1,600 eggs, 36 kilos of chocolate and 15 different types of alcohol ­it must be GBBO time! We meet judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood

It’s already being billed as the most fiercely fought contest yet. As The Great British Bake Off returns for a new series on BBC1 we catch up with judges Mary Berry, 80, and Paul Hollywood, 49, to find out what we can expect from the contestants, what they really thought of the ‘bin gate’ saga ­ and how Mary feels about being voted one of the world’s sexiest women!

Welcome back! So tell us about this year’s bakers…
Mary: The new set of bakers had already watched five series so they knew what was expected of them. They’re first-rate bakers and they’re all out to do their best.
Paul: They were very professional and very, very good. This year, the bakers were confident and the flavours they introduced were unusual.

Millions tuned in last year ­ do you feel under pressure to change the show to make it even better?
M: No. We do this show because we love it. It’s lovely to know all age groups watch it and learn from it, so we’re sticking to the same wonderful format.

Do the contestants get on or is there any rivalry?
M: They kept themselves separate at the start but by the third week one was comforting another if someone was upset. They become a team and they enjoy each other¹s company. It’s a good lesson for life.
P: They were competitive at the start. Don’t forget, they’re protected in the tent. There are a few people who get to know them in the filming weeks, then there’s a gap and then it airs ­ then everyone knows them! They won’t know what¹s hit them when that happens.

But do they make mistakes? They can’t all be perfect.
P: Yes ­ on the technical challenge they all wait for someone to start, then pass the baton on. They all end up doing the same and if someone goes wrong they all go wrong! They were more nervous this year.
M: We always tell them to read the recipe. They need to be able to visualise it. That’s worth its weight in gold.

So Mary, how did you feel to be voted into FHM’s Top 100 Sexiest Women?
M: Oh, my husband laughed himself silly! But he always tells me to do whatever keeps me happy and you couldn’t have a nicer job than being on Bake Off.

Were you shocked by ‘bin gate’ last series [when Iain Watters threw his baked Alaska in the bin after Diana Beard took it out of the fridge and it melted]?
P: The furore was ridiculous. It made headline news. The evil of social media was to blame.
M: Talk to the two individuals involved and they’ll both tell you it was a huge mistake.
P: The reason it kicked off was because he threw it in the bin.

Paul, everyone goes on about bread week. Do the contestants get very nervous facing you?
P: They probably do get worried. They¹re going into an area that I know about so they tend to feel more scared, but this year’s bread week was a game changer. It¹s the hardest thing to master.

Mary, you’ve become known for your fashion style…
M: I do love going shopping. I can’t pass a shop without going inside.
P: Whatever Mary wears, it’s immaterial ­ it’ll sell out.

Do you think the show makes a difference to people’s lives?
M: When people watch the show, everybody will find something that’s going to make them laugh. It’s a very happy show. Everyone can watch it ­ whether it’s a 10-year-old or a grandmother.

Were Mel and Sue well-behaved this series?
P: They were full of their usual innuendo. But bring it on! I laughed so much.

Any new celebrity fans?
M: Chris Evans loves the show.
P: And Keira Knightley told me she didn’t want to go to her premiere when she found out it was the same night as the Bake Off final!

Paul, would you consider joining your mate Chris on Top Gear?
P: No, baking’s my job. Cars are my hobby.

Is there anything you’d still love to do, Mary?
M: No, I love Bake Off so much. It’s the one time in the year where you can absorb yourself with your family.

Paul, fancy Strictly this year?
P: No, I’ve got too much on!

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The Great British Bake Off returns to BBC1 at 8pm on 5 August