Giuseppe watched the GBBO final with family and friends at the Gloucester Old Spot in Bristol (Pic credit: Clips and Still at Love Productions)
It’s not only Giuseppe that has needed the last month to come down from the high of his Bake Off triumph, but the whole city of Bristol too, having had its first champion out of the show in its history.
The Italian-born chemical engineer has also boosted Italy’s streak of 2021 wins and he has been praised with putting both Bristol and his small Italian town on the map. Quite rightly, he’s still as excited by the whole experience now as he was one month ago.
But first, where did it all start? How did he go from chemical engineer to winner of the Great British Bake Off? “It’s hard to pinpoint the beginning of my baking journey because I grew up in a family where baking and cooking was our daily language,” he smiles. “My dad used to be a professional chef and passionate baker so, at home, we’ve always had cakes, biscuits and all sorts coming from my dad’s hands. I never really practiced anything when I lived at home, but I absorbed information from my dad.”
He tells me that he started baking more things for himself when he started his own family, to recreate what his dad gave him. ‘When my first child was born, I did it for him and the kids that arrived after him,” he explains. “Mostly, to feed them good quality sweets and confectionery.”
With baking being such an intrinsic part of his life from childhood, winning the Bake Off was never on Giuseppe’s radar. “I would never have envisaged this when I was in Bake Off, let alone before!” he smiles. “I got into Bake Off for the sheer love of baking - not for any career change or big life change. I’ve watched and re-watched the clip of Noel telling me I’ve won and I was completely dumbstruck - I was not expecting it in a million years.”
What he certainly didn’t envisage was closing the year, sitting in the Gloucester Old Spot, surrounded by friends, neighbours and family, to watch the final and him, unbeknown to those around him, being crowned champion. “It was a very good night! To be honest, I’ve only just started to get a gauge of how big this is now,”he says. “I’ve always known Bake Off is a big deal but I was never expecting it to be like this. I think it’ll take a few weeks to go back to normality. Whatever that looks like now, because that is another question.”
Giuseppe’s incredibly humble, and we talk of how proud he is to put Bristol and Italy on the map. “It felt pretty good to represent everything in my background and all the people and places I’ve shared my life with,” he smiles. “I’ve been proud to represent Bristol, my wife’s region in Italy, and my own family and town. They’ve been a part of my journey and it has been really humbling.”
Speaking of his journey, he’s keen to use his win to promote his family heritage and recipes. “Most of the recipes that I bake at home are family recipes from my dad especially,” he says. “I’d love to tidy up those recipes so that the kids can have a notebook or family heirloom, but I’m considering making those recipes available to a bigger audience whether that’s in a book or on YouTube.”
Christmas and Easter are all about food in Giuseppe’s family so I’m honoured when, in true friendly Bristolian style, he invites me round for Christmas dinner! “We start discussing what’s going to be on the table at the start of the year,” he laughs. “It’s the topic that unifies the family the most. We’ll be here in Bristol this year with my family and it will be very traditional. There will be seafood on Christmas Eve, and a proper festive lunch on Christmas Day which will be antipasti, followed by lasagne and then a roast after that.”
And where will he be heading as a family over the festive period? Giuseppe tells me they don’t head out for bakes or sweets, but do love to get out for pizza and ice cream. And you might be surprised that Franco Manca comes out on top when it comes to Italian authenticity. “Then we walk a couple of steps to Swoon on Park Street for their phenomenally good gelato,” he says.
For Italian ingredients to cook up a storm at home, Guiseppe heads to Licata & Sons just off the Gloucester Road where he says you can find nearly everything you could want. “There’s also a small place in Bath called La Bottega, so I very often head there when I’m looking for something specific,” he tells me. “This Christmas, I’ll be making biscuits from the region I’m from in Italy. Traditionally from Naples, there are four different spicy biscuits full of warming winter spices.”
So, what can we expect from Giuseppe in 2022? “I wish I knew,” he laughs. “Writing a book of my dad’s recipes would be top of the list but I will consider everything! Honestly, I hope something comes of it all - I’ve really enjoyed the journey.”
Keep your eyes peeled on those bookshelves - I think 2022 is going to be another big year for our Bristol baking champion.