On screen and off Maggie Beer exudes warmth, encouragement and affirmation.
But if there’s one thing that she finds difficult about reality cooking shows, it is the awkward, mandatory process of eliminating cooks each week.
“It’s really hard to eliminate anyone,” she concedes. “I’m always glad that Matt and I don’t have to do it. Mel and Claire do that.”
Matt Moran, hosts Mel Buttle and Claire Hooper join her in the second season of The Great Australian Bake Off on LifeStyle.
“Even though it’s not ‘competitive’ in the same way, it is about finding the best. The only plus in eliminating is that we don’t have to taste 12 things every day, which is very bad for us!” she suggests.
“We have to try every single thing by everyone and it gets to be a bit of a sugar overload. So as the contestants diminish it’s much better for our figures!”
Over her various TV appearances Maggie Beer has proven so popular with audiences, that she is showered with praise by audiences, many of whom feel they have come to know her personally.
“It always amazes me and at times overwhelms me. People are always just so lovely. I’m just me!” she laughs.
“It’s also good that I don’t get out much, because you can’t get much work done!”
Beer is regularly stopped by admirers in public, and admits she is often asked for a friendly hug.
“Very often. And it can come out of the blue. But it’s lovely.”
Her national rise to TV prominence came in ABC’s The Cook and the Chef, featuring alongside Simon Bryant for 4 seasons, but it was preceded by the South Australian ABC series, Beat the Chef. As Beer recalls, she very nearly didn’t have a TV career.
“They approached my daughter to be in Beat the Chef and she said ‘No, you’ve got to ask mum, I’m not going to do it!'” she explains.
“So I did 2 seasons and had a great time. After it was finished the executive producer Margot Phillipson approached me to do a 32 week programme on my own and I said ‘Go away!’
“I knew enough about myself to want someone to bounce off. So we did The Cook and the Chef for nearly 40 weeks a year and it was wonderful!
Beer’s rapport with Phillipson continues, with both about to head to Japan to film a new special for LifeStyle, Maggie in Japan.
The Great Australian Bake Off, is again on a quest to find Australia’s best baker. While desserts are bright and tempting, Beer insists it is the 12 new contestants who give the show its flavour.
“The people make the show, with their individual creativity,” she continues.
“They are very passionate about what they’re doing, and Mel and Claire drag that out of them.
“There’s a lot of laughter. Matt has a great sense of humour but Mel and Claire help bond the people.
“Their repartee, bouncing off each other, cracks me up. It’s just a lovely environment to be in.
“I think food on television has been a great educator. It’s accessible to them, it excites them and it teaches them. TV has had a tremendous role.”
While she didn’t see the first local Bake Off series on Nine, Maggie Beer is well aware of the show’s phenomenal success in the UK The Great British Bake Off, where it has just been poached from the BBC by Channel 4..
“It’s bigger than Ben Hur –and then there’s the bust-up! Whoa!” she declares.
“They had such a winning formula. It was the biggest show on British TV. But I always think it’s a shame to take something off the BBC.
“But what’s going to happen? Three are staying with the BBC and one goes to Channel 4.”
While Bake Off offers no MasterChef-style cash prize, last year’s winner Sian Redgrave is now fulltime with food while one of two runners-up, Jasmin Hartley is working towards her own tea-rooms.
Amongst this year’s 12 contestants are a tow truck business owner, lawyer, horse trainer and model, aged from 16 – 62. Beer, a former Senior Australian of the Year, insists age is no barrier.
“We have Antonio 16 years of age and last year we had a 17 year old who is a gorgeous young man, and so talented. Let these young ones have a fly if they’ve got the talent. It sends them on a path of (the question of) ‘Do I want to do this as a career or not?’” she says.
“Choosing (contestants) should be on the basis of skill and life knowledge. That means you are passionate about cooking but you are interested in many other things and that always helps to balance people.”
The Great Australian Bake Off returns to LifeStyle FOOD at 8:30pm tonight.