Is Paul Hollywood’s new romance going stale? Bake Off star, 52, stays tight-lipped over rumours he’s split with girlfriend, 23, as tensions surface with the barmaid… who is 29 years younger than his ex-wife
Tripping through the cathedral city of Canterbury in the tightest and briefest of denim shorts, paired with a flashy Gucci belt, Prada sandal and tiny fire engine-red crop top, Summer Monteys-Fullam cuts an arresting figure.
With her curtain of strawberry blonde hair and eye-popping curves (apparently she likes to tease admirers: ‘32E bra, if you’re asking’) she attracts stares even when nipping out to the local nail bar to have her gel manicure attended to.
Last week, with her boyfriend Paul Hollywood being accused of adultery in divorce papers which have been served by his estranged wife, she was enjoying her moment in the spotlight once again.
The Girlfriend Of Bake Off Star Paul Hollywood,Summer Monteys-Fulham in Canterbury
By curious coincidence, a photographer was on hand to see her dressed up to the nines and running errands in town.
She is living with The Great British Bake Off star, 52, in a rented £2 million house which is so rural that she could languish unseen for weeks there. It is surrounded by fields, screened by trees, and reached by a private track.
However Summer, who is 23, seems rather to thrive on the attention, hence perhaps her well-timed trip to the nail bar.
She spoke earlier this year to defend their romance, claiming that it had only begun ‘long after’ his marriage split up and added that she didn’t see any problem with the age gap.
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She said: ‘There are many other people in the world with age gaps, and marriages and kids and everything else and I’m fine.’
Yet it seems there is trouble in paradise. Over the weekend it was reported that the couple had appeared ‘tense’ while on holiday in Cyprus, and that Summer had actually come home early after a row.
The two of them visited a local pub on Saturday night, with Summer wearing a very tight, very short, very white dress. Paul Hollywood wore sunglasses and a scowl.
Addressing the rumours that they were a couple on the verge of a break-up, she mewed: ‘I am still with Paul’, adding, defiantly: ‘It’s nothing to do with any of you lot.’
By contrast, her much older boyfriend has yet to utter a word on the subject of his divorce from wife Alex, or love affair with former barmaid Summer — even though with a new series of Bake Off imminent he has had to get through a brace of media appearances.
In a rather toe-curling exchange with a broadsheet newspaper last week, he was asked how he dealt with the ‘scrutiny’ which has come with Bake Off fame (they were too delicate to actually broach the breakdown of his marriage, or romance with a young woman less than half his age).
He replied with a smile: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. No idea.’
If the above makes you suspect that Paul Hollywood has added a hefty sprinkle of smug to his personal recipe, you would not be alone.
Some of the residents in the prosperous Kent hamlet of Ickham, where he used to live with wife Alex, would concur.
As we shall see, he’s not entirely popular locally, and neither is his new lover, who, it seems, was romancing another much-older millionaire before Paul Hollywood came along.
‘Everyone in the village has taken Alex’s side,’ says one of her friends. ‘You can ask anyone, they all think that he’s a smug git who has treated her appallingly.’
A former colleague in the pub where Paul met Summer described her this week as ‘snooty’ and others said that they had heard that the unlikely romance, complete with three-decade age gap, was not going all that well.
‘Summer and Paul are no George and Amal Clooney, let’s put it that way. I don’t think it’s hearts and flowers,’ I was told.
‘People here think that she is aiming for a career on reality TV, and that the thing with Paul is not going to last for all that much longer. There is a lot of talk that this is not the real thing for either of them.’
He must be fond of her, though, as she is seen driving his cars around the winding lanes in the area, most often his Range Rover.
His favourite car — which he drives to the set of Bake Off — is a new bright blue Lamborghini, and he also has a motorbike and an Aston Martin. (There’s gold in dough — he’s said to be worth around £10 million.)
Having given up her job as a barmaid, Summer does not seem to have an occupation at present. Instead, she is seen going to a local stables to ride her two horses twice a day, and visiting the gym.
She also seems to be running the house for the two of them. One friend bumped into her in Morrisons in Canterbury where she was grocery shopping.
Paul on holiday with Summer who is 29 years younger than his ex-wife in Cyprus last week
There are complaints locally that Summer has changed with the romance. One former colleague said: ‘She’s a lovely girl and she was friendly at first when she worked here, adding a lot of us on social media as work colleagues tend to do when they get closer.
‘Everyone liked her. But since she got with Paul she’s given all of us the boot on social media. It seems a very snooty way to carry on, to be honest.’
Ickham, which has a population of only 437, dates back to the eighth century and is referred to as ‘the friendly village’. It was best known for its well preserved 13th-century church until the events of last summer.
The jewel in Ickham’s crown is the Duke William gastropub, where the menu includes half lobster with garlic butter at £21 and a Tomahawk steak for two to share at £60.
