Rules that Contestants on the Great British Bake Off Must Follow

Trista - January 31, 2022
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Reality TV can be a great way to escape. Cooking shows can whisk up some great tales and treats within the confines of an hour-long program. Have you heard of the Great British Bake Off (often called Bake Off or GBBO)? It is a competition that allows amateur bakers to showcase their unique talents in front of a panel of judges. The first episode aired in 2010. Ever since, audiences have been wowed by the special abilities of home bakers. 

Incredible cakes, teatime classics, and favorite treats are just a part of the whole experience. If you think you have got what it takes to bake with the best, there are several things you will need to know about the application and filming process. Check out this list and warm up your ovens for what is necessary before you can become a star baker. Read on, get ready and start baking.

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35. The Great British Bake Off applications are all online.

Shows like The Great British Bake Off put real-life people to the baking test. If you aspire to make it to the tent on The Great British Bake Off, the first step is to fill out an online application. Those who enter must be at least 16 years old or older, and that date is based on the date that the applications are open (via Manchester Evening News). Keep an eye out for when they are available, as the process typically closes in January. After that, the show’s producers narrow down their search for who they believe will make for great television. Out of the 12,000 applicants who first apply, 300 to 400 people make it to the second round, and then the final dozen are selected (via Good Housekeeping).

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34. Younger cooks can apply for Junior Bake Off.

If you have a young aspiring baker, they may qualify for the spinoff series Junior Bake Off. Contestants aged 9 to 15 are subjected to their own series of challenges similar to the parent show. Similar to The Great British Bake Off, Junior Bake Off has one main difference (via Heart). The junior show puts child competitors through just a couple of challenges per episode – the technical and the showstopper. Each episode features four bakers, with one winner named each episode, and each victor is brought back for a Finals Week to crown a champion (via Flipboard).

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33. You must be a British citizen to enter.

This reality competition is available for air in other countries. However, the Great British Bake Off can only cast residents into its competition. This includes the Isle of Man and Channel Islands residents. Another paramount requirement is the filming commitment. According to the application, contestants have to film up to 30 days over 10 weeks between April and August (via Daily Advent). Successful applicants will have their arrangements confirmed for filming (via Good Housekeeping).

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32. The Great British Bake Off application requires lots of details.

Everything would have to be precise and accurate in your application. It is a long process. Nevertheless, it could prove to be well worth the effort to get yourself in front of the Great British Bake Off hosts. Contestant Sophie Faldo said the application was seven pages long. Furthermore, each section requires the aspiring baker to detail the previous food experience (via MSN). She suggested that every feasible pastry and treat has its own page, and the form requires descriptions and photographs on what a signature bake is and how often it is created. The more personality you can put into the application, the more likely you will stand out from the pack and get noticed by the casting directors (via Daily Advent).

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31. You cannot be a professional baker.

The Great British Bake Off has several rules on who may be qualified to appear in the reality show. Contestants are not permitted to have any business or financial connection to the Love Productions or the Channel 4 television station, nor can they have a close relative connected to the production company or channel. No commercial baker, cook, chef, or anyone who works as a food professional at a restaurant, hotel, or other business can apply (via Flipboard). The contestant cannot have any equivalent qualification in baking, cooking, food production, food preparation, or catering. That is, unless they had acquired it more than ten years ago (via Yahoo).

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30. They ask contestants about their baking weaknesses.

It can be easy to boast about your baking prowess. However, several contestants have stated that they had to describe their weaknesses in the kitchen as well. Since this is an amateur competition, it is no surprise that they would want to create an even playing field (via Heart). Putting some creative thought into your shortfalls can be an opportunity to show what you could bring to the show and depict how you overcame adversity and still serve up the best dessert (via Flipboard).

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29. Your interviews must wow to advance you to the final round.

If your application and questionnaire are selected to proceed to the next round, you must schedule a phone interview. Here you will be grilled further about your kitchen skills, including a few technical questions about the kinds of sponge cakes, meringues, and temperatures needed to cook various staples in dessert making (via Pinterest). Here is another opportunity to show off your personality and how you may appear on the screen. Those who pass the phone interview round will be brought in to bake for the show’s staff off-camera (via Good Housekeeping).

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28. Your food will need to pass a taste test to qualify for the Great British Bake Off.

