This week, Liam Charles returns for his fifth series as a presenter on Bake Off: The Professionals, where he’ll be working alongside new presenter Stacey Solomon, and judges Benoit Blin and Cherish Finden, having started his presenting role on the Channel 4 series in 2018. Liam first appeared on screens as a contestant on Series 8 of The Great British Bake Off, reaching fifth place, and has since released two recipe books – Cheeky Treats and Second Helpings. As well as presenting Bake Off: The Professionals, Liam is a judge on Junior Bake Off alongside fellow judge Ravneet Gill and presenter of the show Harry Hill, also shown on Channel 4. Ahead of the new series of Bake Off: The Professionals, we spoke to Liam about being a presenter on the show, judging Junior Bake Off and his time as a contestant on The Great British Bake Off.
What is it like co-presenting with Stacey Solomon on Bake Off: The Professionals and what do you enjoy most about being involved with the series?
It was wicked and I really enjoyed it. I found it super easy and it was like I had known her before, it wasn’t forced and felt very natural. It was kind of like having an older sister on set with me.
This is my fifth series now, which is amazing, I didn’t even realise that, and I am only 24 so fair enough, it’s not too bad then. What was so nice is that you kind of expect what the Teams are going to do, but this season, the chefs brought it to another level with their flavour combinations and concepts, they pushed the boundaries and it was great.
How did you feel finding out you’d be a presenter on the show after being a contestant on The Great British Bake Off the previous year?
I was so shocked if I am honest. I couldn’t believe it or expect it, as I hadn’t won Bake Off. When I got the call to go for the screen test I thought oh my word, this is insane. I knew if I did get that job it could change my life – it was a scary moment.
Have you had any stand-out highlights from your time presenting the series so far?
On both shows, the final episodes are always the stand-out moments. To be fair, when I wrapped the first season of Bake Off: The Professionals, that was a momentous time, and I felt that I had turned a chapter in my career and life.
In 2019, you became a judge on Junior Bake Off, what is this like to do and how is it seeing the showstoppers for the first time?
I have two nephews and I love talking to kids, they are so free and so imaginative, so being on Junior Bake Off was a walk in the park for me. I love seeing what the young bakers create, and they are excited to make the challenge and when it all works out, they are so proud of themselves. And then, of course, it’s a full circle when we give them praise. I absolutely love being a judge on Junior Bake Off.
How do you find the experience giving feedback to the contestants on their bakes?
I find it fine, to be honest. When I was critiqued on Bake Off by Paul (Hollywood) and Prue (Leith), I used what I got from them as a guide and then added my own spin to it. I don’t find it that difficult to tell the bakers what I think.
What is it like having Harry Hill present the show and working alongside Ravneet Gill as your fellow judge?
Harry is just so intelligent and he has so many dad jokes that you can’t help not laugh, he is great. Rav is like my older sister as well – it’s a similar relationship that I have with Stacey.
Was there anything that encouraged you to be a contestant on The Great British Bake Off in Series 8 and how was it taking part?
It was a great experience and you gain confidence as you go through the weeks. I encouraged myself to go on it, I was making cakes in sixth form at college at the time, and my teacher said to me one day – “have you ever considered going on the show?”. Fast forward a couple of years and I was on it.
Do you have any favourite memories from your time on the show and how do you feel being a previous contestant has helped with being a judge on Junior Bake Off?
I remember the first handshake, that was a great moment in Week 4 so I knew I would be there for Week 5, and getting star baker in Week 6 was another highlight. I knew the time pressures and the stress from being in the tent and knew how to talk to the baker and give constructive criticism, it definitely did help. The challenges are different in Junior Bake Off, but you can gauge how much they can realistically achieve in the time.
How is it being a contestant on shows such as Pointless Celebrities, The Wheel and CelebAbility?
I really don’t see myself as a celebrity, I see myself as someone who does stuff on TV. On game shows I am ever so slightly competitive so I do enjoy them, especially if we win!
You have previously released two recipe books – Cheeky Treats and Second Helpings – how was it seeing the response to the releases and how was it deciding the contents of the books?
The response was crazy and has been even to this day, people still talk to me about the recipes. To be fair, I put in more what I like and what I know works best.
Where does your love of baking come from and how did you start?
I have to say that I have a crazy sweet tooth, so it comes from that, and I didn’t want to keep eating packaged bought desserts, I wanted to learn how to make them myself.
I started baking about 14, but I took it seriously when I was 16.
Were there any chefs that inspired you when growing up and what advice would you give a new baker?
Tom Kerridge was a great inspiration, he is very laid-back, and I really admire Christina Tosi – she is an American baker classically trained and she is so inspiring. She uses really accessible ingredients, some that are nostalgic. I like the way she uses fun ingredients like marshmallows and crisps.
I would tell a new baker to keep on experimenting and keep trying, even if you do get it right the first time, try again so you know it is not a fluke!
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I spend a lot of time with my mates, I like tenpin bowling a lot, and going to different restaurants. I love the cinema, I go to the Everyman Cinema which has waiters that bring a menu to your seat, you can get virtually anything you want to eat.
Do you have any upcoming plans that you can tell us about?
All I will say is that 2022 is looking very good, and watch this space.
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