It's difficult to describe the honour and privilege of being part of The Great British Bake Off. To be recognised as one of the best amateur bakers in the country, is quite simply incredible. Endless friends and neighbours repeatedly kept saying my Sourdough breads or various healthy Viennoiseries were the best they had ever eaten. They kept calling me the "Heston Blumenthal" of bread, due to my novel ingredients and unusual flavour combinations. Almost weekly someone would tell me I should enter GBBO. Eventually and I admit hesitantly, I secretly completed the long application form, not telling anyone, expecting never to hear anything again. However, to my surprise a week later I received a call from Love Productions, and so began a long, tough, challenging process, where my baking skills were analysed and pushed to my limits.
Many months, bakes, interviews and technical challenges later, I received the incredible news, I'd been chosen. The day I stepped inside the tent for the first-time was so surreal. I experienced feelings of anxiety and excitement, mixed with adrenaline and pride. At times I felt like a teenager again, plucking up the courage to ask a girl out, the next it reminded me of that awful feeling of lying on a hospital trolley, waiting to go down to theatre. I was warned the tent creates a unique atmosphere, causes what's called 'tent brain', that only those who have experienced would fully understand, how true that is......
It sounds such a cliche, but every one of the numerous staff who helped, supported and encouraged me at Love Productions, as well, of course, the eleven other bakers, have become close lifelong friends - something that typically doesn't happen the older you get!
How It Started
After my recovery from cancer, I became fixated with my health, researching what had possibly caused my illness - and more importantly what I could do to remain in remission.
I soon learnt about the connections between what we eat, exercise and cancer. The lightbulb moment was when I noticed the long list of unpronounceable additives, listed as ingredients on the back a loaf of supermarket bread - rather than just flour, water and salt!
So began my baking obsession, initially because it was the only way I could guarantee what I was eating. After dozens of disasters in the kitchen, I eventually started creating healthy, nutritious breads and pastries. I was amazed how beautiful they tasted and surprised they weren't readily available to purchase; baking had soon became an important part of my life.
I spent a number of years learning how beneficial, some natural foods are to our health. I discovered evidence suggesting the numerous artificial additives and preservatives found in our food, have a detrimental impact on our body. I'd read studies claiming refined sugars can cause enormous damage to our immune system. However, it wasn't just food, I also learnt the chemicals in most products we use, from our toiletries, such as deodorants, or washing powders used to clean our clothes, contain carcinogens and are suspected of causing cancer.
Meanwhile, I visited the best bread bakeries around the world, from San Francisco to New York, Sydney to Paris, meeting with the best in the industry; and picking up endless tips and advice along the way. I read every book possible and enrolled in dozens of courses, including one of the top culinary bread schools in Paris, where I learned traditional techniques behind making French breads, such as baguettes, country breads… and also perfected my Viennoiseries making skills.
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