For 11 seasons (or series) The Great British Bake Off (or Great British Baking Show) has delighted fans with scrummy bakes, increasingly ridiculous showstopper challenges, and casts of characters that you love and then forget about immediately.
That’s not an insult. GBBO is seemingly lab-crafted to make you feel good, calm, entertained, and almost nothing else, and its well-mannered contestants are a huge part of that. For as much as I adored the likes of Briony, Yan, Benjamina, Nadiya (of course), or Ruby from seasons past, they would probably be completely gone from my memory if it weren’t for the staying power of Instagram. Bakers float in and out with each passing season. You love them and leave them. It takes a lot to make a powerful mark.
There’s been a notable exception for me this season, however. And his name is Dave.
Dave (whose full name is Dave Friday—a gloriously cartoon-sounding name) is a security guard from Hampshire, who lives with his girlfriend Stacey, brand new baby Ronnie, and a Shiba Inu named Yoki. He has piercing eyes. He’s a “petrolhead” and probably many other things, but most importantly, this Brit is firmly, yet quietly, an absolute die-hard fiend for everything related to Southern California.
Dave’s love of the Golden State dovetails with a passion for Mexico, and manifests almost weekly in his GBBO bakes. He often mentions drawing inspiration from trips to Mexico and routinely uses flavors like citrus, mango, and guava. None of his bakes, however, will ever top Dave’s very first showstopper: a bust of former Blink-182 guitarist and singer, Tom DeLonge.
In a challenge in which bakers could choose literally any famous person from any time in history to model a cake after, choosing DeLonge—who was clearly a largely unknown quantity to the other bakers, hosts, and judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith—was a decision that could only have been made out of pure love. Amid likenesses of Marie Antoinette, “Sir David Attenborough,” David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, Freddie Mercury, and “Lupita Nyong’o” there was DeLonge, the SoCal pop punker who is now primarily a UFO guy. The judges described it as a “caricature” and DeLonge actually responded on Instagram, which I sincerely hope made Dave’s year.
All that said, my personal favorite expression of Dave’s passion is sartorial. Let’s take a look:
Palm trees! That’s Hollywood, baby. OK, palm trees are pretty generic, but subsequent evidence will back me up.
It’s tough to tell, but this shirt says Santa Monica. That’s right, a city in southern California.
This one is from Santa Barbara! Another California city.
What’s that? Yes, another California shirt. If you’re on a super-popular baking show and you have limited time to wear your very best fits and you choose several California shirts, it’s not a coincidence, it’s a lifestyle.
Oh, and this man definitely had gauged ears at one point. Gauged ears!
Finally, just last week, we got even further insight into Dave’s expansive affection for all things California. As Dave set to work making a cake decorated with a beach scene, he and host Noel Fielding start to discuss surfing, which Dave says he’s tried. They both expressed that they found the sport difficult.
“On Point Break it looks easy,” Fielding said.
At this point Dave’s already intense eyes got even more intense than they already are.
“Great film,” he said with a seriousness that only Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah in the great film Point Break could match.
Dave then said his dad has a dog named Swayze, an homage to Patrick Swayze, the other star of Point Break. So maybe Dave’s loyalty to California began with his father? Maybe Dave’s own passion inspired his dad to love Point Break? It doesn’t matter. Vaya con dios.
Perhaps the weirdest thing about all of this is that the show doesn’t really engage with it. Sure, Dave wears California clothes and bakes busts of Tom DeLonge, but amid all these references no one has ever said “So hey man, what’s up with you and California?” His passion exists as a soundtrack playing in the background of the character of Dave. No one presses pause, but no one turns the volume up either.
A lot of people have grumbled online about how this season of GBBO is bad. I don’t agree, but I do sort of get where that critique is coming from. The challenges have been more outlandish, as have the bits between Fielding and newcomer Matt Lucas, and there seems to be a lack of camaraderie between the contestants despite the fact that they are actually all living together in a COVID bubble (but you know, the global pandemic itself might also have something to do with all of it).
That’s the thing I keep coming back to with Dave. He might not be charismatic or warm. His bakes might be just fine. But there’s a fascinating and refreshing corniness to his fixation with California that has turned him into a reason for me to tune in. Each week when the Netflix ta-dum sound plays I brace myself for Dave’s attire and whatever story he’s going to tell about a trip to Mexico. It’s true and pure. It’s deeply weird. It’s what I watch Bake Off for in the first place.
From my post in Los Angeles, a place I can’t fully access right now, I’ve loved watching Dave’s California dreamin’ unspool from 5,000 miles away. It makes me love and miss my city. I hope he gets to come back soon and maybe even live here someday. I hope the California he envisions is keeping him warm.