The Great British Bake Off: Here's how past Northern Ireland contestants have fared on show

While there may be no Northern Ireland representation in this year’s batch of bakers, we’ve certainly had our fair share of success with past contestants on The Great British Bake Off.

Previous Northern Ireland contestants have had mixed fortunes on the show down through the years since it first aired in 2010.

Holywood man Andrew Smyth came second in 2016, but engineer Iain Watters memorably lost his cool after his Baked Alaska melted, causing him to throw it in the bin in a rage.

Edited highlights saw fellow contestant Diana Beard remove the dessert from the freezer, leading to claims of sabotage.

As Judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith return alongside presenters Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas for the latest GBBO instalment, we look back on the highs and lows of the past Northern Ireland faces who have graced the famous tent.

Mark Lutton, week six, 2020

Portadown native Mark Lutton managed to make it to week six before being eliminated from the show during Japanese week after what judge Prue Leith described as “a disaster of a showstopper”.

The bakers were tasked with a signature challenge of Japanese steamed buns, which Mark did fairly well in but was told his burger-style buns were a little dry.

Mark’s technical round, which involved a tricky recipe of stacked matcha pancakes, also saw him take a middle spot place.

But it was the showstopper round, themed around kawaii, which proved to be his undoing.

He fell in love with baking through an Edinburgh pie shop he visited daily while at university.

Mark, who now lives in Liverpool where he is a project manager, took part in the show when it was filmed during lockdown.

He admitted he wasn’t even sure he would get on the show after a substantial audition process and had almost accepted defeat before he got the final call to say he had made it.

© Channel 4 Mark Lutton

Imelda McCarron, week one, 2018

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council countryside recreation officer Imelda McCarron was among the 2018 batch of bakers, having learned to cook and bake with her mother.

The Dromore woman has said taking part in Bake Off was “one of the best experiences” of her life, despite being the first contestant to leave this year’s show.

Biscuit Week saw Imelda’s cherry, white chocolate and coconut flakemeal biscuits impress the judges in the signature challenge.

However, her wagon wheels fell flat in the subsequent technical challenge, leaving her in 11th place. Her “selfie” lemon and ginger biscuit was compared to “stale shortbread” by Hollywood and deemed “a little bland and dry” by Leith.

© Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions/PA Wire Great British Bake Off contestant Imelda McCarron

Andrew Smyth, finalist, 2016

Andrew Smyth grew up in Holywood with parents Kay and Nigel, and his younger brother Jamie, an architect. He was influenced in baking by his granny, Helen McDowell and made her chocolate cake in the Bake Off final.

Andrew studied aerospace engineering at Cambridge University and worked for Rolls Royce designing jet engines.

He now splits his time between working as a TV personality and researching aerospace engineering.

On GBBO, Andrew made a cake featuring a gingerbread man punting down the River Cam, and a moving set of gear-shaped savoury pies, inspired by the technical designs of Leonardo da Vinci.

He presented the Duke of Cambridge with a cake in the shape of a jet engine during a royal visit to the Rolls-Royce aero engines plant in Derby. So impressed was Prince William that he remarked he’d “have to have a word with Mary Berry” as to why Andrew didn’t win GBBO.

© BBC Andrew was crowned Star Baker in the semi final

Iain Watters, week four, 2014

Belfast-born construction engineer Iain Watters, who now lives in London, is best remembered for the “bin-gate” controversy.

Iain had prepared a Baked Alaska dessert but it was accidentally left out of the freezer by fellow contestant Diana Beard — and subsequently melted. Frustrated, Iain threw the dessert into the bin and was soon voted off the show.

Mary Berry described Iain as “a remarkable baker”, while Hollywood said he was “passionate” about his unusual flavour combinations.

Iain’s parents were passionate about organic foods and this outlook has directly affected his style of baking.

His passion for travelling has taken him to all corners of the globe, and he brings these flavours and influence to the bakes he likes to make.

Iain said of his experiences on the show: “My best moment was the plaited loaf in week three, because everything went so well.

“I got the timing right and Paul liked the flavour and the bake.”

In September 2016 he married Catriona Mills and their wedding cake was…a Baked Alaska.

© BBC Iain left the tent after his meltdown

The Great British Bake Off returns on Tuesday, September 21 on Channel 4 at 9pm.

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