The Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood talks about his coastal childhood on the Wirral in Merseyside, and his soft spot for whipped ice cream. Interview: Alex Reece
I was born and raised on the Wirral, and I’m very fond of the coast near Hoylake and West Kirby, which overlooks the Dee and North Wales. It’s a beautiful stretch of beach. You can walk across to Hilbre Island when it’s low tide (and then you’re stuck there till the tide goes back out again!), but it’s a gorgeous walk. And the views are spectacular looking over the Irish Sea.
I used to go there a lot with the family. We’d have something to eat on the beach with my mum and my brothers, and we’d go and play in the sand, digging massive holes and building sandcastles.
The only food memory I have from when you’re on the beach at that age is ice cream. I remember they used to call it Wirral Whip. It’s basically the whipped ice cream with a Flake bar on top. But every time I hear an ice-cream van and it’s got the whipped ice cream I have to go and get it, because I do think they’re delicious. Although technically – is it ice cream? Well yeah… but I love it.
Now I live in Kent, I’m only three miles from the coast. I go there as often as I can. Westgate-on-Sea has lovely beaches and some beautiful little bays you can chill out in. But the place I go when I go out for a ride on the motorbike, and I take my son with me to get ice cream or oysters, is Whitstable. I love going there.
Baking is part of what I am. My dad was a baker, my mum was a very good baker, my brother’s a baker… My auntie says either my great-great- or great-great-great-grandfather was head baker at The Adelphi in Liverpool. My book, A Baker’s Life, covers all my life, from the beginning – nostalgic stuff when I was young – to my early career, then into the start of TV and finally where we are now. I think I am what I eat – and what’s that? It’s probably a big fat doughnut.
A Baker’s Life: 100 fantastic recipes, from childhood bakes to five-star excellence by Paul Hollywood is out now (£26, Bloomsbury).