in his baking art. Hollywood is charming and charismatic, but don’t be fooled – he is steely about the art of baking and takes no prisoners, as you can see with his one-line put downs in both the current and past series of GBBO.
It is easy to understand the artistic creations behind Paul’s work – he trained as a sculptor in his early days, but it was his father who encouraged him to take up bread making – Paul’s father went from a small one-man shop to owning a chain of bakeries throughout the north of England and parts of Scotland, so it was inevitable that Paul eventually followed in his fathers’ footsteps, in spite of early resistance to the trade.
As usual, TV Celebrity Chefs come under not just the spotlight, but severe scrutiny and criticism of their private lives, and like many others, Paul’s career became a little rocky after a scandal involving his private life. He achieved celebrity status in 2002 after a series of programmes with James Martin, and consequently, a huge cult female following began.
Not to detract from the amount of hard work and guts that he put into his career, Paul had stints of working with top bakers and patissiers in high ranking venues such as The Dorchester Hotel in London and various overseas appointments. His wife, Alexandra, recalls some of her happiest days when living in Cyprus (they met there) and Paul’s consequent love of motorbikes when he would roar around the countryside in absolute freedom. But Paul never lost the zest for discovery in terms of baking – he even visited Bedouin villages and worked with the locals, baking bread using primitive methods, which he admits he really enjoyed.
Eventually the wanderlust waned, and Paul returned to England to set up his own bakery company ‘Paul Hollywood Artisan Bread’, during which time his star on the horizon began to shine even more brightly on the celebrity front. Guest appearances flowed from every TV cookery show imaginable, until he eventually achieved his very own shows – ‘Paul Hollywood’s Bread’ and Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds’, both of which clocked up several million viewers. We wonder – were the viewers learning, or just goggling at the very attractive Hollywood!?
He can also lay claim to producing ‘the most expensive bread in Britain’, which he states as being somewhat of the ‘Rolls Royce of breads’. With extremely expensive Roquefort cheese from France, and specially milled flour from Wiltshire, Paul produced an Almond and Roquefort bread, which was apparently, to die for.
Books have obviously followed, with one of his almost encyclopaedic works being ‘100 Great Breads’ published in 2004 and still a top seller.
So, the moral of the story is – work hard, practice your bread making, take some of TryMyKitchen bread making classes and become the next Paul Hollywood – perhaps without the twinkling blue eyes….but you may gain a cult following!