The Great British Bake Off - the first interview with the 2012 winner

The GBBO champion talks keeping his win a secret, going on a diet and life after Bake Off...

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The Great British Bake Off - the first interview with the 2012 winner
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After weeks of whisking, kneading, proving and icing (plus Paul Hollywood’s cutting critiques, Mary Berry’s accidental double entendres and Mel and Sue’s cringe-worthy puns), it’s all over: 23 year-old John Whaite has been crowned winner.

After receiving a tip-off, we tracked down John this afternoon… 

Congratulations! How will you be watching the final?

All my family and friends are coming round with booze and cake, although I’m not eating carbohydrate at the moment so I can’t have any cake…

The winner of The Great British Bake Off isn’t eating cake – why?

Because I’ve put on a stone since starting Bake Off, so I’m trying to slim down.

How hard has it been keeping it a secret?

It’s been tricky. I’ve had to put it to the back of my mind. My partner Paul knows, as do my parents and my best friend Holly because they all came to the final. But my other friends don’t so it’ll be a nice surprise for them tonight. Well, I hope it is. They might all be supporting James and Brendan – traitors!   

How did it feel when Mel said your name?

I’d never understood the phrase “my legs turned to jelly” until that moment. It was like being in a bubble: I couldn’t really hear what people were saying and everything was moving really, really slowly. I thought Brendan had bagged it, I really did.

Had you done a lot of preparation for the final?

12 hours a day. I’d finished my final exams for my law degree the week before so I could finally focus. I had a lot to prove.

At the beginning of the episode, you describe a nightmare you’d had. Have you had any since?

My only nightmare is worrying whether people will agree with Mary and Paul’s decision. In the online polls and predictions, I’m always bottom. It’s a bit nerve-wracking: I hope people won’t think that I didn’t deserve to win.

James was the favourite with viewers and bookies alike. Was that difficult?

No, James is such a lovely guy and I can see why he’s so popular because he was a genuine gentleman-in-the-making. We’ve kept in touch. I’ve kept in touch with all the contestants via Twitter and Facebook – I feel like I’ve made some really good friends. 

Are you fond of fondant fancies?

My first thought was: what the bloody hell? I’ve seen fondant fancies in the supermarket but I wasn’t even sure if that was the same thing. Asking three blokes to make tiny pink delicacies doesn’t seem right, does it?

Why do you think it was an all-male final?

Society has become more egalitarian and, on the flipside, men are starting to embrace softer skills like baking and cooking. I’ve got a good mate who is as butch as can be but will sit down and watch the footy and then knock up a delicate batch of fairy cakes. That can only be a good thing. 

At one point you say bakers are “controlling”.

I definitely think it’s an inherent trait in all bakers – just look at Brendan! Not necessarily in a bad way: we just like to have control in the kitchen.

Are you competitive?

I didn’t think I was until I started the Bake Off. Then when I went to my first audition, I spied other people with freezer bags and thought, “I’m going trip them up so they don’t make the audition.” I’m competitive in the sense that I want to do well because I’m good: not because I want someone else to fail. I’m ambitious.

So when poor James dropped his cake…

I felt like crying for him. But the good thing about James is he took it on the chin. I knew he would because that’s the kind of guy he is.

What’s next?

I’ve finished my law degree so I’ve a full-time job for a commercial bank. I’d love to pursue baking as a career but I would have been stupid to turn this job down in the interim. All summer I’ve been writing recipes for my blog Flour and Eggs –www.johnwhaite.tumblr.com

What would you be doing in an ideal world?

A cookbook, followed by study at Cordon Bleu or the Ritz Escoffier and then I’d open a bakery. 

What would you call your bakery?

The Moody Baker, probably! Whatever I bake seems to match my mood. My parents split up when I was five and my mum used to spend a lot of time baking with me. It became something I’ve turned to all through my life in times of stress or panic and also in times of happiness.

In the programme you say your mum has reservations about baking as a career. Has she come round?

No, she’s still trying to keep my feet on the ground. My mum is very proud of me and wants the best for me, as all mums do. But what she wants isn’t necessarily what I want…

How often do you get out the flour and eggs?

Every day.