Every year I get my hopes up that this will be the greatest season of The Great British Baking Show to date, and every year I stagger out of the tent a gravely disappointed person. Now, we are in the final days before season 12 graces our Netflix screens on September 24 in the US, and I should be tamping down my expectations. But Britain’s Channel 4 has officially introduced this year’s crop of bakers, and oh my god guys, I’m serious, this is going to be the best season ever. I am already in love with all 12 of these people, because none of them have let me down yet. Let’s get to know a little more about them before we spend the next 10 weeks watching Paul and Prue make them miserable.
Thirty-four-year-old Londoner George has devoted his life to helping the less fortunate, working as a coordinator for U.K. charity Shared Lives. He grew up in a tight-knit Greek-Cypriot family, is married to his childhood sweetheart, has three children, and lives in a house full of animals, including [double-checks press release] a dancing dog. The dog’s name is Eli, he’s a Japanese Spitz, and George made sure his dog’s dancing skills were mentioned in his official GBBS bio. I swear to god, if the producers don’t incorporate at least one video of this dog per episode, I shall give this season one big F rating across the board. Normally I don’t push my weight around like that, but we’re talking about a dancing dog here. This is important.
Amanda is a 56-year-old police detective from London, which I am somewhat an expert on as I have watched lot of British detective shows. She has a college degree in graphic design and worked in advertising before deciding to join the fuzz to solve mysteries. (It’s always the person you least suspect!)
Amanda is of Greek-Cypriot heritage and has been baking with her family since she was a child. She loves putting her arts training to good use by painting directly on her cakes, which we’ll likely see in episode one, since The Great British Baking Show always kicks off with Cake Week. Last year’s Cake Week, which prioritized artistic talent, was nothing short of a masterpiece, so she’s got some serious work to do if she wants to make an impression.
Chigs is a 40-year-old sales manager from Leicestershire, England. What does he sell, exactly? Sex appeal, for one thing. Those eyes! That smile! Depending on how long he lasts in the competition, we’re looking at the baker I will be happiest to look at all season long. Objectifying men makes me feel alive.
Chigs has already won my heart because I, too, am a geriatric millennial, and he’s proof that there’s nothing us olds can’t accomplish if we put our mind to it. According to his official bio, Chigs’ non-baking hobbies include bouldering, skydiving, and trekking (which is like hiking, but harder), and he plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. But perhaps most impressive of all, Chigs only learned how to bake while in quarantine using online videos and the general power of the internet, and look at him now, competing on the biggest baking stage in the entire world. My heart is fluttering, which means he’ll more than likely be gone by Bread Week.
What would The Great British Baking Show be without a grandmother-type figure we can fawn over? These women are the heart and soul of this show, as warm and comforting as a hot cuppa and a fresh currant scone. I’ve yet to hear a single word out of 70-year-old Maggie’s mouth, and already I’m daydreaming of her telling us all that everything is going to be okay. Maggie is enjoying her well-earned retirement after a long career as a midwife, and basically says in her bio that there’s nothing GBBS can throw at her that’s as hardcore as removing a whole-ass human being from another person’s body.
Crystelle is a 26-year-old client relationship manager from London, and as someone who has previously held jobs that involved managing client relationships, I can only assume that Crystelle spends most of her waking hours trapped in a special sort of hell. If you’ve ever worked in customer service of any sort, you understand why we need to root for Crystelle as hard as we can so she doesn’t have to go back to work.
Crystelle was born in northwest London to Kenyan-born Portuguese-Goan parents, speaks four languages, and is an avid traveler. Expect her to incorporate lots of international flavors into her bakes, and for Prue to dislike 90% of them.
At 19 years old, North Yorkshire student Freya is this year’s baby of the baking bunch. This is a very important role in the GBBS ecosystem, as it will be Freya’s role to make casual remarks that force everyone in the tent to confront their own mortality. Indeed, Freya’s bio states that she’s dreamed of being on the show since the first season, when she was but a wee lass of only nine. She is now in college pursuing a degree in psychology, so hopefully she can help the rest of the cast through their existential woes.
Lizzie is a 28-year-old factory worker from Liverpool, where she lives with her partner and their dog, Prudence. Conspicuously her bio makes no mention of whether or not Prudence can dance, as contestant George’s dog Eli can. How disappointing.
What’s not disappointing is the following snippet from her bio: “Lizzie may look like she’s frantic and messy on the outside, but she is usually calm and collected within.” I, too, can be described as frantic and messy on the outside, and I can say from experience that this makes for excellent television!
Lizzie’s bio also says that outside of baking her interests are “doing the samba in a suitably jazzy costume” and “investigating the lives of serial killers,” and this is entirely too much for me to unpack during the GBBS preseason. I am going to need Lizzie to stay on this show for at least six episodes, because we’ve got a lot to cover.
Forty-five-year-old engineer Giuseppe emigrated to Bristol, England from Italy. As a person of Italian descent, I am required by law to make a joke about how the move from Italy to England is a culinary tragedy. Not only that, but Giuseppe’s father was a professional chef, so if he doesn’t win this season of GBBS, his family will probably make him feel guilty about it for the rest of his life. Growing up Italian is both a blessing and a curse.
Trinidadian-born Jairzeno is a 51-year-old Londoner who works as the Head of Finance at some undisclosed company. I’ve talked to thousands of finance guys in my life, and every time their jobs came up in conversation, I’ve blacked out from boredom. Competing on The Great British Baking Show will give Jairzeno something fun to talk about at parties, so I’m very happy for him!
In his official bio, Jairzeno says “baking is like breathing,” which may be taking things a bit too seriously. I mean, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life as a professional baker, and it’s not that great. If I was going to pick anything comparable to breathing, it would probably be watching TV. Passive and crucial.
56-year-old IT guy Jürgen emigrated to the UK in 2003 from the Black Forest in Germany. I suffered through three years of high school German with a solid C-average, and have spent my entire adult life wondering what all those wasted hours were for. Maybe it was to get me ready for Jürgen.
According to his bio Jürgen works as an IT guy, but he is also a physicist, a job he presumably does in his spare time. When he’s not baking like a madman or recreationally unraveling the mysteries of the universe, Jürgen plays the trombone. We’ve still got more than a week to go before The Great British Baking Show premieres on American television, and already Jürgen has given me a season’s worth of material to work with.
Look at 27-year-old Rochica with her big beaming smile! I didn’t know that people from Birmingham could possibly look this happy. Good for her!
Rochica grew up in a big Jamaican family and incorporates the bold flavors of her heritage in everything she bakes. Expect the judges to demonstrate little to no appreciation of this fact.
According to 28-year-old Tom’s bio, he was the only boy in his elementary school’s baking club. His bio follows this statement up with, “Tom discovered his true passion for baking a mere four years ago.” What happened between elementary school and four years ago?! There are at least ten years missing from that story, and I want to know what happened. Was there a baking mishap? A broken heart? A gluten allergy? What are the odds that the producers cast a man with a mysterious baking past the exact same year they cast a police detective?
When Tom isn’t busy baking, he works as a developer for his family’s software company, and enjoys singing, amateur theater, and running. I’m not sure how all of these things connect to the greater mystery, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.