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"You never know what's round the corner"

Fame may have come late for the Bake Off star, but she’s determined to make the most of it

HE MAY have published her first cookbook in 1970, and been on and off our television screens ever since, but Mary Berry had to wait until the age of 75 to be well and truly taken to the nation’s hearts.

This kindly, grandmotherly figure, who betrays the merest hint of steel behind those piercing blue eyes, has been a recipe tester, cookery editor, TV presenter and recipe book writer – more than 70 at the last count – but is, of course, now most celebrated for her double-act with Paul Hollywood on The Great British Bake Off, the seventh series of which began last month.

There has, perhaps, never been a better example of a show being perfectly fitted for the times. Launched amidst the new austerity, it appealed to something deep in the British psyche – a willingness to ‘make do’ in hard times, to celebrate the willing if inept amateur, and, perhaps most importantly to draw the viewer in and make them feel ‘I could to that’. As Mary explained to The Guardian: “Bake off is not a teaching programme, but people learn from it. Viewers can watch the contestants doing challenges and see how people like themselves – amateurs – cope.

“The aim is not to make people unhappy, or cry. It’s all very peaceful and we want them to do well, and if they’re doing it incorrectly then we can have a chat to them, perhaps at the end, after they’ve finished filming, and say: ‘If you do it like this…’.”

Mary’s judging double-act with Paul Hollywood is an important part of the show’s appeal, with Hollywood sometimes playing the role of an errant son-in-law. They frequently disagree, with Mary often appearing to be more sympathetic to the amateur bakers, and during one show it took them five hours to reach a decision.

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