Get a slice of life

Get a slice of life

Brothers Tom and Henry Herbert, who like to get their hands dirty in the kitchen, are all set to woo viewers with their baking skills. Arundhati Pattabhiraman talks to the duo about their new show on TLC...

If you love the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through your kitchen, or the sound of biting into a crisp buttery pie crust, then TLC’s new show, The Fabulous Baker Brothers, is certainly a must-watch. And, add to the equation two stunningly handsome chefs putting together a rustic feast. 

Coming from a long line of bakers, brothers Tom and Henry Herbert will host the show that promises to make the viewers fall in love with baking. Speaking about their beginnings in the kitchen, elder brother Tom says, “Henry and I are fifth generation bakers. We grew up above our 92-year-old bakery, Hobbs House Bakery in Chipping Sodbury, where my dad and my uncles worked. So, my tryst with cooking began at the age of four. I remember helping my dad make jam doughnuts in the bakery. And once you’ve made jam doughnuts, there’s no going back. It’s baking all the way then.” 

Baking traditions

Growing up in a large English family, which was involved in food business, certainly helped the duo achieve their culinary dreams. “We’re two of six siblings. What made our childhood unusual was that our grandfather, who was a baker, also had a farm where he grew and milled his own wheat, and that also supplied animals to the butchery. Apart from being trained in the traditional methods of cooking, we also have an understanding of where food comes from, the importance of ingredients, and how they work together,” Tom explains.

Apart from getting involved in the family business, the brothers also managed to bring out two books and host shows in the UK, and their camaraderie in the kitchen made them instant favourites. “Although we’re brothers, we’re quite different. Tom is the baker and I grew up working in a bakery, but then I became a chef and then took on the butchery. Since we were brothers, Channel 4 decided to make a show about us. It was good fortune that we were in the right place at the right time,” says Henry, the younger and more vivacious of the two. 

Speaking about the show’s mantra of keeping things simple, Henry says, “The show is all about us in our bakery, teaching how to bake bread and then also some nice things to go with bread. It’s rustic cooking and simple things that people can make at home. It’s not the kind of programme to show off how clever we are. However, the food that we cook is also quite robust, not for the calorie conscious. Our food has lots of butter and booze, cooked in a wood-fired oven. Yeah, it’s kind of macho cooking.”

Baking is generally considered a tedious form of cooking. Will the duo expel the popular fears of baking and make it easy? Henry says, “We want to take the mystery out of baking. For example, one of the most simple things that we do on the show is make a chapati, which is a staple in India. All you need is some wholemeal flour, some water, and a pinch of salt. Mix it together, roll it out and then cook it in a dry frying pan. I mean, how much easier can it get. We know a lot of viewers in Britain, who make a curry, and would normally either buy poppadums or buy naan bread from the supermarket. And now, they’re making their own chapatis.”

All in the family

Like most brothers, sibling rivalry can be witnessed with Tom and Henry as well and it gets manifested on the show. Tom says, “The show finishes with a pie war. So, there’s a bit of intrigue and elements of competition involved too. We try to outdo each other, which is quite fun. People would really enjoy watching that. And that’s how we win fans for our show.”

While Tom’s inspiration in the kitchen is his father, who groomed him since childhood, Henry, in turn, looks up to his elder brother. “Tom is my biggest inspiration, not because he taught me everything he knows, but because it’s been my ambition in life to be better than him,” quips Henry.

The fifth generation bakers need to have some special recipes to pass on to their next in line. Quick to respond, Tom says, “For me, it would be our sourdough recipe because at Hobbs House Bakery, we have a 58-year-old sourdough recipe that our grandfather got and our dad looked after, and now I’m custodian of it. And that needs to be handed on to the next generation along with the knowhow on how to make an award-winning bread from it.” 

However, Henry chooses an Indian favourite. “We Brits love curries. For me, the nicest curry you can make if you’re in a real rush is a fish curry because fish cooks faster. You get a load of spices in there, lots of coconut milk, loads of curry leaves and tomatoes, and you can have a delicious curry in 15 minutes. That’s the stuff I ate when I was in India a few years ago. It may sound complicated to anyone who’s learning to cook, but in reality, it’s quite easy.”

The brothers have baked several types of breads over the years, but the Sherston remains their favourite because of the pleasant memories attached to it. “Sherston is a white overnight dough loaf made to a century-old recipe from the Cotswold village of Sherston. And it’s made using my great-grandfather’s recipe. It makes the best toast in the world. My great-grandad used to sleep on the dough bin, and we would tip him off in the morning when it’s time to start baking. And we still make it exactly the same way.” Catch the show Fabulous Baker Brothers on Mondays and Tuesdays at 9.30 pm, on TLC.

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