John Whaite won Great British Bake Off in 2012, since then he has launched his own chocolate range and teamed up with Neff, the company behind the Slide and Hide ovens that featured on the hit BBC Show. We caught up with him at event hosted by Neff and online electrical retailer, ao.com, where Manchester born John demonstrated a host of recipes with a festive twist.
How did you get into baking?
I got into baking as a little boy, about 4 or 5 with my mum. When I was at University and really stressed, I discovered the therapeutic side of baking. And now I do it for a living! Its gone from childhood hobby, to therapy to a living!
What is your signature bake?
Everyone asks me this and I don’t have one! I constantly have to evolve and write new recipes so for me I can’t really return to the same one. At Christmas I always get asked for Sticky Toffee Pudding but I have to keep moving and evolving. When you come back to an old bake like a Victoria Sponge, you really appreciate it more.
How did it feel being on and winning Great British Bake Off?
Being on the Bake Off was incredible! Winning it was even better! Its launched my career, I’ve got two cook books and my own cookery school in Wigan. Its launched a career that I really love and I wake up and count myself lucky so I’m really happy!
What did you think of this years series?
I loved this years series and was backing Nancy from day one! I love her and I’m so glad she won! Great series, great bakes and great technical challenges! I always knew she’d win!
You studied Law at Manchester (our favourite city!) What did you love most about Manchester? Would you ever go back into Law?
I would if I had to, if my baking career didn’t last long but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Manchester I love, it’s got a great vibe and it’s a small city to get around easily but its got a lot of offer! It’s really varied and great food markets at Christmas. and its my home city so it feels like home.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently developing my own cookery school; I am converting a 400 year old barn on the farm where I grew up into my school. I’m also working on a third book and have just finished filming a television show for the Food Network. I am also resident baker on Lorraine Kelly on ITV every week! I’m very busy!! Tired but happy!!
So why are you working with Neff and ao.com?
I’ve been a massive fan of Neff ovens since working with the Slide and Hide model on Great British Bake off. The ovens get you closer to your cooking letting you baste, taste and monitor your dishes throughout the cooking process – they’re also super stylish and so look good in your kitchen. ao.com, who are one of the leading retailers of Neff online, asked me to get involved in developing some festive recipes for their customer blog using the Slide andHide, so I got my creative hat on and got to work.
We love the idea of your Hungry Dog chocolate website! Where did you get the idea from? Can you give us a hint as to when they go on sale so we can grab a box!
The Hungry Dog Chocolate company came about because I was being asked by so many people to try different things of mine and I thought the best way would be by chocolate. I’d been doing chocolate work at Cordon Bleu at the time in London so it makes sense to be selling chocolates because they’re small, still perishable but last a bit longer than cake.
The name Hungry Dog came from a saying my granddad used to have ‘the hungry dog hunts best’ and it means that if you want something in life you’ll go and get it, you’ll be really hungry to get it. But it also means that you don’t always know what you want in life until you are starving hungry then you’ll fight for it; those are the two things it means to me.
It also epitomises the brand which is a limited brand, luxury, indulgent and I only make 20 boxes a week. When I’ve converted the cookery school I’m going to run an apprentice ship scheme for apprentices to come and cook and I’ll train them up in chocolate and patisserie.
What are your top 5 Christmas cooking tips?
1. Use throw away tins, foil trays, cook your parsnips, cook your turkey and throw them away
2. Get as much done in advance as possible-peel your carrots and potatoes the night before
3. Get your puddings made and frozen and defrost the night before
4. Use good quality ingredients
5. Don’t over think it. Don’t put too much on the table, do a little and do it well.
What would your advise be to anyone wanting to succeed in the baking industry?
The food industry is difficult, you need training and good connections. The true thing with any business is passion and determination and you’ll do it. It’s not easy but thats the price you pay for doing something you love and if you love it it won’t be that difficult.
Quick fire questions!
Favourite food? Lebanese food
Favourite drink? Margarita, no sugar though! it has to be 100% agave tequila and fresh lime juice
Favourite book? To Kill a Mocking Bird or Nigella’s How to Eat
Favourite beauty product? Tooth brush…I don’t groom
Favourite fashion designer? Reiss, TopMan, Cos and I have a nice Gucci Leather hold-all that is my biggest purchase.
John is currently working with online electrical retailer, ao.com, to promote the Neff Slide and Hide oven. As part of the #aocooks series of events, John has developed a range of festive recipes that you can check on ao.com’s AO at home blog http://ao.com/athome/john-whaites-cranberry-orange-buns
By Emily Parker
Bake Off image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2218692/Great-British-Bake-Off-winner-John-Whaites-amazing-stopping-confection.html
Chocolate images from http://www.thehungrydog.co.uk/
Book images from http://www.johnwhaite.com/