Last night, Bristol’s very own Giuseppe Dell’Anno became the first person to win the Great British Bake Off.
Here the 45-year-old spills the beans on what bake his family ask him to make the most at home, his best and worst moments in the tent and what he learned from the at times ‘exhausting and intense’ competiton.
The series was filmed in a covid secure bubble again this year, how did it feel to be meeting and living with your fellow bakers?
I am 100 per cent sure that isolating with my fellow bakers and the whole production team had a very powerful effect on the whole experience. We bonded in a way that the ‘conventional’ arrangement would have not allowed. The result was that we bakers became more of a team than a set of individual competitors. We have gone through struggles and difficulties together and we have helped each other a lot more than we would have by living in our own homes throughout the filming. And I quite liked that. I am sure that the camaraderie that the bubble created between us will come across when the show is aired.
What did you enjoy most about being in the bubble and what did you miss most about being away from home?
The bubble enabled very strong personal connections to be formed between us bakers. We have all become true friends in an exceptionally short amount of time, there’s no doubt that the closed environment has contributed to this. I missed my family terribly while being away from home. I had never been this long away from my wife and kids and I grossly underestimated how much I have missed them.
Did you pack a lucky item for your stay?
No, but I brought with me my own pillow – I’m a very fussy sleeper and I was expecting restless nights. Which I had! I thought that my own pillow would help. Which it didn’t!
During the filming time when you were away from home, where did you say you were to friends?
Most of my close friends don’t live nearby, so they were not even aware of me disappearing. My neighbours must have thought that I had moved out. I told my colleagues that I had left over leave to take and that I was going to be away from the office. The working from home arrangement has made the whole disappearance much easier to hide… It was much more difficult to find an excuse to tell my kids. I could not possibly tell a 4, a 6 and 8 year old that I was going to be a baker on Bake Off, or the whole village would have found out in no time. So I told them that I was away ‘working’ in London.
Can you describe the bakers as a group this year?
Whoever did the casting did a fabulous job. I have never felt so close to such a diverse group of people in such a short time! My fellow bakers were truly a bunch of exceptionally nice, well tempered, kind, generous and friendly people. All with a phenomenal sense of humour too. I’m not exactly a social animal, but I felt an immediate connection with all of them which I feel will last for a long time.
How nervous were you when Paul and Prue started judging the first signature challenge and how does it feel when they are judging the technical challenge when they don’t know who has baked which item?
That very first bite is probably the most memorable moment in the tent. His Baking Highness and Her Baking Highness Paul and Prue were actually tasting my cake. The blind judging of the technical didn’t feel very different from any other judging, if I’m honest. I don’t think that the judges would let the ownership of the bake influence their comments anyway, so it made very little difference.
Having watched Bake Off in the past, was the first day in the tent what you expected?
My first day in the tent was as exhilarating as I expected it to be. But it was way more exhausting and intense than I’d ever expected by watching the show on TV. The effort, the work and the time that goes into making an episode of air-time is unbelievable! I have now a completely new perspective and appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes of a show like the Bake Off.
Are you a messy or tidy baker?
I tend to be very tidy, to the point that I spend more time wiping my bench than bakig. However, I must admit that the status of my bench in the tent at times would disprove this. In a way baking in the tent for me was rather therapeutic in that it forced me to worry less about lining up my ingredients in perfect order and more about getting things done.
Who is your baking inspiration and what age did you start baking?
Most of my family are into cooking or baking. Our Christmas dinners have always been dominated by discussions about food. However, my baking inspiration is without any doubt my dad. He used to be a professional chef and a passionate baker. I started baking when I first became a dad and the main reason was that I wanted to give my kids the same pleasure and memories I had in my childhood through the sweets my dad used to make for us.
The Bake Off family is a very exclusive club, how do you feel being a new member?
I feel very privileged, but I must admit that I don’t think that the fact that I am actually part of the club has fully sunk in just yet. Perhaps watching the show on TV will seal my membership for good.
