Great British Bake Off winner Nancy: The secret ingredients of my success

The new Queen of the kitchen on keeping secrets, her new found fame and her nerves of steel

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Nancy Birtwhistle – aka Mrs Consistent – is the 2014 Great British Bake Off champion. But what’s the secret to her success? And how has Bake Off changed her life? We caught up with the new Queen of the kitchen…

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My secret life…

“It was a bizarre experience, because I had this secret life every weekend, where I would leave Friday and come back Monday, and not share where I’d been with anybody, apart from my husband to start with. A few close people knew I was in it, but after I had got half way, they said they didn’t want to know anymore. I didn’t want to share it either, because it’s like watching a football match when you know the result, it’s not really the same.”

“My daughter got married recently, and when people have had a drink, they would come up and slur, ‘You can just share it with me, I won’t tell anybody.’ My reply was, I didn’t know who they were and I certainly wouldn’t tell them!”

Bake Off fame…

“Talking to the other bakers, people like Kate were spotted far more I think: she has a recognisable hairdo, and I think she’s probably more noticeable than I am. I’d go to the butchers’ in my very small town and people would come up to me and say, ‘You’re doing really well.’ I had a week’s holiday and came back, and then things had happened between weeks five and six because now people stop me and say, ‘Is it Nancy off the Bake Off?” 

Nerves of steel…

“I think what I’ve learned about myself is I don’t get overly nervous at things. I can remember being asked at one of my interviews whether I was scared, and I said, ‘No I’m here to enjoy myself.’ I’d find it scary waiting in an outpatient department waiting for some results. That’s scary; this isn’t. This is fun.

The secret of my success…

“It’s about keeping your head together. That might be just because I’m old, and the more experience you get the more layers of protection you build up. How I would have coped at 17 like Martha, God only knows. It’s not life-threatening this: I was there to enjoy myself. But you can’t help it being important as well; you can’t be flippant. I went in and I worked my socks off.”

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“I’d never written recipes before. I’d normally follow something and then swap something in if I didn’t have something I needed. But other than that, I’d never developed a recipe of my own. But I know what I like, and I know what tastes good. I realised when I was putting flavours together, the judges really liked them. I’ve got quite a good palate, although I didn’t believe it before.”