Sophie Faldo opens up on life after Bake Off: ‘I had some dark times’

In her weekly RadioTimes.com column, the 2017 Bake Off winner discusses the events of 1920s week – and how the bakers can struggle outside the tent

Sophie Bake Off 2017 (her own image)

We’re five weeks into Bake Off, with our nine remaining bakers having to take on a tough 1920s theme in a bid to impress the steely-eyed Paul Hollywood and the more cheerful Prue Leith.

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But while some of our bakers struggled with the pressure inside the tent this week, 2017 winner Sophie Faldo told RadioTimes.com that life outside the tent can be equally as stressful, with romance rumours and trolling seeing some bakers choosing to shy away from the attention the beloved baking competition can bring…

“David deserved that handshake”

Bake Off 8

He absolutely nailed his signature with those flapper girl cookies on his custard tart. They looked absolutely flawless. There’s no way Paul [Hollywood] would have given a handshake if the flavour and texture wasn’t bang on. We do assume that you have to do a crazy flavour combination to stand out. But actually, we back ourselves into a corner by doing that. It doesn’t have to be crazy. It can be simple as long as it tastes amazing.

“The pressure was on for Rosie”

Bake Off Rosie (Channel 4)

My heart broke when Rosie dropped her signature bake! There were a few seconds where it was literally the worst thing that could have possibly happened, and then the realisation came that it can’t be salvaged! I don’t think the judges needed to tell Rosie to nail [the next challenges] as it would have added pressure, which probably wasn’t the best thing for her! That might have been Prue’s way of stoking the fire to motivate her.

“Michael lost it”

Bake Off Michael (Channel 4)

It was a really, really hard technical this week, and I felt for Michael. You can never tell how someone’s going to handle Bake Off because it’s such an unusual environment.

The production team try not to get too involved if you’re upset and generally send in Noel and Sandi to have a word. Bakers in the past have gone and had a walk outside because sometimes you need a minute. Noel’s an absolute sweetheart, even if he doesn’t always say the right thing. Sandi’s a real softy. She’s the comforting mother type. She hates seeing people upset – she’ll be the one getting upset with you!

“There may be a little bit of truth in Paul being a diva”

Paul Hollywood, Bake Off (C4, EH)
Paul Hollywood, Bake Off (C4, EH)

The opening skit joked that Paul is a bit of a diva. There may be a little truth in it because he’s been doing the show for so long now, but I think Paul’s actually mellowed a bit. It could be Noel’s influence. Paul is very much a man’s man so having Noel around to have a joke and a laugh with has made him a little more chilled out. His standards are still quite exacting, but he’s more relaxed and has a bit more banter.

“There hasn’t been a Bake Off romance before”

It was reported Henry and Alice are dating. Usually the ages start at 17 and go up to somewhere in the 70s so that’s probably why there hasn’t been a Bake Off romance before. It would be lovely, but if they haven’t confirmed it themselves, I don’t believe it. There were rumours I was having an affair with Steven [Carter-Bailey, series 8 finalist] even though he’s got a partner and I have a boyfriend.

“I struggled with Bake Off fame”

We’re lucky that when the show is running, people like the baking so you find they are nicer to you. But you do get an awful lot of trolling too – massively, and it got worse after the show ended. One person cut themselves off from all things Bake Off because they couldn’t cope. It had such a horrible impact on their lives. Someone had their kids targeted on social media. I was lucky that I’m pretty stoic, and the worst I got was being called ‘boring’.

But I have experienced some dark times too. You’re expected to do a lot of stuff as a Bake Off winner, and if you don’t meet those targets or do what everyone expects you to do, you’re considered to be a bit of a failure and I had to remind myself what was important to me.

I’ve been asked a lot about aftercare after the deaths of two Love Island contestants [Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon]. I think Bake Off contestants are luckier because we’re on TV to bake rather than find relationships and look beautiful in a bikini. But the pressures are there.

The production team made themselves available, so if you were to reach out there was a certain amount of support, but I think a lot of the pressure is put on the production company when actually there’s not a lot they can do. TV is TV and when you finish, it’s nothing to do with the production company, it’s to do with the viewers and what people say about you. It’s everything else, it’s the environment, it’s the entertainment industry, it’s people online, it’s social media. That’s the difficult thing, because it’s not anything you can do much about.

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The Great British Bake Off continues Tuesday at 8pm on Channel 4