INTERVIEW: Great British Bake Off 2012 Winner, John Whaite

ImageLife changed in an instant when a staggering 6.5 million Great British Bake Off fans saw relative underdog John Whaite rise to the top and romp to victory on the baking series.

In just nine months the former law student released his first cookbook, moved to London with his partner and is now a regular on daytime TV.

And now the baking sensation is on his way back up North and he couldn’t be happier.

“Moving to London was a big thing for me because I’m such a soft mummy’s boy,” says the 23-year-old from Wrightington, “When I was up there last I didn’t want to go back to London.

“That’s what I miss most about home – my family.”

John is returning to his Lancastrian roots for a special afternoon tea event at Clitheroe’s Brownsholme Hall on July 25, in an event organised by Kirkham’s SilverDell Bookshop, and it appears he has more in common with the town that his fans my have first thought.

“My family used to live in Clitheroe,” he reveals, “When my mum got pregnant with me we moved, so I was created in Clitheroe shall we say.”

No sooner had the final of the baking show aired on television, John was inundated with job offers but it was the offer to write his first cookbook that caught his eye.

“I always knew I would write a book,” he says, “whether it be a baking book or a novel so the writing part of the job I really enjoy.

“I was surprised at how well the first book was received, I didn’t know if people would believe in me as a baker so I was surprised it was successful.

“What I did find difficult was trying to create a diverse range of bakes that would appeal in one book.

“My publisher had to say to me ‘John you’ve repeated rose too much’ or ‘you’ve got too much white chocolate in there’ so it was trying to get a range of baking that was difficult for me.”

And now John is in the process of writing his second publication.

“I’m excited to write my second book because I know where to improve but then at the same time trying to think of the recipes is quite tricky.

“The first one was based on home baking but this one is going to be more baking at home in terms of baking with kids, baking for breakfast, baking for brunch, what you could do if you were with your mates.

“ I think, it’s a more accessible book, whereas the first one was categorized by mood – some people loved it, some people didn’t really get it – so I’m going to make the second one a bit more conventional.”

The popularity of shows such as the Great British Bake Off has ignited the nation’s passion for all things baked and now John is enjoying passing on his skills to the Great British public both in his adopted town of Greenwich in London and across the country. The cover of John Whaite's first book

“I love doing the classes, “ he says, “I was quite nervous with the first one but I ended up really enjoying it and the people there seemed to too.

“We get a range of people from those who can, say, do the brioche already and a really quite good to people who haven’t done all that much.

“What I do find is that people tend to be on the same wavelength, they all have a keen interest in baking and so it all works well for them.

“And I always give them a glass of bubbly to get the mood flowing so we have a bit of a laugh and a giggle.”

“People buying shop-bought cakes has definitely gone down and I think that’s because people are making their own things.

“You know what’s going into the bakes and you can make smaller quantities so you don’t have a big piece of cake leftover waiting to be eaten, you can just make small muffins and freeze them so you don’t end up indulging too much.”

And when it comes to choosing his own favourites, John will always prefer the taste of home cooking.

“It’s about the flavour for me,” he says, “ I’m not into this arty-farty decorated cakes and plates – I can’t do that – I just want something to taste bloody good.”

So what advice does John have for the pretenders to his GBBO throne?

“For those taking part in Bake Off this year I would just say be yourself but also remember to make sure you treat people with respect. Everything you do will be scrutinised so make sure you speak to people correctly and don’t bitch about people – be grateful about the exposure you get. My mum always said to me, don’t burn any bridges- always leave on a positive whenever you leave a situation.”

Details onJohn’s classes at http://www.johnwhaite.com

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