We sat down for a quick bite with each of our three Finalists to chat about their time in The Tent. Here’s what Steph had to say…
What’s the biggest thing that you will miss when Bake Off is over for 2019?
I guess the thing I will miss is that the ‘experience/journey’ is over, we are the class of 2019 – “over and out”… and that’s kind of sad. I also will miss the wider Bake Off family from the production team, camera people and paramedic, to the presenters and judges… it may all sound a bit clichéd but, they’re just a truly fabulous bunch and I will miss each and every one of them.
Overall so far what would you say you have done best in throughout the series: Signature, Technical or Showstopper?
I would probably say, on the whole, I did best in my Showstoppers. Ironically, I think I felt more relaxed as it was the final bake of the weekend. Despite it often being the harder challenge, I used to think ‘just one more left to fumble my way through’.
Did you discover any new flavours while in the tent?
I learnt a lot from the other bakers in terms of flavours – and also flavour combinations – particularly with spices. I had never thought to use cardamom or saffron in sweet baking!
Best comment from Paul or Prue?
I kept my bakes fairly traditional, I used flavour combinations that were tried and tested and didn’t overcomplicate my designs – I think Prue generally quite liked this about my bakes. The best comment I received from Paul had to be for my ‘Cho-ffee’ Bombe dessert – I nearly fell over when he said it was one of the best things he had tasted in a while!
What’s been your favourite challenge/theme this series and least favourite and why?
My favourite challenge was the Bread Week Showstopper – it reminded me of my art exams where I got lost in my own little world – I could be creative when scoring the bread and there wasn’t quite the same time pressure as with many of the other bakes. I was also proud of both my Signature and Showstopper bakes in Dessert Week – I’m usually so critical of things I do but I managed to accept that these were quite tasty! My least favourite bakes were the Indian milk sweets in Dairy Week, and the Kek Lapis Sarawak cake in Festival Week. I struggled so much to come up with recipes; researching them was tricky and I’d never tried the bakes before to know whether I was making them correctly.
Did the Technical Challenge fill you with dread each week?
100%. I was terrified of each technical, I used to just pray that I could turn something out. With almost every Technical, I used to think – “I have no clue what I’m doing here”.
How emotional is it when you’re waiting to hear who Star Baker is and who is leaving the tent? Was there a specific week where you thought you might be leaving?
It’s tough waiting to hear who might be leaving the tent each week, if you or another baker have had a particularly rocky weekend of baking, it’s nerve-racking waiting to hear the outcome. We did, however, have each other for support during that time which really helped.
You were named Star Baker an incredible four times, how did it feel? Did it make you relax a bit or want to up your game further? Or was it bittersweet because you were also saying goodbye to a fellow baker?
I NEVER expected or even thought about being Star Baker prior to filming. I was so astonished that I had made it into the Bake Off tent and had so little belief in my capabilities that ‘success’ was never something I considered, it was just a case of how long until they realise I’m not good enough? In fact, I’m still thinking, “Wait, I was on BAKE OFF!!!!!”. Strangely, when I received the first Star Baker, I actually became much more nervous, I felt a pressure (completely self-inflicted) to live up to the standard I had then set. I thought people would think I was a failure if I didn’t keep ‘performing’.
Approaching the Final, how were the nerves? Did it feel like a competition or three friends going into the tent one last time?
From a practical perspective, I was so nervous – I just didn’t want to make a fool of myself. Having said that, I was utterly astonished to have made it so far. I was with two fabulous friends and bakers, and at the end of a truly magical journey.
How have you found watching yourself on TV?
Hard! I’m not sure anyone enjoys watching themselves on TV do they? It’s a very strange scenario – sometimes I’m like – “is that me?”
What’s the best thing about taking part in Bake Off?
The friendship with the bakers and the production team, the ability to learn so much about baking, and the personal challenge and ‘growth’ (cheesy, sorry!) I managed more than I would ever have dreamt I’d be capable of, and I’m so proud of that.
Did you receive any advice/words of wisdom ahead of the final?
My wonderful Mum and close family told me to enjoy myself and that was the best advice, they were so proud of me.
