Claims emerge that Marie Campbell - a favourite to win The Great British Bake Off - is far from an amateur

The new series of The Great British Bake Off has been hit with controversy amid claims that one of the contestants is ALREADY a professional baker.

Marie Campbell, 66, impressed judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood in last week’s opener and was crowned star baker. But a report from the Mail On Sunday alleges that Marie was actually professionally trained at Ecole Escoffier at the Ritz in Paris.

Apparently the grandmother specialised in patisserie at the renowned cookery school and went on to host classes for aspiring chefs in Glasgow. It’s also reported that Marie ran the kitchen at the Duisdale House Hotel and restaurant on the Isle Of Skye.

More recently Marie has had her own small baking business called Mrs Campbell’s Cupcakes, which is ran from her home in Perthshire and creates cakes and various confectionary.

The BBC has hit back at the revelations though. They’ve stressed that Marie still meets the amateur criteria for The Great British Bake Off and added that her business was not her main source of income.

A spokesman says: ‘There are strict criteria to take part in the show and Marie met those criteria.

‘She gained a certificate for one week’s training in Paris in 1984, more than 10 years ago. She has not worked professionally as a baker or chef.’

The rules state that contestants mustn’t have any professional catering qualifications gained within the last 10 years and should not have ever worked full time as a baker, chef or cook.

Marie has said that the producers knew all about her patisserie training, which was ‘only for a week and was a long time ago.’

The contestant’s past was hinted at in her bio on the GBBO website, which states: ‘Marie’s children claim at one point their mum couldn’t even boil an egg – so she’s come a long way.

‘The turning point came in her thirties when Marie moved to Paris with her family and was inspired by all the French Patisseries. She fell in love with baking, specialising in elaborate, show-stopping decorations.’

Previous baking stars from the show have defended Marie over the scandal. Last year’s winner Nancy Birtwhistle tells the Telegraph: ‘As long as you didn’t have formal qualifications and had never worked in food I don’t think there was anything to stop you having been on courses.

‘If you’re a passionate baker you’re going to want to know more. You’re not just going to pick it up in your kitchen.’

Meanwhile 2012 winner John Whaite has called the furore ‘a load of fuss over nothing’.

Watch the next episode of The Great British Bake Off on Wednesday at 8pm on BBC One.

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