Mary Berry vs Prue Leith - how do they measure up?

As food writer and restaurateur Prue Leith is tipped to fill Mary Berry’s shoes as host of The Great British Bake Off, we take a look at how the two cooks measure up against each other.

The baking contest has left the BBC for a new home at Channel 4, taking one half of its judging panel, Paul Hollywood, with it – but Mary’s exit from the programme has left a role to fill.

Here’s how reported replacement Prue compares to Bake Off queen Mary.

Mary Berry’s replacement has not yet been announced (Ian West/PA)

Age – Prue is five years 81-year-old Mary’s junior at 76.

Training – Mary studied catering and institutional management at Bath College of Domestic Science, then took a job working at Bath’s electricity board showroom, where she would visit homes of customers who had bought new electric ovens and bake a Victoria sponge to demonstrate how they worked.

She later moved to London, where she worked for the Dutch Dairy Bureau, taking college courses in the evenings, and eventually studied at the French Le Cordon Bleu cookery school.

Prue trained at Le Cordon Bleu’s cookery school in London and set up a catering company making lunches for businesses before launching her career as a restaurateur.

Career – Mary was a recipe tester at a PR firm and became the food editor of Housewife magazine in 1966, then held the same post at Ideal Home from 1970 to 1973.

Prue opened her Michelin-starred restaurant, Leith’s, in 1969 and then her chef training college Leith’s School of Food and Wine in 1975.

Prue has been rumoured as the new Bake Off judge (Ian West/PA)

She sold the school in 1993 and the restaurant in 1995, founding the Prue Leith Chef’s Academy in her home country of South Africa in the same year.

TV work – Mary was a judge on The Great British Bake Off from 2010 to 2016 and has been the star of various other BBC cooking series including The Great British Food Revival, Mary Berry Cooks, Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites, and will present a new programme called Mary Berry Everyday.

Prue’s best-known TV role was as a judge on The Great British Menu from 2006 to 2016, and she has made appearances as a guest judge on MasterChef in South Africa.

Prue’s cookery schools have trained many chefs (Rosie Hallam/School Trust Fund)

Cookbooks – Mary has published more than 70 cookbooks since 1970, and sold over five million copies. She also released her autobiography, Recipe For Life, in 2013.

Prue is lagging behind Mary with 12 cookbooks, although she has also written seven novels and her memoir, Relish, was published in 2012.

Awards – Mary was awarded a CBE in 2012 and won a National Television Award in 2017 for the best TV judge in her role on The Great British Bake Off.

Prue was given an OBE in 1989 and a CBE in 2010.

Mary won an NTA (Ian West/PA)

Quotes – Mary on leaving The Great British Bake Off: “What a privilege and honour it has been to be part of seven years of magic in a tent – The Great British Bake Off. The Bake Off family, Paul, Mel and Sue, have given me so much joy and laughter.

“My decision to stay with the BBC is out of loyalty to them, as they have nurtured me, and the show, that was a unique and brilliant format from day one. I am just sad for the audience who may not be ready for change, I hope they understand my decision.”

Paul is looking for a new sidekick now that Mary has left (BBC)

Prue on leaving The Great British Menu: “From the first Great British Menu for the Queen’s 80th birthday to honouring those who fought on D-Day, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the inventiveness and skill of the chefs.

“I am very proud of the banquets we’ve put together. However, with 11 banquets under my belt in more ways than one, I think it’s time for a change and, with much hesitation, I’ve decided to relinquish my seat in the judging chamber.”


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