The Truth About Paul Hollywood's Ex-Wife

Paul Hollywood, celebrity baker and judge of several editions of The Great British Baking Show, seems like a charming (if slightly stand-offish) gentleman on camera, playing his role of senior statesman of the British culinary community to perfection. Away from the camera, however, his persona starts to look a whole lot messier. In real life, Hollywood has been involved in several scandals, many of them related to his apparent inability to, er, keep things under his apron (via Mirror).

The one person who'd had the most to suffer from Hollywood's off-screen antics has been his ex-wife, Alexandra, a one-time scuba instructor-turned-cookbook author. She's actually kind of a double ex, since the couple split up twice due to two separate affairs (his, not hers). Their divorce was final in 2017, but Alexandra at the time chose to remain silent on the split since she was concerned about the feelings of the couple's then-16-year-old son, Josh (via Hello!). Two years later, she finally broke the silence and spoke to Prima magazine about the breakup of her marriage.

How Alex Hollywood felt about the split

While Alexandra told Prima that she was no longer angry with her ex, she also said that there'd be no going back. The two had been together since 1996, and she described it as "an ordinary marriage... with a hiccup in the middle and then an abrupt end." That "hiccup," of course, was his affair with co-host Marcela Valladolid while the two were filming "The Great American Baking Show." When this happened in 2013, Alexandra filed for divorce, but Paul begged his way back, claiming it was "the biggest mistake of his life." A mistake he evidently failed to learn from, since four years later the Daily Mail reports that he was caught smooching with Bakeoff winner Candice Brown. At this point, Alex decided to stick a fork in her marriage to the chef. 

Alexandra revealed that things were rough at first, saying "no one should underestimate how separation and divorce can hit you," and comparing the feeling to driving a car that spins out of control. Now, however, she appears to be thriving on her own in the five-bedroom, £1.4-million house she received in the divorce settlement. She also seems completely unbothered by the fact that Paul's got a new girlfriend 30 years his junior (via Hello!). While Paul Hollywood seems intent on embodying every midlife crisis cliché, Alex remains a class act, and, according to her Instagram, it looks like she's a pretty amazing cook as well.

She was bothered by the way media portrayed her split with Paul Hollywood

Alex and Paul Hollywood's divorce was splashed all over the media for several months... no, years. While seeing your private life thoughtlessly dissected in public is annoying enough, Hollywood's main qualms were about how untrue some versions were. For one, she said that newspapers presented a narrative that suggested that she was "abandoned" by Paul for someone else; but in truth, it was solely her decision to break free from her marriage with her ex-husband, she clarified on Instagram. She lambasted some of the reporting out there as "incorrect and overtly sexist". The stories she referenced cast women "as antiquated & often misogynistic stereotypes — either Madonnas or whores, often the weaker sex, victims being swept along on the tide of life, an attitude that damages & diminishes our true value & strength," she said.

Hollywood had hoped that all the sensationalized stories would calm down eventually, but it looks like the media never grew tired of the narrative. She tried to ignore the coverage, but that led to her being "portrayed as a sad victim 'silent & dignified'," as per the Instagram post. It took a few years, but Hollywood realized that she probably is to be blamed too for accepting the barrage of fake news in silence. With the realization came her decision to clarify the "who abandoned who" question for her over 20,000 followers.

The divorce made her stronger

The end of a two-decade marriage, no doubt, hit Alex Hollywood hard. She told Prima Magazine, "I compare it to a moment where you're driving along the motorway and then the next moment, something beyond your control happens and you're driving in a completely wrong direction." The event upended Hollywood's life and put her through a range of emotions including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — all the five stages of grief, she told the magazine. On the bright side, she added in the 2019 interview, she was on the cusp of a transformation and was already looking forward to a life filled with the freedom to do whatever her heart desired.

Fast forward to 2021, and Hollywood seems to be mentally stronger than ever. She wrote in an Instagram post, "I know what I will and won't accept, I know whom I value and I also see my own value clearly. I recognise what is really important to me and I can smile, sit back and count my blessings." Armed with a sense of self-love and the realization that not all marriages are success stories (via Hello!), Hollywood now uses her voice to empower women and shine the spotlight on the value of freedom. She said in yet another Instagram post, "the more we show our strength and individuality it then becomes the norm rather than the exception.." 

