The second series of BBC2’s Bake Off: Crème de la Crème has come to an end after nine episodes with the military team, Team Liam, marching off with the trophy.
Team captain corporal Liam Grime, RAF chef corporal Ian Mark, and RAF chef instructor and corporal Chris Morrell triumphed in the final episode filmed at Firle Place in East Sussex.
The concluding eight-hour challenge saw the military chefs produce a military-themed showpiece and individual desserts which were served to more than 100 guests in the Great Hall for a party hosted by Lord and Lady Gage.
Viewers saw Grime’s military team face Team Laurian (or the French Dragons) with judges Benoit Blin, executive pastry chef at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and Cherish Finden, former executive pastry chef at the Langham, London, often torn between the two teams.
Grime, Mark and Morrell said the best thing about being in the show was that it had given them an opportunity to test themselves against quality pastry chefs from the civilian pastry sector and “showcase what military chefs can do”.
The three chefs are all members of the Combined Services Culinary Arts Team (CSCAT) and the selection for this year’s team fell naturally as the three colleagues had competed together previously.
“We all have different strengths,” Grimes told The Caterer. “My strength is with leading the team and getting everyone to step up a gear when needed. Ian (or Bear, as he is fondly known) is very much the ideas man with the artistic thought process, and Chris is an absolute workhorse. Each of us displayed different talents in pastry work which brought it all together in the end.”
The entire situation was “surreal” for the three military chefs, added Grimes. “Every time we compete against chefs that do the job day in day out we ask ourselves what we are doing?
“But we know each other’s work styles and during our CSCAT workshops over the years we have learnt how we can get the best from each other and achieve to a high standard.”
As military chefs, Team Liam is used to coping with difficult and challenging situations, and coped with the pressures of the competition and tiredness with humour. “But we know when to toe the line and focus on what we need to achieve,” said Grimes.
The teammates confirmed that judge Finden had high expectations and spoke of Blin’s passion and exacting standards, although, they added: “Off camera he is very funny.”
The chefs spent time during breaks from filming attending courses with various specialists to develop their skills and will take a lot of these new skills back to their own kitchens. Meanwhile, Mark has taken his chocolate work to a new level by entering the UK World Chocolate Masters, and has achieved a place in the final six.
“To win Bake Off: Crème de la Crème is fantastic PR for the military,” concluded Grimes. “It shows that military chefs can compete with the best chefs in our field and achieve superb standards. It highlighted the high standards of finished pieces that can be achieved and that our training provides a wide variety, unlike many other kitchens.”
In the meantime, Grimes and one of his teammates from the CSCAT are through to the semi-finals of the National Chef of the Year competition, ‘Bear’ is focused on the UK Chocolate Masters and the wider team is concentrating on Hotelympia 2018 and the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg later next year.
Andy Saupe, CSCAT manager who competed with Grimes in Bake Off: Crème de la Crème 2016, said: “The CSCAT is 30 of the very best chefs selected equally from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force and Army. They are selected to represent the Armed Forces in world-class national and international competitions. Formed in 1997, its purpose is to raise the profile of catering throughout the UK armed forces, develop individual team craft skills and aid the recruitment of personnel into the armed forces.”