Biscuit Week tore up the table-manners rule book by encouraging us to play with our food in the form of an edible board game Show Stopper challenge. Unfortunately, it was game over for baker Chris, a software developer and flamboyant shirt-collector from Bristol. Despite only being two weeks into the new series, he won over the hosts’, judges’ and viewers’ affections with his cheeky quips and GIF-able facial expressions.
We sat down for one last helping of afternoon tea with Chris to find out about his journey to the tent, how “Tent Brain” tripped him up, and what goes on in the bakers’ WhatsApp group.
Hi Chris! How are you feeling about leaving the tent this week?
“I never thought for one moment I would even get into the tent. My wife told me not to waste my time filling in the form! It’s great to get a pat on the back from locals, friends and family who have really enjoyed watching it. It’s just me, Chris, on such a big programme.”
You really seemed to hit it off with the Bake Off hosts and judges.
“Sandi still texts me and we swap silly jokes, and I share a love of interesting shirts with Noel! Prue hugged me when we first met, putting me at ease – she’s adorable. And I’m obsessed with bread, so really wanted to impress Paul with my knowledge and skills of bread-making. I’m disappointed that I never got to bread week.”
And what about the other bakers… what goes on when the cameras stop rolling?
“I was cynical about previous bakers’ friendships, but I totally get it now. My best moment was meeting the other bakers and making 11 new friends instantly. It sounds cringey but it’s so true. We swap jokes, recipes and naughty innuendos over our WhatsApp group. “
Speaking of your best moments, let’s talk about your ‘pies’ and ‘doughs’, starting with the positives…
“Walking into the tent was a highlight – it was totally surreal. It was a huge honour and such a privilege to step inside on that first morning. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it. I know there are thousands of bakers that want to get into that tent, and I was one of the lucky few.”
… and what about any dough moments?
“My worst moments have to be the technical challenges. When you pull off the red and white cloth at the start of the technical, it’s a very frightening moment. I would describe it best as a mixture of fear of the unknown and a relentless ticking clock somewhere behind you!”
If you could do it all again, would you change anything?
“I should have stuck to the things I usually bake and not make a pig’s ear of trying new things. I tried to bake outside of my normal baking zone, but my nerves were shot, and coupled with Tent Brain, it all went to pieces. Baking at home is therapeutic. I put the radio on, have a little glass of wine and it’s really enjoyable and relaxing. It’s not quite like that in the tent!”
It’s not been an easy journey for you. As a cancer survivor, how have people responded to your success as one of the country’s 12 best amateur bakers?
“I’ve received congratulations from people that have either been through treatment, or are currently going through it. It has been lovely to receive so many messages. The letters are so moving – something like that makes a whole sense of the competition, big time. I hope from being on the show, I can raise awareness that cancer can be beaten and inspire anyone who is having treatment. That will be enough for me.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m focusing on my book, The Cancer Survivors Club, published by One World Publications. I am terribly proud of it. I want it to be like a bible for people going through this illness, inspiring them to write their survival story, and get it published in future editions of my book.”
If you had to sum up your Bake Off experience in a mouthful, what would it be?
“It’s so bizarre and overwhelming, and at the same time one of those amazing lifelong experiences I will forever cherish.”
Let us all raise a mug to Chris – our second departing baker.