It changed the way she cooked

When Alex Hollywood was still married to Paul Hollywood, their meals, as mentioned in her book "My Busy Kitchen", sometimes included Alex's beef curry paired with Paul's naan breads, or a loaf that they made together following Paul's recipe. While Paul might be out of the picture now, Alex still bakes her own bread and still cooks a mean-looking beef curry. Having said that, her style of cooking, per an Instagram post, has changed since her divorce. She said, "I cook differently now [that] I'm divorced, I please myself and can eat what I want, less meat[,] more veg and fish." In 2020, Hollywood told the Daily Mail that she is slowly getting accustomed to cooking just for herself now that she's divorced and her son is off at a university. 

A usual routine for her is to open her kitchen cabinet and simply look at the many cans of ingredients until an idea strikes, she said. Be it chopped tomatoes, baked beans, artichoke hearts, asparagus, mussels, or sardines, Hollywood vouches for the efficient role canned food plays in whipping up delectable dishes. "You can boost a simple bolognese quite simply by draining half the sauce from a can of baked beans and tipping the rest in with the meat, a splash of wine and some Worcestershire sauce," she told Daily Mail. Canned chickpeas can be transformed into hummus, falafel, or brownies; tinned pineapple can turn into a lip-smacking dessert, she added

She kept her last name post divorce

What's in a name? A lot. Alex Hollywood, like a majority of other British women, took her husband Paul Hollywood's last name when she married him in 1999. By the time she was officially divorced in 2019, she had identified herself as Alex Hollywood for a good 20 years. It didn't make sense for her to change her name just because she was severing ties with her husband. In an episode of the British talk show "Loose Women," she said, "I'm getting divorced, but I'm not divorcing my son, he's a Hollywood. I'm his mum, I'm not going to get rid of his name" (via Hello!). Josh Hollywood, opted to go stay with his mum after the split, and per the Daily Mail, cut ties with his dad for at least two years after the divorce. 

Alex told The Sun, "Divorce creates enough upheaval for children, and he had asked me if I 'had' to change my name. To do so would have felt as if I were divorcing him too." But besides that, Hollywood would have to start an identity from scratch, as she had authored all of her books and published multiple recipes as Alex Hollywood. So, she told The Sun, "It smacks a little of sexism to suggest I have to 'give back' a name, rather like a used car log book or old frying pan."

She is vocal about how she copes with menopause

Not only has Hollywood been candid about her age (she celebrated her 57th birthday in May 2021), but she is also open about the challenges that come with it. "I'm a mid-50s single mama, my life has changed totally in the last 5 years having gone through #menopause, #divorce, and waving my son off to #uni and I'm now more aware than ever of physical changes that seem to crop up when I least expect," she wrote on Instagram. She noticed that her skin was not the same as before, and her nails were growing brittle; her metabolism has slowed down, energy levels had dipped, and there was a shift in her tolerance of certain foods, she said (via Instagram).

Having been a scuba instructor back in the day, Hollywood has always had an active lifestyle. But with age, her body now experiences some aches post-exercise. She is not one to complain about it though. Instead, she aims to look after her body like one would a classic car (via Instagram). This means taking enough breaks and committing to strengthening the body one day at a time, she suggests to every woman who is over 50. She said, "you're not alone, we can talk about it, understand it, support each other through it and do what women do best — laugh at the ridiculousness of some of the situations we find ourselves in!"

Her recipes target women over 50

Mood swings, hot flashes, slower metabolism, lack of sleep ... these are just some of the changes that a woman's body may undergo during menopause, per the National Institute on Aging. For many, this transition phase can be tough, but for some lucky ones, not so much. "Menopause can last for years as a woman transition through the stages, so looking after yourself physically and mentally and listening to your body is paramount to maintaining a happy healthy life," Alex Hollywood said in an Instagram post. "Now I'm going through #menopause I really need to think about what I put on my plate — what triggers symptoms and what disagrees with me," she said.

Hollywood does not believe in following drastic diets. Instead, she follows a workout routine, is conscious of her food portion size, and tweaks her dishes in ways to make them nourishing and delicious at the same time. For example, when making a curry, Hollywood includes ginger, which helps with digestion, cinnamon, which can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and turmeric, which is anti-inflammatory. As you follow her recipe of sumac and zaatar baked salmon, you not only learn that sumac is a dried berry from the Middle East, and zaatar is a Mediterranean spice blend of sesame, thyme, and oregano, but also that the dish is good for your heart, skin, and joints (via Instagram). All these recipes seem to be addressed to the crowd of women over 50.

