The Great British Baking Show has returned to Netflix, officially marking the end of summer. But for a certain demographic of Instagram and Facebook users, judge Paul Hollywood is always in season. In the tent, the silver-haired, 57-year-old bread expert strikes fear and doubt into the hearts of contestants. But online, his baking tips and advice appear to provoke a different emotion: abject horniness.
Hollywood maintains an active presence across Instagram and Facebook, where he has 585,000 and 525,000 followers respectively. On both platforms, the baker will valiantly attempt to post a recipe or an earnest update about his professional life, and someone (typically a middle-aged woman with a cartoon rabbit sipping tea as her profile picture) will comment “you can knead my biscuits any time” under her full government name.
Scroll through the comments on any Hollywood social media post, and you’ll find endless fawning over the judge’s piercing eyes (“Mesmerizing blue eyes! Handsome!”) alongside absolutely feral declarations of lust (“He can eat his way around me if he likes”) that could easily be dismissed as the spammy ravings of Instagram sexbots were they not attached to profiles of real women, most of whom appear to have husbands and/or children.
If you, like me, figured this thirstiness must be a holdover from something Hollywood did earlier in his career—because it certainly doesn’t make sense when applied to the Paul Hollywood we see on the show—you’d be wrong. Hollywood has been a judge on The Great British Baking Show (known in its home country as The Great British Bake-Off) and its various offshoots for the past thirteen years. He’s been the sole fixture among an otherwise ever-shifting cast of hosts and other judges. While he co-hosted shows on Carlton Food Network and Taste CFN prior to this, he was best known for his cookbooks, and before that worked at a number of prominent bakeries.
That being said, his lothario reputation is not entirely unearned. In 2013, Hollywood’s affair with Marcela Valladolid– his co-star on American Baking Competition, an early, ill-fated U.S. Bake-Off spin-off—resulted in his (first) split from then-wife Alex Hollywood. After a brief reconciliation, the two divorced for good in 2019. “My own marriage was too over seasoned with extra marital affairs for my taste,” Alex later wrote on Instagram, “and so I opted out and chose the single menu instead.”
But this has not deterred the Sandras and Cathys and Ritas of the world, who continue to comment on his posts with a motherly intimacy that borders on the Jocastal.
“I wonder what you are thinking, it seems like something sad,” wrote one Instagram commenter, who returned a week later to add, “I keep going back to look at this picture of you and it haunts me, you look so sad.”
The dedication of the Paul Hollywood fandom is so palpable that scammers have attempted to use it to their advantage. On both Instagram and Facebook, fake Paul Hollywoods have proliferated, duping superfans with cunningly deceptive comments like, “Hello, how are you doing today?… It’s me Paul Hollywood.” It’s become enough of a problem that fans have taken it up with the (real) Paul himself.
“Wow what a scam,” he replied. “Please report and name and shame.”
Scammers aside, the Hollywood fandom is a happy one, and their unbridled lust should be celebrated. While more current fandoms have begged their celebrities to run them over with cars, the desires of the Hollywood fandom remain as sweet and simple as the Bake-Off itself: “Certainly wouldn’t kick you out of bed for getting crumbs in it 😜😍🔥😂” a commenter wrote. Now that’s real love.