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A dream location, the star ingredient of 'Celebrity Bake Off Spain'

In the surroundings of Los Claustros de Ayllón there is hardly any noise except that of the birds. The storks installed at the top of its imposing belfry are practically the only inhabitants of the enclosure on late autumn days. The architecture of this old Franciscan monastery, surrounded by 3.5 hectares of green areas on the outskirts of a town in the province of Segovia of about 1,200 inhabitants, invites you to stay and disconnect. It is the personal project of Rafael de la Plaza, a doctor from Madrid who is passionate about architecture and archeology. He bought these more than eight centuries old ruins in 1971, restored them and turned them into a family business. In the last decade, he has rented the venue for weddings, business meetings and ambitious shootings. It is, in fact, the spectacular setting for Celebrity Bake Off Spain .

The environment is one of the star ingredients of the culinary contest, whose 10 episodes are already available and on demand on Amazon Prime Video. The Spanish adaptation of this British format, presented by Paula Vázquez and Brays Efe, challenges 12 famous contestants to create elaborate pastry recipes in an environment that tries to combine competition with good vibes. This time the singers Chenoa and Soraya, the former referee Eduardo Iturralde González, the model Andrés Velencoso and the pianist James Rhodes, among others, participate.

Ana Ansola, director of the program produced by Boxfish TV, considers that the old monastery brings “a nostalgic, romantic and local touch” to the final result. The program benefits aesthetically, showing the beauty of the environment in aerial shots recorded with drones, and also in the emotional aspect, by placing its participants in a bubble of peace. Despite the tension that can be experienced in the tests, “the space has to inspire tranquility and rest. It's like a meeting in the field, with close people, and celebrating ”, says Ansola. The tests are carried out in a tent installed next to the cloisters and equipped to house all the furniture necessary for cooking.

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Finding an attractive setting is one of the main requirements for those who want to adapt this successful format. The original program, which now has 10 editions in the UK, has been shot alongside Scottish castles, London mansions and Victorian country houses. “Each country adapts it to its environment. For example, in the French edition they go to a palace with incredible gardens. You always need a green and beautiful environment ”, says the director of the program. The first edition held in Spain, led by Jesús Vázquez in Cuatro with anonymous contestants, was recorded in 2019 in an old flour factory in the Madrid town of Torremocha del Jarama.

To approve the location a small miracle has to happen. It should fit in with all technical departments. “If it is a place with a lot of inclination, it would not be useful for realization, the orientation of the sun and indoor lighting is key for photography and that there are no noisy roads or a nearby airport is vital for sound people,” explains Ansola.

Esty Quesada, one of the contestants on the program, places one of the desserts in the tent installed inside the venue. Amazon Prime Video Spain

The passion of a lifetime

Luis de la Plaza, son of the founder of the Claustros de Ayllón and current head of the farm, describes the project as “the hobbie of a lifetime” for his father. “He started going there in his spare time; he hired people from the area to help him dig, investigate and rehabilitate what was once a convent ”, he recalls.

They planted almost 400 trees of different species and, since then, three storks' nests have been installed on the old façade of the building. Once restored, they held a family wedding there in 2002 and decided to make the most of what until then had been a personal passion. Since 2010, they have organized events of up to 400 people and in the nineties, before becoming a venue for these multitudinous gatherings, it was the Villabajo of the well-known advertisements of a brand of dishwasher.

Due to the situation of this Segovian farm and due to the protocols against the coronavirus, the 12 contestants of Celebrity Bake Off Spain lived together in the venue instead of going to and from their homes. During the six weeks that the recording of the program lasted, in the spring of 2021, they occupied the 19 rooms that the place has with some members of production. The rest of the team made up of dozens of people lived during this time in hotels and rural houses in the area.

The interior of the Cloisters of Ayllón. Image provided by the owners

The Cloisters of Ayllón are an economic catalyst for this part of the province of Segovia. “The hoteliers of nearby towns, such as Riaza and Burgo de Osma, call us often to see what business prospects we have, because it influences theirs. During these months of uncertainty, they have called more often than usual ”, explains the current director of the venue.

The family obtained a grant from the European Economic Community for the construction of the hotel that is part of the complex and for the creation of jobs in the area, but De la Plaza assures that they have not received any public aid to preserve this historic building. Nor do they have the obligation to keep it, he points out.

Even closed, maintaining the business costs “around 100,000 and 150,000 euros a year,” calculates its owner. “It's a fortune for a small company like ours.” The recording of Amazon Prime Video has helped keep it open in these long months of confinement and sanitary restrictions.

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