What was your lowest moment and your highest moment in the Tent?
My lowest moment was when Michael left, he became my sidekick and I struggled without him, generally losing someone each week was really tough. My highest moment was stepping into the tent as one of the final three – yes, it was daunting, I still had three bakes to get through but I thought “WOW, how have I done this?”
Who did you want to impress – Paul or Prue or both equally?
I wanted to impress them both equally, I consider them both to be incredibly talented and skilled professionals, therefore being able to impress both of them with a bake felt like a big achievement.
How helpful/supportive were Sandi and Noel?
Both Noel and Sandi were SO supportive, I genuinely don’t think I could have done it without them both.
Was there a challenge that you normally do usually well at home but didn’t work out so well in the tent… and vice versa?
There were a couple of instances where I found the different ovens (from my home oven) caught me out – particularly early on! I certainly overbaked my ginger biscuits and my Signature tear-and-share loaf in the tent, which hadn’t happened at home – but I learnt from my mistakes… I think!
Did you ever think that you would be a Finalist, and when did you think you might have a chance of making it to the Final?
I never thought or even dreamt I would be a Finalist – it wasn’t in my head as a possibility, I just didn’t think I would be good enough or capable – even when we were told the result in the Semi Final, I didn’t believe I was in the Final!
Comedy moment in the tent/or out of the tent that you can remember?
There were plenty of comedy moments – too many to recall but a few specifics were – we all fondly remember Jamie trying to soften his butter in the proving drawer… it worked a treat… if liquid butter what was he was aiming for! Dan informing us that he was ‘going in’ (the oven) 10 minutes into a challenge was enough to send us all into panic before realising he was joking, and Henry telling Paul to “shut up” when he got the illustrious Hollywood handshake was priceless!
How do you now cope with being recognised?
It’s so strange being recognised… I’m just me and it seems weird that people know me! Having said that, people have shown me nothing but warmth, kindness and support which is incredible.
How has it been at work while the series has been airing?
My colleagues have been really supportive while the show has been airing. I have also received incredible warmth and kindness from customers.
Throughout filming in the summer what was your best invented ‘white lie’ to keep it a secret from friends and workmates?
I had a lot of ‘working weekends’ – people thought I was being worked much too hard I think, I also had the odd ‘trip’ here and there – I wasn’t very inventive with my white lies!
Best baking gadget in your kitchen?
My kitchen is now overflowing with baking equipment but top of the list would be my mini stand mixer – I don’t think I could have survived Bake Off without it; it really took a beating!
As Finalists how close did you all get? Was there still a great support right up to the end?
We were really close, we had been there for each other the whole way through and that continued right into the Final; the final three baking elves held each other together right to the end.
Will this be a life change for you, or will life carry on as normal?
I will never change who I am; I really hadn’t considered the potential of what Bake Off could offer… but I would love to be able to use my experience in the Bake Off tent as a platform to try new things; make baking a bigger part of my life and also inspire others to recognise the beauty of baking.
Would you do it all again?
I’m not going to lie, it was really hard work… and when I look back on what I did for the months involved, I feel exhausted just thinking about it. There was blood, sweat and quite a few tears… but honestly, YES, I would do it again, I made the best group of friends; I learnt SO much about baking and about myself; I got to meet some incredible people and right now, I’m living the best life – why wouldn’t I do it again?
What are you hoping for now… is there an ultimate baking dream?
I’m living the ultimate baking dream already – the whole experience has been beyond words. I guess I would like the dream to carry on as long as possible, fundamentally helping to inspire others, learn more and spread a little baking magic along the way.
Would you recommend amateur bakers to apply for the next series of Bake Off? And did you have any hesitation?
To any amateur bakers out there thinking of applying: JUST DO IT. I never imagined anything would come of my application, nor did I believe I would be good enough. My motto is very much: “If you don’t try, you’ll never know”… and maybe, just maybe, next year it might be you! So don’t hesitate, what are you waiting for? Good luck!
Applications for Series 11 of The Great British Bake Off are now open. So if you or someone you know is a Star Baker in the making, apply now: www.applyforbakeoff.co.uk