Before the final casting, there is another challenge. The selection process requires aspiring competitors to bring in a couple of dishes for a taste test. The show’s staff will try sweet and savory dishes, so bring on the best stuff. Sophie Faldo told the Radio Times that bakers are encouraged to bring in whatever they like, so keep in mind your favorite show-stopping recipes and bring your A-game in hopes of getting selected for the show (via Manchester Evening News). Keep in mind that the cost of the ingredients used for the taste test is completely on your own dime. The show will only pick up the tab if you make it into the big tent (via Yahoo). 

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27. You have to look good in front of the camera.

One of the final rounds of interviews for The Great British Bake Off is determining how well you will look in front of a camera crew. This will be the first time the show sees you in action, and Sophie Faldo told the Radio Times, it proves that you are dishing out what you cooked (via MSN). Cameras will walk around the place and film you during the baking process. That way, producers will see how well you bake under pressure. If they like what they see and you pass both background and psychological checks, then you may get a call to appear on the show (via Daily Advent).

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26. They contact the finalists and make arrangements.

It is a grueling process to make the final list. However, the casting for the next new season will start to take shape little by little. From thousands who apply, hundreds who test, and dozens who are examined, the season will only showcase 12 to 13 bakers on the first episode (via Flipboard). Those who have made the grade will find out they could compete on The Great British Bake Off through producers. Before it becomes official, candidates must compete in a mock technical setup, which is as important as the screen test because it is true to their baking abilities. If you have not heard back by the time March rolls around, then it is likely your application was not accepted, and you will have to reapply for the next new season in the future (via MSN). 

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25. You will appear on two shows.

After final selection as a cast member for the newest season, you must sign up to appear on the spinoff show. That part dives into the behind-the-scenes contest and dishes out the details about their elimination episode (via Daily Advent). The Great British Bakeoff: An Extra Slice airs immediately after the newest episode. Host Jo Brand offers up the inside scoop of what’s going on in the show, and audience members are welcomed to submit their own photos for a feature segment (via Manchester Evening News).

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24. Time is not on your side.

Anyone familiar with the show – or any reality cooking show – knows that it is not just a competition based on skill. It is based on how skillful you could apply those talents for a specific recipe in an allotted time (via Heart). The three challenges are filmed over two days, and contestants are in front of the camera for 16 hours per day. The grueling schedule can take its toll and it is easy to see that time is not on the contestant’s’ sides (via Good Housekeeping). 

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23. Confidentiality is critical for contestants on the Great British Bake Off.

Before you set foot in the tent and prepare your oven for your delicacies, you will have to sign a confidentiality agreement. The document is pretty standard for those cast in reality show competitions. The release form allows you to participate, and it also protects the information exchanged between the two parties (via Yahoo). This is a non-starter. Thus, be sure to read through all of the terms and conditions to understand what you are signing. You will be asked to keep tight-lipped about the production and the application process. You are also cannot share any photos or videos of the competition with the media (via Manchester Evening News).

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22. You can’t use your phone in the tent.

Once you have agreed to appear on The Great British Bakeoff, you are basically signing up for a six-week sequestering experience where communication is limited (via Flipboard). You will have to hand over your cell phone to show producers before you even set foot into the tent. The show states that this practice is for security reasons, and you will not be permitted to use it for any reason throughout the entire filming process. This is pretty commonplace among reality competition shows because it prevents those on the show from recording footage that could leak and spoil the results from the episode before it airs (via Heart).

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21. Contestants have to make food from its own creation.

One of the most refreshing behind-the-scenes details is the requirement that all of the dishes made for television had to be completely homemade (via Daily Advent). Contestants can only use original recipes, and they cannot use online or cookbook recipes. This keeps the ideas fresh and makes sure that the natural talent comes through (via MSN).

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20. You do not receive monetary compensation for appearing on the show.

While some shows offer a grand cash prize for winning, The Great British Bakeoff is not one of them. This is something to consider when you are applying for the show since there is quite a bit of personal time used to shoot the show (via Yahoo). The notoriety is its own reward, and you could use your appearance after the show airs as a way to self-promote your time on the show. It could still be worth it if you can take the time and experience a once-in-a-lifetime event (via Good Housekeeping).

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19. The show’s notoriety is its own reward for the winner.

The grand prize champion of The Great British Bakeoff is no richer either. The winner of the season takes home a trophy to commemorate the extraordinary feat as well as the clout that comes with saying you bested the best from that season (via Flipboard). Sure, there may not be a check worth thousand or even millions of dollars at the end. Still, there are several formal Bakeoff Champions who were able to turn their appearance into financial opportunities. They often do gigs as food show hosts, cookbook authors, and other careers (via Pinterest). The Great British Bakeoff could be the launching pad for bigger and better things.

