June 2024

Bakery stars are cream of the crop on Bake Off: The Professionals

By Carrie Mok

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Read time: approx 4 mins

The lecturers at Birmingham College of Food at University College Birmingham are well-versed in training award-winning and Michelin-starred chefs, as well as winners and finalists across some of the UK’s beloved TV cooking competitions such as Masterchef.

But viewers of one of these contests on our screens this year may be seeing double, with not just one team of ex-Birmingham College of Food students, but two!

Bake Off: The Professionals returned to TV this summer, with the teams of Ajay and Petra from Adam’s, and Bharat and John from SOKO Patisserie.

With all four contestants having studied at the acclaimed Birmingham College of Food, it’s no surprise that both teams have risen through the challenge of their own heats to reach the Final 6.

Petra graduated from Bakery and Patisserie Technology BSc (Hons) last year and won Young Pastry Chef of the Year 2023 while mentored by teammate Ajay (who also previously studied at the College of Food).

Meanwhile, Bharat and John competed in the second heat with Bharat previously having been a finalist in the competition in a previous series. Bharat and John met over five years ago, and Bharat mentored John in the UK and Ireland Chocolate Masters.

In the first heat, Ajay and Petra created tantalising desserts such as 

  • a savoury wakame seaweed flavoured brioche with lobster, yuzu gel and caviar
  • a Venetian mask showpiece with Sablé Breton flavoured with grains of paradise (a type of pepper), coconut mousse, sudachi jelly (a small green citrus fruit from Japan), mango compote, citrus sponge and white chocolate feuilletine base
  • a trompe l’oeil showpiece in the form of a highly artistic chocolate amenity (a decorative chocolate sculpture) guitar with a hidden pecan pie amp made with pecan mousse, miso, pumpkin and sherry vinegar
  • custard tarts with rhubarb gel, black pepper, candied pistachio and rhubarb rose

Judge Benoit Blin said of the custard that it was “the most flavoursome rhubarb you can get, and the rest is adding on to elevate”, while judge Cherish Finden said “the eating sensation is so beautiful.”

In the second heat, Bharat and John created delights including

  • onion seed spiced savoury croissants with cumin, coriander, chilli and chicken tikka filling
  • a choux showpiece with almond praline and blood orange eclairs and dark chocolate cream and morello cherry buns
  • trompe l’oeil showpiece with a hidden tarte tartin, cinnamon Sablé Breton, crème fraiche and vanilla mousse
  • deconstructed sticky toffee pudding with date sponge, vanilla Leite crème and a smoked caramel sauce in a tempered chocolate sphere
  • Charlotte à la russe with fingerless ladyfinger sponges, pistachio bavarois sandwiched with raspberry jelly.

Judge Cherish Finden said of the sticky toffee pudding: “It’s like a treasure box in there. You’ve echoed the essence of sticky toffee pudding”, while also complimenting on the team’s take on Charlotte à la russe, saying “the combination of the raspberry and pistachio is indulgent.”

In the coming weeks, we’ll see Ajay and Petra, and Bharat and John finally cross paths as they enter into the final 6 of the competition and Bake Off: The Professionals crowns the winning team.

Will one of University College Birmingham’s ex-students take home the trophy? Find out every Monday and Tuesday on Channel 4.

Find out more about the courses within the Birmingham College of Food.

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