Saturday 24 March 2018

TV 'Bake Off' has local links

Biddy White Lennon, Executive Pastry Chef Paul Kelly and Anna Nolan at the launch of TV3’s ‘The Great Irish Bake Off’.
Biddy White Lennon, Executive Pastry Chef Paul Kelly and Anna Nolan at the launch of TV3’s ‘The Great Irish Bake Off’.

WEXFORD'S reputation for producing fine food was given a seal of approval after it emerged that both judges in the new TV3 hit television show 'The Great Irish Bake Off' have strong links with the county.

Biddy White Lennon, author of 13 books including seven about Irish food culture, has lived near Gorey for the past seven years, while Paul Kelly, Executive Pastry Chef at The Merrion Hotel, is a native of Wexford town.

The programme airs on TV3 on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. and is repeated on Sundays.

Biddy said she's delighted with the response to the show so far. 'The viewing figures were so good, they decided to repeat it on Sundays,' she said.

Many older viewers will remember Biddy from playing 'Maggie' in The Riordans on RTE, and she has acted on stage and screen for many years. However, she has also been a food writer for more than 30 years, and released her latest book 'Wild Food' earlier this year.

Biddy was a founding member of the Irish Food Writers Guild and has for many years been on the co-ordinating team for the Guild's Annual Food Awards.

She has been busy of late touring the country giving talks on foraging for food, and explaining how to gather, identify, store, preserve and use various wild foods.

She loved her role as judge in The Great Irish Bake Off, and likes the fact that it's not really a reality show. 'There's nothing nasty about it,' she said. 'We take 12 people who are already good, and we give them the opportunity to continue to improve.'

She said the toughest part each week is when she and fellow judge Paul have to decide who is eliminated.

Paul Kelly is a native of Parklands in Wexford town, and his father Phil still lives there. His younger sister Fidelma also lives in town and she works in Kelly's Hotel, Rosslare. He says he inherited his father's work ethic and his mother introduced him to the culinary world.

He has spent close to 20 years in the cooking industry. He has worked in many of the five-star hotels and high quality restaurants in Ireland and has worked as Executive Pastry Chef at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, since 1997. He is a judge for the World Association of Chefs at international events.

He said he's had a lovely reaction from his fellow Wexford people since the programme first aired two weeks ago. 'Friends I haven't seen or heard from in years have congratulated me via text and Facebook,' he revealed. 'In fact, last Saturday, I was home in Wexford - every time I'm home I love to walk along the Main Street to enjoy the old memories - and as I'm walking down the street a man shouts across "well done on the telly, you were great, love the show" and continued walking.'

'He is a family friend and when I was younger he was the executive chef in The Talbot Hotel, Wexford,' he added. 'It was at this brief moment that I realised the impact The Great Irish Bake Off has on people's lives, all over Ireland. I really hope it has a positive impact on bakers and pastry chefs, young and old, and gives them the courage to at least take the first steps and try to bake something.'

Gorey Guardian