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18. They give contestants an allowance for ingredients.

After you have arrived with the other contestants in the big tent, you are provided with the ingredients to complete the challenges. So, you will be able to conjure up the kind of creations you need to succeed. Contestants filter through recipes and compile a list of ingredients a week before the episode is filmed (via Daily Advent). One insider told the Los Angeles Times that she spent two months before filming, going through all of the contestants’ recipes. Then that person shops for all of the ingredients and equipment needed to make the recipes. Some recipes may even call for 10 or 20 different elements. While it is not as spontaneous as it seems, there is still a lot of thought into the food for television (via Pinterest).

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17. Every contestant stays at the same hotel.

The show has its own kind of perks, including the chance to bunk with people who share a passion for baking. Every baker chosen to appear on The Great British Bakeoff will stay at the same hotel. Plus, the show pays for all of the accommodations. The show provides bus transportation to the tent for the filming process (via MSN). After the workday is over, they take all of the contestants to the hotel by the same bus. They get their cell phones once they are in the room for the night (via Good Housekeeping).

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16. Contestants wear the same outfit twice for filming.

Seeing isn’t always believing. In each episode, contestants run around and rush to complete their culinary concoctions on time. Because each episode is filmed for two days, participants are asked to re-wear their outfits to keep up the continuity of the shooting (via Daily Advent). The trick allows the editing team to increase the number of usable shots during the episode and gives the illusion that they were all produced during the same day. They can change into clean aprons, but that is the only wardrobe switch (via Pinterest). 

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15. All shooting is over the weekend.

Want to appear on The Great British Bakeoff, but you are afraid it might be too financially disruptive? You do not have to give up your regular life to fulfill this dream of being on television. The show can accommodate busy schedules during its six-week filming. The two-day shoots are kept over the whole weekend so that most contestants can keep their day jobs (via Flipboard). Everyone invited to compete in the season is given dates in advance that they are expected to report for the show. Contestants can spend up to a week practicing at home before filming on the weekends. One season, due to the United Kingdom’s strict lockdown restrictions, the entire season was filmed in a quarantine bubble, and an extra tent was constructed for contestants to practice (via Yahoo).

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14. You can expect long days when you are in the middle of the contest.

The Great British Bakeoff is intense competition for all of those involved, and there is a lot of hard work that it takes to complete the challenges every week. It is not easy to complete everything in a couple of days. The course of the filming could include up to 16 hours a day for two days (via MSN). Contestants are expected to be at the tent by seven in the morning. As a result, that could mean a five o’clock wake-up call. This means you may not be able to call it nearly 11 p.m. that same night (via Daily Advent). Talk about a long day doing what you love!

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13. They check the ovens every single day.

The most important aspect of The Great British Bakeoff is a well-working oven. There would be no show if there wasn’t anything to bake after all! You can’t necessarily bake anything if your oven is not operating correctly. To ensure a baker is not eliminated over a faulty range, the producers create a test to check its working order (via Manchester Evening News). Each stove is used for baking a Victoria Sponge Cake before contestants can concoct their own bakery entries. Another runner stands at each station and has an identical cake mix. When all ovens are operating correctly, a dozen similar cakes emerge from the ovens. How appropriate of a test (via Heart)!

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12. You must alert producers when your food is ready.

Have you ever wondered how The Great British Bakeoff can get all those perfect reveal shots from its aspiring chefs? The truth is they are ready and waiting at all times for the oven timer to go off. All contestants must alert producers when they are prepared to check on their baking creations (via Manchester Evening News). This is for every time they believe that something is ready to be taken out of the oven. That pivotal moment can be captured on camera for all the viewers to see, as we get a chance to look at these cooking masterpieces in the making (via Good Housekeeping).

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11. Contestants cannot wash any dishes.

When you are in a time crunch on national television, you are not likely to think about cleaning as you go. Luckily, the Great British Bakeoff contestants can bake first and wash their dishes later. A runner for the show helps the chefs between each shot, and there is a good system involved with two sinks (via Flipboard). A dishwasher isn’t used because the excessive noise would disrupt the filming. Cleaning the utensils, dishes, and baking pans off-camera helps speed along the process and keep the interest in the next entry (via MSN).

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10. They can’t ask for outside help. 

