Hard to imagine Great British Bake Off without Mel, Sue and Mary says ex-contestant Martha Collison
- Credit: Archant
Great British Bake Off star Martha Collison talks about life in the infamous tent, her naughty labradoodle and being tired of clean eating books.
Martha finds it hard to imagine The Great British Bake Off without Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins and Mary Berry.
“I did watch the most recent series and will probably watch it on Channel 4 but mainly out of curiosity. It will be interesting to see how the dynamic of the show changes,” says the baker and recipe book writer, appearing at Jimmy’s Farm, Wherstead, this weekend.
“Mel and Sue are absolutely hilarious and manage to make light of any situation and keep it relaxed. I think they enjoy having unrestricted tasting access to every bake in the tent – it’s a pretty good job to have.”
Appearing on the 2014 series aged just 17 she remains the youngest contestant to date.
The thought of revising for her mock exams at the end of the Christmas holidays wasn’t too appealing. Instead Martha applied online after years of wondering what it was really like in the infamous tent.
It’s exactly as you’d imagine, she says - minus the music.
“It’s the most stressful experience I’ve ever had, with so much to get used to at once. New people, new equipment, cameras everywhere. It was nerve-racking. I’d grown up as an avid bake off fan, so to suddenly find myself on the show and being judged by Paul Hollywood and Mary was surreal.
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“I didn’t expect to get so emotionally invested in each bake, but it really means so much that you can’t help react to negative comments. I went in there with a strong head but the weeks of pressure did wear me down,” says Martha, who made it to the quarter-finals while also studying for her AS-Levels.
“I really wanted to show that young people can hold their own against older people, so I really hope that came across even though there were a few tears. There were a few moments where I struggled, but I think that is only natural considering the enormity of the show and there was never a moment where I wished I hasn’t entered.
“I think it was the juggling that was the most stressful. I’ve never been the type of person to get easily stressed, but bake off is so full on that it really pushed me to my limit. I’m not sure it’s something I’d advise although it is also life-changing and completely worth it.
“I’m not doing that anymore thankfully. I did have to study and write/bake for two years after the show finished to get my A-Levels in the bag, so this year has been the first to fully concentrate on baking and I’ve loved it.”
Working on the shop floor of Waitrose, for which she now writes a weekly column, while the show aired was also intense.
“I worked on the delicatessen counter so was essentially on display. They quickly moved me to patisserie before I decided it was time to move on. Waitrose is a really nurturing company and has done so much for me.”
Self-taught, she got stuck into a few kids cookery books and went from there. Loving food technology lessons at school, Martha’s confidence blossomed and her parents became her official taste testers.
“They still are and my sister too. There were mixed results at the beginning, but I think they soon realised it was quite handy to have a daughter who could cook dinners and birthday cakes.”
She found her family, friends and strong faith vital to get her through the aftermath of the series.
“Church and faith was and is still definitely a big factor. Knowing your identity was the most important thing to me, as the media will try to make you believe otherwise,” adds Martha, who’s still close with the other contestants.
“There are only a handful of people in the world who have experienced what we’ve been through... Our baker parties are the highlight of the year.”
She learnt so much during the show but Martha, who found her family, friends and strong faith vital to get her through the aftermath, still has the odd kitchen disaster.
“They are often due to my oversized labradoodle who takes bites out of bakes when I’m not paying attention. His biggest gain and my biggest loss was definitely a big bite out of a wedding cake practice I’d made. I’d say the biggest success was probably the same cake, minus the bite.”
The Great British Bake Off has changed her life beyond belief. She’s always wanted to work in the food industry so feels incredibly lucky to have been able to enter it so early and is learning so much.
“Baking for and meeting the Queen was certainly a highlight – the greatest honour. Working with [Christian charity] Tearfund has been a real joy – I’ve loved using the platform I’ve been given to shout about what really matters.
“They do incredible work to eliminate poverty around the world in sustainable ways, teaching valuable skills rather than just providing handouts. I taught a baking lesson on the side of the road in Cambodia to help equip families against human trafficking and that was an incredible experience.”
Martha already has one book, Twist, under her belt.
“It was surreal, so many months of hard work had gone into it and I never really believed I’d publish my own book. It was an amazing experience and I still get the same excited feeling every time I see a copy in a bookshop.”
Jimmy’s Festival visitors will be treated to their first glimpse at recipes from follow up Crave.
“It’s still baking, but a mix of sweet and savoury recipes designed to satisfy any cravings you might have. Each chapter is centred around things we crave; from chocolate to cheese to alcohol.
“I’ve gotten tired of all the ‘clean eating’ books on the shelves and thought it was time for a book which celebrates the food we love. Can’t wait to see you all there.”