First News - - FRONT PAGE - by Ben Puls­ford

REIGN­ING Great Bri­tish Bake Off cham­pion David Ather­ton is re­leas­ing his very first cook­book, ap­pro­pri­ately named My First Cook Book. It’s jam-packed with healthy takes on break­fast, lunch, din­ner, snacks and ev­ery­thing else in be­tween! We caught up with David to dis­cuss his new book, early bak­ing mem­o­ries and, of course, Bake Off. ▮ How does it feel to be re­leas­ing your first book?

I guess peo­ple have dif­fer­ent dreams, don’t they? For me, hav­ing used cook­books my whole life, I’ve al­ways thought: “Well, this is what other peo­ple do!” So, yeah, it’s pretty ex­cit­ing.

▮ Tell us about it, be­cause it’s not just about bak­ing, is it?

No, it’s def­i­nitely a cook­book! I just care about food and peo­ple learn­ing about food in gen­eral. I’m def­i­nitely not a just a baker. I prob­a­bly cook way more than I bake. You’ll find lots of dif­fer­ent things [in the book]. It cov­ers all dif­fer­ent times of day, as well: break­fast, lunch, din­ner, snacks, treats, party food, etc. But they’ve all got a sort of health­ier slant. It’s quite lazy to just use sugar and but­ter for ev­ery­thing, be­cause you can bake some re­ally soft, sweet-tast­ing cakes by us­ing veg­eta­bles and fruits and things. This book is good for you! Good and tasty.

▮ Is it true that you’ve been cook­ing since you were the same age as First News read­ers?

Yeah! We’re quite a big fam­ily – there are seven of us, and my mum just used to treat the kitchen like a play­ground for us. She was a fan­tas­tic cook and baker. We had home­made bread our whole lives; we never had store-bought bread. My mum would be con­stantly work­ing with bread dough, so we’d spend hours just play­ing with it. She was quite a hippy, too, so we’d al­ways make our own yo­gurts and grow our own veg­eta­bles. We just learned ev­ery­thing about food.

▮ What was your sig­na­ture dish when you were younger?

I think scones – they’re quite quick, so kept my in­ter­est. I love when they’re freshly made and they’re all soft and you can choose dif­fer­ent jams and top­pings to put on them. Jam on be­fore cream, for sure.

▮ Lock­down caused a bak­ing boom. What was go­ing on in your kitchen dur­ing lock­down?

Well, in my kitchen, my part­ner wanted to learn about sour­dough bread, so I was teach­ing him about sour­dough and now I can’t go any­where near it! He’s do­ing it all the time now. But, to be hon­est, a lot of the time I’ve been turn­ing to the same old recipes be­cause it gives you com­fort and a sense of nor­mal­ity. So yeah, I’ve been cook­ing and bak­ing a lot of my favourite things.

▮ If some­one wants to give bak­ing a go for the first time, where should they start?

The eas­i­est thing would be to buy my book, ha ha! No, you should keep it sim­ple. Bak­ing and be­ing in the kitchen can bring so much joy, be­cause you’re cre­at­ing some­thing and then eat­ing it. If you pick some­thing com­pli­cated, you are just go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed. Find a re­ally nice sim­ple recipe first and take it from there. But also, do the things you ac­tu­ally want to eat! If you don’t like choux pas­try, then don’t make choco­late éclairs; if you love bread, then make some burger buns or some­thing.

▮ We have to ask, is Bake Off as stress­ful as it looks?

Well, I was known for be­ing the stress-free guy! But, yeah, it’s stress­ful. It’s ex­actly how you see it on the pro­gramme. You re­ally do walk into the tent and get stuck in. If you want to go to the toi­let, you have to run out of the tent, go across the grass and go to the loo. And no-one stops the time for you – that’s your time you’re us­ing up! And if some­thing starts go­ing wrong, no-one can help you. So, yes, it’s def­i­nitely stress­ful. Oh, and you have to re­mem­ber, as it goes on week af­ter week, you’re be­com­ing more and more sleep-de­prived [not get­ting enough sleep]. Seventy thou­sand peo­ple ap­plied and I was only a re­serve, so I was brought in last-minute any­way. I think for that rea­son, I re­ally did just en­joy each episode and also, I think I was philo­soph­i­cal. I was like: “Well, I can only do what I can do. There’s no point stress­ing about be­ing bet­ter than I am!”

▮ Matt Lu­cas is join­ing the Bake Off this year – how do you think he’ll fill Sandi Toksvig’s shoes? Do you think he’s a good fit?

Yes, def­i­nitely. I love Sandi! I’ve watched Sandi on telly since I was a kid. She was the most spe­cial per­son I met on Bake Off. As soon as I saw Matt Lu­cas’s name, I was like: “He is so Bake Off.” The only thing I worry about is that Noel Field­ing is as crazy as he ap­pears, so I just won­der how the pro­duc­ers are go­ing to keep con­trol of both of them!

My First Cook Book by David Ather­ton, with il­lus­tra­tions by Rachel Stubbs, is out now

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