After eight weeks of intense and time-restricted pastry challenges, Mark Tilling, Samantha Rain and Helen Vass have been named the inaugural winners of BBC2's Bake Off: Crème de la Crème.
The final show which aired this evening saw Tilling, Rain and Vass, delight the judges with a final showpiece; the brief: a scene that encapsulated them as a team, which came to life as an all chocolate show-stopper incorporating copper bowls, chopping boards, spoons, spatulas, lemons and a steaming pot on top.
Designed to cater for 100 guests, the structure also included individual desserts served in traditional Kilner storage jars and panna cottas served on flour scoops.
Viewers bore witness to a gruelling finale, with a play-off between the Cookery School, The Hilton, London and Patisserie Jade teams that tested competitors to the extreme.
Hosted by two-Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, the series brought together some of the best pastry chefs in the world to pass judgement: Benoit Blin, executive pastry chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Cherish Finden, executive pastry chef at The Langham, London and Claire Clarke MBE, who is widely regarded as one of the finest pastry chefs in the world.
Speaking after the win, team captain Tilling, told The Caterer, how incredible it was to have triumphed as winners of the show, and commented: "We've all loved being part of the show and being part of the attention and praise it has received on social media, it was fantastic to be able to spend so much time with Tom, Claire, Cherish and Benoit during the filming process too.
"We all learnt so much from the judges - and Tom, but we've also benefitted from getting to know the other teams and we've made some great friends along the way," he added.
Tilling met his team mates Vass and Rain through their mutual love of pastry, at classes held at Squires Kitchen Cookery School in Farnham where Tilling is resident tutor.
"There are some common misconceptions about pastry chefs in the industry," said Vass. "So we really wanted to show everyone what we could do and why we work slightly differently."
"The competition was a huge eye-opener for me," added Rain. "We all learnt from each other on every challenge we competed in and are all better at taking risks now!"
"We were at the top of our game in the final and all the teams competed to very exacting standards," added Tilling.
Show host, Kerridge, had previously told The Caterer, he was "the link" between the professionals and the viewers as host of the show.
"We had amazing, yet unfamiliar technical skills being presented by the competitors every week, and because of some of the terminology and terms - it was my job to convey the finished pieces to the viewer in layman's terms."
"I wanted to make them all feel comfortable. I've been in their shoes and it's nerve-wracking!
Fifteen teams from a range of hospitality business took part in the show with chefs from top London hotels, independent patisseries and the military competing. During the show, 45 pastry chefs were profiled, showcasing the intricacy that is required to be a successful pastry chef in the UK.
Crème de la Crème was a big step up from the Great British British Bake Off, explained Tilling: "This programme was about drawing in future industry professionals and demonstrating how dedicated pastry chefs are."
- The show was filmed at Wellbeck Abbey, in Nottinghamshire, with the eight programmes filmed back-to-back.
- Rain, is a chocolatier at Paul Wayne Gregory Chocolates, in Lewes, East Sussex and a development chef for HB Ingredients.
- Vass is the pastry chef at Number 16 Restaurant, in Glasgow which was recently awarded 2 AA Rosettes.
- Mark Tilling is the resident tutor at Squires Kitchen Cookery School, Farnham, Surrey, and teaches chocolate, patisserie and bakery classes at all levels
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