The warmth and love you get in the tent is a very special feeling, what is the nicest thing in baking you have done for anyone/or given them
Although they are not the prettiest, I am particularly fond of the cakes that the kids and I prepare for mum on her birthday. The best thing about cakes is that they can channel love and affection for people and nothing does that better than a birthday cake baked by your family.
What is the cake you get asked to make the most for friends and family?
People ask me to make pizza for them more than cake and I’m always very happy to oblige, being a massive pizza fan myself. I have the feeling that the orders will extend to cakes too as soon as the show is aired though.
If you were a cake what would you be and why?
I see myself very well represented by a sacher torte: very simple and plain outside but delicious and indulgent inside.
In three words how would you describe yourself?
Transparent, reliable, (occasionally) pedantic.
Are there any bakes or flavours that you really dislike? and why…
I don’t like pumpkin and squash in general, so pumpkin-flavoured cakes are not among my favourite bakes.
When baking at home what do you have on in the background – music/TV/podcast/radio?
Typically, the radio, usually an Italian pop channel. I also like to watch TV while I bake, but nothing that requires much attention. The repeat of a good comedy show usually works really well.
Does it all seem a bit surreal that you have joined The Great British Bake Off family?
Not just a bit! It’s entirely and utterly surreal, incredible and out-of-this-world. I will believe it when I see it on TV.
Do you think work colleagues and friends will be shocked to see you on TV?
They will be 100 per cent in shock. I don’t act exactly as an extrovert, especially on the work place, so I would imagine that the last thing my colleagues expect is to see me on a TV show. I am sure that lots of jaws will be dropping when my face comes up on Channel 4. I’d pay good money to see their faces.
What do you feel that you have learned the most from your experience in the tent?
I have learnt to take myself less seriously. My job and my background have trained me to be always exact, accurate and… serious. Very much what you’d expect from an engineer, after all. In the tent, I have enjoyed liberating the more creative side of me and I have learned to embrace what I am.
Overall what was your best and worst moment in the tent?
The best moment in the tent for me was the first handshake I got from Paul for my focaccia. It meant a lot to me: the flavours in that bake brought back lots of very personal memories. It was without a doubt the most intense and powerful moment in the tent for me. The worse moment was the judging of my gluten free showstopper. I had realised while making it that there was something wrong with the sponge, but it was too late to do anything about it. It was very disappointing as in practice it had worked perfectly. I still don’t know today what I did wrong.
What’s next for you in the baking world?
Who knows? I never started this hoping for a new career or a change in lifestyle. But I have realised that the Bake Off is a machine that is much bigger than me and you never know what to expect. All I can do is to keep a steady, cool head but an open mind. The only thing that I am planning to do, is not to make any plans for now.
Favourite challenge overall and why.
I had never thought that I would be able to bake a decent Joconde Imprime dessert, let alone make one that would get good feedback from the judges. When I got the brief, I was petrified at the idea of having to make something as elaborate as that. I had never heard of it and didn’t know where to start. So I was over the moon when my Joconde got praises for texture, flavour and design. Overall, certainly my most successful bake in the tent.
Worst challenge and why?
I did not particularly enjoy the caramel week showstopper challenge. I had wrestled with the sugar dome for weeks, and I ended up concentrating so much on that decorative element while neglecting the rest of the dessert. Not my best moment in the tent. I didn’t particularly like caramel before, now I like it even less!
Funniest moment in the tent?
Crystelle’s walk while she was bringing her anti-gravity cake to the judges will remain the funniest moment for me in the tent. What I found irresistible was not the walk in itself, but the fact that she actually practiced it at home. It still makes me giggle.
What will you take away from your experience on Bake Off?
During the Bake Off experience I have learnt how to take a compliment, not something that I am particularly good at. I have always been the worst critic of myself and I’m very good at spotting what I have done wrong. The support I got from my fellow bakers and the positive attitude of the entire team have prompted me to focus on the positives instead. I don’t think that before the Bake Off I had ever acknowledged the fact that I had done a good job. Whereas before leaving the tent for good I gave myself a well deserved pat on my back,