Bake Off’s Prue Leith: everything you need to know about Mary Berry’s ‘replacement’

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray

The Great British Bake Off is set to make the move to Channel 4 this year – and, as we are all too painfully aware, Mary Berry will not be joining Paul Hollywood in the white tents ever again.

For many of us, the Queen of Cakes has set the bar incredibly high, making her an (almost) impossible act to follow. But it seems as if GBBO bosses have found a “like for like” replacement in the form of restaurateur and food writer Prue Leith.

Leith – who is very good friends with Berry – cleverly avoided answering when she was previously quizzed about her designs on the vacant Bake Off job.

“I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, really,” she told the Telegraph, when asked about the furore over Berry’s abdication. “I was more concerned about Brangelina.”

Mary Berry, Prue Leith, and Jack de Manio

Mary Berry, Prue Leith, and Jack de Manio

Now a source has claimed that Leith – who, at 76, is the same age as Berry was when GBBO first launched – has been recruited as the new judge.

“Both are from similar backgrounds, so hopefully viewers will be accepting and give Prue a chance to win them over,” they told The Sun.

“Following in Mary’s footsteps is a big challenge. But the producers are confident that Prue has all the attributes.”

A representative for Leith has since confirmed that she, “along with others”, has been “part of the selection process for the new Channel 4 version of Bake Off”.

However they refused to comment as to whether or not she had made the final line-up… suggesting that, quite possibly, Paul Hollywood’s new partner in crime cakes has indeed been found.

Prue Leith and her husband, John Playfair

Prue Leith and her husband, John Playfair

And, to be honest, Bake Off fans have little to complain about when it comes to Leith’s foodie credentials.

So… who is Prue Leith?

Leith first kicked off her culinary career in 1960, when she founded her own company to supply high-quality business lunches to offices, conferences, and the like.

She later went on to set up her own cookery school in 1975 (just like Berry), founded an academy for chefs in South Africa, and penned a plethora of cookery books, including Leith’s Cookery Bible and Leith’s All Party Cookbook.

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Leith also writes novels, children’s books, and poetry – and has, of course, written food columns for a number of British newspapers.

Prue Leith

Prue Leith

As if that weren’t enough, the talented chef and businesswoman has been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (making her a bonafide national treasure), is the Chancellor of the Queen Margaret University, and has founded a number of food-focused charities, including the Let’s Get Cooking initiative.

Perhaps most importantly of all, she’s no stranger to television; in fact, Leith has been a judge on the BBC’s Great British Menu since the series kicked off in 2006.

That’s 11 years on a well-renowned cookery show – and more than enough experience to prepare her for life inside the GBBO tent.

Mary Berry and Bake Off's Paul Hollywood

Mary Berry and Bake Off's Paul Hollywood

What we know so far about Channel 4’s Bake Off:

Earlier this year, Berry announced that she was quitting the Great British Bake Off when it moved to its new home on Channel 4 – and that her decision had been made out of loyalty to the BBC.

“My decision to stay with the BBC is out of loyalty to them, as they have nurtured me, and the show, that was a unique and brilliant format from day one,” the 81-year-old said in a statement.

“What a privilege and honour it has been to be part of seven years of magic in a tent.

“I am just sad for the audience who may not be ready for change, I hope they understand my decision.”

Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins – aka Mel and Sue – also quit the show, insisting that they would not “follow the dough” to a rival channel.

Paul Hollywood, however, has signed a three-year contract with Channel 4, rumoured to be worth £1 million.

Insisting his decision had nothing to do with the money involved, he later saidthat the show  “been a huge part of my life in the past few years and I just couldn’t turn my back on all that – the bakers themselves, the bakes, the team that makes it, and of course the tent, the bunting, and who could forget… the squirrels”.

The show is confirmed to return to our screens this year – and applications are now being accepted online.

Images: Rex Pictures, Love Productions