She leads a pretty active lifestyle

Alex Hollywood works out by running along the scenic beaches of Kent, England. Sometimes, the destination is the historic Reculver Castle with a stop for fish and chips (via Instagram); other times, the prize at the end of an exhausting run is a hot cappuccino. "it's now become a #thing to find the best coffee after our run! ... I do love coffee & can't drink too much of it but a cappuccino treat on a cold wet misty day after a 5k run is just perfect!" Hollywood said on Instagram. Hollywood, who trains with KCL Fitness, also does weights, jump rope, and tennis.

Hollywood's ultimate aim is not to flaunt washboard abs or become uber slim — all she wants is "to carry on feeling fit[,] happy and healthy to enjoy whatever life brings my way," she said. "I can't remember exactly when I noticed that age really was taking over — it's a slow stealthy process and a bit of a wake up call, because I realised then that 'this is it' — I'll have to look after what I have now because it's going to have to last me ... !" she wrote on Instagram. She has noticed that staying active gives her a sense of well-being while building a defense against menopause symptoms. If that's not motivation enough, there's always coffee.

She has her own Instagram Live show

Alex Hollywood and Lotte Duncan, who is a British TV presenter, chef, and author, have been doing a cooking show on Instagram Live called "Chop n Chat" since the beginning of the pandemic (via DML Talent). The show has the two food experts talk about a myriad of topics while cooking up dishes such as the spiced Moroccan falafel with tomato sauce, in under an hour. The duo even did a session of their virtual show before an audience as part of the Thame Food Festival, an event celebrating the local food and drink producers, and retailers in Thame, UK, in September 2021.

As per Daily Star Sunday, Hollywood and Duncan met each other through Hollywood's ex-husband in 2013, and the friendship has lasted since. Their freewheeling casual discussions about food seem to have hit home with the crowd, given the Thursday Instagram live chats have continued over a year since its launch. According to Hollywood, the show deserves to be a television program. "We've been putting ideas together. We'd absolutely love to do it as a proper programme," she told the Daily Star. "We just need a commissioning editor to say, 'That's a fantastic idea'," she added. While we'll have to wait to see if the show ever grows beyond the social media platform, what we know is it won't be Hollywood's first foray into television — she has previously appeared on "This Morning" and "Ainsley's Food We Love," among others (via IMDb).

For her, friends are everything

Alex Hollywood's social media grid teems with photos and mini essays about the perfect lunches, getaways, and shopping sessions with friends. She wrote in a post, "If it's true you can judge a woman by the company she keeps — then I think I'm doing pretty d**n good! ... friends really are everything." Among Hollywood's friends are cookbook author Chetna Makan, who was also a semi-finalist in "The Great British Baking Show," and British television presenter Lucy Alexander, among others. Fortunately, Hollywood has had friends who she could lean on even as she trudged through the particularly tough phase of a very public divorce with Paul Hollywood. 

She recalled in an Instagram post, "A few years ago I headed to Rome to celebrate my birthday with some of my closest girlfriends. It was a milestone birthday — I was in the middle of getting divorced, I hadn't been single since I was in my 20s and to be honest, I had no idea how I would feel ... " She added, "It turned out to be the best long weekend I'd ever had!" And like so many of us, Hollywood depends on her friends to remind her that it's okay to feel frustrated at times, she said in a post.

Alex Hollywood is happy

Ever since her divorce from British baker Paul Hollywood, Alex Hollywood has profoundly changed the way she sees herself. While the separation did emotionally drain her, she did pivot gracefully to create a life that she is happy about. "It wasn't easy and it took some getting used to, I wasn't even sure I liked it much at first, but as I regained my confidence, my freedom and myself after so long, I discovered that it really isn't a cliché to say happiness really does comes from within," she wrote in a post on Instagram around Valentine's Day 2022. What she embraces most about this new life is the absolute freedom it has given her. "Being single later in life is liberating. I know It may seem daunting at first, but when you find your feet, it feels darn good because the time you have and the choices you make are all yours," she added in another post.

To all those who tell her that she would find love again, she clarified that she doesn't have the need to be hitched again. "people don't like to believe that a woman can be happier single and I'm told that I shouldn't worry, that I'll meet someone special again. But that's just it. I already have. That someone special is me," she said.