This Christmas will crown the perfect 12 months for Prue Leith, one where she seamlessly stepped into Mary Berry’s shoes on The Great British Bake Off and gained on the naysayers. I generally wear red and a pair of outrageous earrings on Christmas Day, but this year I’ll be wearing my red ‘What would Mary do? Prue. ‘I’ve respected Mary for ever.
She’s as solid as a rock, her recipes work and she’s nice with it. It’s a captivating postscript as Prue admits she was anxious about replacing Mary. And no question, for when judge Mary and hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins didn’t move with the show when Channel 4 wrested it from the BBC, the changing of the guard was greeted with huge apprehension.
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But co-judging with Paul Hollywood ended up being easier and more pleasurable than Prue could ever have thought. It had been adored by me, loved it absolutely,’ she says with a smile. I believe it shows when you watch it – you can view we’re all having a good time. Share Prue was even forgiven for disclosing the name of the winner – which have been kept tightly under wraps for 90 days – in one single catastrophic tweet.
She spoiled the surprise by publicly congratulating Sophie Faldo just hours before the final was broadcast, blaming her confusion on enough time difference between your UK and Bhutan, where she was on holiday, which is six hours ahead. Back 2015 throughout a radio interview, Mary Berry let slide who was simply leaving the 3rd episode before it got and aired away with it, but Prue was castigated for ruining the grand finale of her first series. It’s an error that still galls her now.
For a few days I felt like cutting my throat, but everybody was very nice about it,’ she says. I cannot believe I could have been such an idiot. I was absolutely mortified; I thought, ‘Oh, what have I done? There was a period difference so that it was a little like making a telephone call and waking someone in the center of the night time.
I really was annoyed for a couple of days. However the thing that concerned me most was that it would take well-deserved attention from poor Sophie, whose full hour it should have been. I emailed her at as soon as, typical Sophie, i had been told by her never to be silly, it had made no difference and everything was well.
If I’d been her I’d have wanted to strangle me, and she’d have been justified! Did Prue think Sophie was the clear winner? She’s a great make and a worthwhile winner. But the other finalists Steven Kate or Carter-Bailey Lyon could have won it too, ‘ she says matter-of-factly. Prue, 77, has an similar manner to Mary uncannily, who was simply a judge on Bake Off for six years.
She’s no-nonsense but fair, with a dash of empathy and a cut of wickedness tossed in. Even her penchant for putting on dazzling primary colors mirrors Mary’s. Today, in your kitchen of her sprawling 18th-century Cotswolds manor house, she doesn’t disappoint in her red tunic, with a pair of lively outsized triangular orange and black earrings, multi-coloured nail varnish and raspberry red-rimmed glasses.
And like Mary herself without doubt, Prue shall be spending Xmas with her family, cooking food traditional turkey with all the current trimmings. It really is, one imagines, the first little bit of peacefulness either will have had for quite a while as they’re both fronting Christmas food programmes. We offered my horse a hump and transformed him into a camel to go carol performing Mary, Mel and Sue shall be reuniting for the very first time since Bake Off for a one-off Xmas special, Surprise Party, on BBC1.
Meanwhile, Prue, Paul and new hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig are delivering two festive editions of Bake Off, with previous contestants returning to showcase their cooking skills over three issues. The Christmas special offers were great fun to film, and the viewers are hoped by us like them as much as we do,’ she says.