Production may be readily available to keep the equipment running properly. However, that is the only way that the runners can intervene. The Great British Bakeoff is about talent and technique (and time). It allows the amateur chef’s ability to shine (via Yahoo). This is even true when a producer sees a mistake that is about to happen. One producer told BBC Good Food says she has to turn around and walk the other way even if she knows it will end in disaster. She says the only advice she can give is to remind the contestants to perform the tasks just like they would at home (via Manchester Evening News).

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9. You have to take what Mother Nature gives you.

The Great British Bakeoff takes place in a large tent. The environment and aesthetic can appear to be as pleasing and lovely as possible. That does not mean that the weather always cooperates with the filming schedule (via Daily Advent). A producer told BBC that they often have to roll with the punches. They must accept that baking bread may happen during colder temperatures. Alternatively, that they have to set chocolate during a heatwave. Regardless the show must go on (via Heart).

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8. You have to stay at your station during the judgment process.

Once the timer buzzes and the length of time to complete the dish has expired, contestants are ordered to put their bakes down and get ready for judging (via Heart). It may not seem like it during the episode if you don’t know. However, contestants are not privy to the judges commenting on their fellow participants’ dishes. The producers instruct all contestants to remain at their stations scattered around the tent while the judging occurs (via Good Housekeeping).

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7. You are interviewed after the judging is complete.

After being critiqued, knowing the perfect thing to say is an integral part of the episode. After you have received your critiques from the celebrity judges, you can discuss your thoughts following your challenge and other experiences (via Heart). This occurs whether you are safe from elimination or your turn to leave the contest. Contestant Francis Quinn told Cosmopolitan UK that each participant is interviewed about eight times a day. This helps the film crew have a variety of answers and questions for the episode when they are putting the episode together (via MSN).

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6. All dishes receive a close-up.

You are not the only thing that will get loads of attention during your time on the show. The food is the front and center entertainment of any episode of The Great British Bakeoff, so it should be no surprise that the film crew will be interested in all kinds of close-up shots of the cake, tart, biscuit, and other ooey-gooey goodness that comes from your own (via Manchester Evening News). As they are called, the beauty shots are often taken immediately after the judging has ended while the baker is busy during the post-judgment interview (via Yahoo).

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5. Patience is an important virtue.

Although audiences see a snippet of the judges’ opinion of each dish, the absolute truth is that there is no designated time for the judgment to be over (via Flipboard). One of the judges, Mary Berry, informed BBC Good Food that there were times that it was clear who would be facing elimination after the judging. However, other times they needed more time to assess, sometimes taking as much as half an hour to conclude. She also said that in the first series, the judges took five hours before it was decided. You can’t rush a decision this important (via Good Housekeeping).

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4. The judgment is always on the present day’s plate.

While there are three challenges per episode of The Great British Bakeoff, the decision on who will make it to the next week’s challenge is depended upon the performance from that particular weekend (via Heart). Judge Mary Berry said BBC Good Food the judges’ decision is not cumulative or informed on previous results. “We always judge on what takes place on the day, not the week before or the week before that.” It is nice to think that any contestant can bring their A-game the following week and get back into the competition (via Daily Advent).

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3. The contestants cannot interact with the judges.

The Great British Bakeoff tries its best to keep the judges impartial during the entire series (via Manchester Evening News). To remain as professional as possible, the judges are instructed to keep their distance from the amateur bakers outside the tent. This means that they cannot socialize in any way if there are accusations of favoritism. The champion should win based on what comes out of the oven. It makes a lot of sense that the producers want to keep everything impartial and accurate (via Flipboard).

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2. The contestants on the Great British Bake Off get to eat what they bake.

What is perhaps the biggest perk of all? Besides being named the star baker of the week, that person tastes all of the delicacies on the show (via Yahoo). The contestants get to taste their finished product and all the other tasty pastries, biscuits, cakes, and other goodies. They are not the only ones; the crew members also give the leftover desserts to sample. All the other unused food is donated to a local food bank to help those in need (via MSN). Talk about a sweet deal! 

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1. During downtime, the contestants play games and sing karaoke.

When The Great British Bakeoff contestants are experiencing some time off-camera, they can let loose and have some fun. Val Stones, a former competitor on the show, told the Atlantic that the other chefs play board games and sing karaoke songs in the game room (via MSN). Stones even created her own guessing game when she brought in her shopping list from 1972 and quizzed her fellow contestants about the price of food back then (via Good Housekeeping).

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