Paul Hollywood's Handshakes, Explained

Paul Hollywood's offer of a handshake probably carries more weight than anyone else's in the world. "The Great British Bake Off" has monetized Paul Hollywood's famous handshake as it has become as quintessential to the show as Pastry Week. While fans love the judge's signature move, that doesn't mean they aren't curious about how he decides to bestow the honor. The handshake started as a way for Hollywood to show a contestant how much he loved their work. Since then, this gesture has become integral to the experience for both audiences and contestants although "The Great British Bake Off" might have retired the iconic GBBO tradition

"The Great British Bake Off" viewers know that Hollywood tends to give out a few handshakes per season. Yet, fans who have been around since the beginning of "The Great British Bake Off" know that the Hollywood handshake wasn't always a series staple. The first two seasons feature zero Hollywood handshakes, for example. During the third season, Hollywood was so moved by a bake that he simply had to shake the contestant's hand. The lucky recipient was Ryan Chong in the season's seventh episode. Throughout the following seasons, though, Hollywood went from handing out no handshakes to doing so much more frequently. When the judge gave his first handshake in Season 3, it was clear how impressed he was by Chong's Lardy Cakes. Yet, as the seasons progressed, Hollywood grew much more likely to shake a contestant's hand after trying their baked goods.

Paul Hollywood's handshake frequency has caused a stir

So, were the contestants in later seasons of "The Great British Bake Off" just that much better, or was Hollywood just responding to the outpouring of fan appreciation for his handshakes by giving the people what they want? Many folks wondered just what caused the Hollywood handshake to pick up momentum. The host went from giving out a single handshake in both the third and fourth seasons to shaking hands a whopping 12 times in Season 9. 

Competing in "The Great British Bake Off" is anything but easy. The judges need to have high standards for the contestants to maintain the series' integrity. Yet, as the handshake has become a pop culture phenomenon of its own, it seems that fans' ideal criteria for what warrants the handshake grows increasingly narrow. To some fans, the influx of Hollywood handshakes by 2018 had rendered them meaningless. Yet, in 2021, Hollywood received backlash for not giving out handshakes to certain contestants who'd done particularly well. Hollywood defended his high bar to the Mirror, saying, "The problem is if I raise the bar any higher, I just won't give any handshakes out. I think I'll stop the handshakes this year. I might make this year the last one." Thankfully, The Hollywood handshakes lived on even after that threat, but the host has evened out at four handshakes per season in both Seasons 13 and 14.