Paul Hollywood, who at that point had fairly recently moved into a new house with wife Alex and son Josh, called in to organise a birthday party for Alex in May last year.
A close friendship grew between him and Summer, who worked there. Her step-father is apparently the same age as Hollywood.
Paul treated his new young ‘mate’ and a group of her girlfriends to a champagne night out over last summer at The Pound pub in Canterbury. He settled the entire bill. For her 22nd birthday — by coincidence also in May last year — Hollywood loaned her the use of his chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce so she could have an evening out in style.
Some time later there was dinner and drinks for the two of them at The Dorchester hotel in London.
Summer’s former friend Rachel Turrell says she’s not at all surprised that Summer bewitched the baker.
She said: ‘Summer always liked older men — they treated her like a princess.’ Before Paul, she dated 47-year-old property millionaire Walter Collins for two years. Rachel added: ‘Summer’s a party lover, pure and simple. Paul Hollywood is just the latest guy to fall for her charms. She surely can’t believe her luck.’
Last November, he and Alex announced that they had split. Pointedly, their brief statement didn’t insist that there was no third party involved.
Associates promised at that time that he and Summer had ‘only ever’ been friends.
However this April, Paul and Summer were seen on a £1,000-a-night holiday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mauritius. They had flown out separately in a bid to keep the liaison quiet.
And at the same time it emerged that Summer had made a rather rambling post on an Instagram account (now deleted) on New Year’s Eve. She said: ‘I can only thank the people that are close to me. Including my amazing boyfriend. You have turned me from a girl to a woman, and to a house woman. I love you so much! This post is not for likes but the love of my life. I am truly a lucky girl and have the best things and people and animals around me, 2018.’
At first, Alex did nothing. Doubtless, she felt humiliated. She had forgiven him for running off with American chef Marcela Valladolid in 2013, and allowed him to come back to her, with Paul declaring that he had made the biggest mistake of his life and promising that he still loved her.
She has carried on living in the house which they were renovating, and provided a haven for Josh, who took his GCSEs this spring.
Paul Hollywood and his wife Alex are separating after nearly 20 years of marriage
Once the exams were over, and after a bolstering holiday with old friends in France, Alex decided that although it’s possible to file for divorce on the grounds of something more neutral like ‘unreasonable behaviour’, she was going to go for ‘adultery’ instead.
A friend explained: ‘It’s still pretty early in the process, but papers have now been served. What happened five years ago was one thing, but this is a whole different kettle of fish and has brought a different reaction.
‘I think it gets to a point where you think: “No, that is enough. I’ve had enough of the nonsense.” ’
He added: ‘She is popular with lots of friends and she is a strong woman. She is going to be fine, but this has been painful. She has hired a very good lawyer.’
Summer has not been mentioned by name in the court documents, although it is possible to do this.
Alex’s friend explained: ‘It gets sticky legally otherwise.’ Indeed, if a third party is named then they get added to the process, meaning that a divorce can be delayed.
Alex herself has not spoken — not yet, at least — but is weighing offers to tell her side of the story, most likely to promote a cookbook which she is hoping to write.
At the moment she is posting recipes on Instagram most days, including ones for bread. On her ciabatta recipe she wrote: ‘Well if I had known that it would be this easy . . .’
Alex’s 2,900 followers know that her mood is defiant. She wrote last month: ‘She remembered who she was, and the game changed.’
A sophisticated woman who speaks Italian, French and Spanish, and who is rather formidable, it’s clear that she has no intention of simply rolling over where the divorce is concerned.
Indeed, she and Paul Hollywood were always chalk and cheese. He is a twinkly Scouse charmer, born into a family of bakers; Alex was privately educated. Her mother was half-French, half-Norwegian and her grandmother was a flamboyant French actress.
After school she did a secretarial course before working in the PR department of fashion house Joseph, and for the designer Nicole Farhi.
Alex and Paul Hollywood met in Cyprus in 1996, when she was working as a dive instructor and he was baking at a hotel. After they married in 1998, Alex would help him run his bread-making business, and some suggest that she even helped him write his cookbooks in the early years.
Alex, surely, would have seen trouble brewing in his accepting a deal to present the charity versions of Bake Off — and be paid for doing so as part of his £400,000-a-year contract.
Although Channel 4 confirmed that all four presenters and judges were paid for their roles in the Stand Up To Cancer specials earlier this year, the ire seemed to be directed at ‘Paul Lollywood’ in particular.
Does he care? His friends say that he is kind-hearted underneath the bluster, and feels that he is misrepresented by the media.
Mr Hollywood is keeping his head down, saying nothing and doubtless hoping that all of the bad publicity blows over soon. But will his limelight-loving new girlfriend be around for much longer?
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