On a recent episode of The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) — better known in the U.S. as The Great British Baking Show — co-host Noel Fielding announced that judge Paul Hollywood had reached his 100th episode of the series. The celebrity chef is the only cast member to have appeared on all 11 seasons of the hit reality competition.
The exciting milestone is bittersweet for some fans who look back fondly on the show’s early days when Paul was joined in the tent by celebrated food writer Mary Berry and comediennes Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. All three left GBBO in 2016, but what was the reason behind Mary’s abrupt exit?
Why did Mary Berry leave 'GBBO'?
The major cast shakeup between Seasons 7 and 8 happened because the U.K. series switched networks. Love Productions, the company that makes GBBO, decided to sign a three-year deal with Channel 4 instead of sticking with the BBC, its original broadcaster. To Mary, the move felt like a betrayal.
"No one was more surprised than me," she recalled of the sudden shift. "It was the BBC’s program, it grew there. So I decided to stay with the BBC, with Mel and Sue."
Over her decades-long career, Mary has spent a lot of time on the BBC, headlining at least five limited series for the channel, including Mary Berry Cooks, Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites, and Mary Berry Everyday.
The 85-year-old admitted to RadioTimes that she never gave Channel 4 an opportunity to ask her to stay. "It was suggested what would happen if I did go to Channel 4; what I would get, the advantages. But I didn’t ever have a meeting with them," she told the publication. "I’d made up my mind. To me, it’s an honor to be on the BBC. I was brought up on it."
The network’s COO Charlotte Moore said she wasn’t surprised the cookbook author decided to stay put. "Mary is an extraordinary woman, loved and adored by the British public, and the BBC is her natural home," the TV executive confidently stated.
Mary Berry seemingly suggested that Paul Hollywood chose money over loyalty.
In response to her fellow judge’s decision to remain on GBBO, Mary declared that she would always "stand by him," but also added, "Paul and I had our differences about what was important to us."
The blue-eyed baker explained why he was returning to the show in a statement of his own. "It's been a huge part of my life in the past few years and I just couldn't turn my back on all that," Paul shared. He later went on to thank Mary in a tweet.
"I’ll miss her but she has made the right decision for her," he noted. "I’m staying in the tent with the bakers where I belong."
GBBO managed to survive without Mary — restaurateur Prue Leith replaced her in 2017 — and was just renewed for a 12th season in October. Paul, Prue, Noel, and new co-host Matt Lucas are all expected to return.
You can currently catch new episodes of GBBO Season 11 every Friday on Netflix.