Defeated by a social media muddle, the final of the Great British Bake Off was a slight anti-climax. However, knowing what the outcome would be somehow took the edge off the anxiety when you want your favourite to win. And in the end, it was the right person who came through.
It was always clear to me throughout the series that despite bread being her Achilles heel, Sophie had the edge. She was an all-rounder and remained calm even when the tent overheated and others suffered a literal melt down. Sophie appeared to me to be not only clever with the different aspects of baking, but brilliant with matching her flavours. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see Paul proved wrong over her lavender and lemon combo in her final “Ode to the Honey bee” entremet showstopper.
The thing that stood out for me with Sophie also, was her precision and planning. While great baking is achieved through a feel for flavour and understanding the bake, timing is also an essential skill – and she had that in spades. We teach our professional students to bake without using timers, although they do time the bake by the old fashioned way of writing down the time it went in the oven and keeping an eye on the clock – it engenders a sense of planning and strategy. While the other finalists pulled out the stops and produced stunning bakes, it was clear that timing was an issue for Stephen despite his skill in decoration. Also, Kate who used great flavours and creativity was also just not quite up to Sophie’s standard – not helped by her tendency to drop things on the floor!
As former colleague of Prue Leith, I have enjoyed seeing her develop her TV skills over the years. Her character and enthusiasm for flavour has shone through and she was a great addition to the team. When I worked for her at Leith’s, I was always impressed by her energy and style and it was clear that she brought a vigour to the tent which was a real benefit of the Channel 4 shake-up. I know she has absolutely loved being a judge on this very British institution!
Each finalist said how much they had learnt through the process, and I believe we can all find a joy in learning at any age. Many of our students, whether they are changing career to become a professional chef or attending one of our shorter leisure courses, find a pleasure in learning a new skill. Even the best cooks learn as they go.
If you have been inspired by the Bake Off, we have courses which match the challenges faced by the bakers. Our Christmas baking day is always popular as it includes pastry and cakes; where the more focused courses such as patisserie include a range of pastries including choux, puff and pate sucree.
For those who want to master the art of bread-making, we run a popular Artisan Bread course and a Baking Workshop, which is geared towards enhancing existing baking skills, allowing us to offer a Baking for Beginners course alongside. We are also re-running our Patisserie One Week Course for those who really want to delve for longer into the mysteries of this very technical skill.
Though for those who have been truly inspired, our three and six month professional courses are the way to go for a career in the food industry. We see our graduates enter some of the leading UK kitchens, become food writers, or even open their own restaurants. As with the Bake Off contestants, learning to cook can be life changing.