HE’S the self-proclaimed “Northern rough” in the frightfully middle-class surroundings of The Great British Bake-Off.
But straight-talking celebrity chef Paul Hollywood is more than just another “Mr Nasty” to roll off the production line of TV talent show judges.
The Wallasey-born dad-of-one, the indisputable star of the hit BBC2 show, is the fiercest advocate for the virtues of baking you will find – whether it’s his own speciality of bread or the comfort food heaven of cakes, biscuits and tarts.
Paul started off working in bakeries in Bootle, Anfield and Walton before his pre-TV career took him into the kitchens of some of the country’s top hotels and onto his own firm, supplying bread to luxury London department store Harrod’s.
And he wants to see a whole new generation of young Merseyside bakers to follow him into what he fears could otherwise become a dying industry.
“Food is a great basis for rejuvenating any area,” the 45-year-old says.
“If people start to understand food better and develop the skills to get into the trade, then they can follow in the footsteps of someone like (Kirkby-born chef) Aiden Byrne, who has done phenomenally well.
“I came from a normal background. But if you have the flair and the passion, you can do whatever you want with food.
“If lads and girls want to be a chef, there are plenty of places looking for talent.
“To get on a show like The Great British Bake-Off, you have to be good. Personally I want to see people on there representing our area with a strong accent driving everyone mad.”
Paul certainly has a lot to thank baking for. After all, if he hadn’t abandoned a sculpture course at Wallasey School of Art to go and work in his dad’s bakery on the east coast of England, then he would never have ended up on the path which led to The Great British Bake-Off.
For those who haven’t fallen for the charms of the series, tucked away on BBC2 on Tuesday nights, it sees 12 of the UK’s best amateur bakers compete in various baking disciplines – week one, cakes; week two, tarts etc.