An­tiques, tequila and trash TV

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

It’s pretty rare that I get a week­end off and in my line of work ev­ery day in­volves some­thing dif­fer­ent. Luck­ily, how­ever, I can do a lot of it from home so that’s where I’m usu­ally to be found. My part­ner Paul [Atkins, a graphic de­signer] and I live be­tween Black­heath and Wool­wich in south-east London, in an area where, I re­cently dis­cov­ered, Fanny Cradock used to live. I feel I am chan­nelling one of my idols just by go­ing home - Paul and I are like the new John­nie and Fanny.

If we’re go­ing out, I pre­fer to do it on a Fri­day night rather than a Satur­day so I’ve got the whole week­end to ac­cli­ma­tise back into so­bri­ety. We’d go to a nice restau­rant – ob­vi­ously I like to eat, that’s no se­cret – and have some good food or some­thing re­ally in­dul­gent, like curry or a Chi­nese meal, and maybe a few cock­tails. Mar­gar­i­tas are my drink of choice at the mo­ment thanks to [the ac­tress] Cleo Ro­cos, who got me hooked on the tequila. We’d come home not too late and have a long lie-in on Satur­day morn­ing. I rarely get to do that, be­cause when I’m on break­fast tele­vi­sion I have to wake up at 5am and trun­dle across London in the rain.

On Satur­days we love go­ing to Green­wich retro mar­ket. We’re com­plete hoard­ers. You have to get there re­ally early, for about 10am, be­cause the ven­dors un­load their vans and peo­ple come and swipe it up im­me­di­ately. We usu­ally find some lit­tle bit of fur­ni­ture or what­not, and then we’ll go to the new Pey­ton and Byrne that’s just opened in Green­wich and have cof­fee and cake and sand­wiches.

Af­ter­wards I’ll prob­a­bly have to do a bit of work in the kitchen, test­ing and pho­tograph­ing new recipes. This isn’t spon­ta­neous cook­ing: a lot of metic­u­lous plan­ning goes into it so even though it’s what I love to do, it still feels like work. Paul might help, mostly by do­ing as he’s asked and clean­ing up while I make more mess. Then we like go­ing into cen­tral London for an early sup­per at Duck and Waf­fle or some­where like that.

Paul and I don’t get to spend a great deal of time to­gether be­cause, like ev­ery­one with a job in London, he tends to work all the hours God sends. If we do get a night off we usu­ally want to spend it on the couch, eat­ing sweets and watch­ing trash tele­vi­sion. That’s a dream come true. X Fac­tor, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Orange is the New Black and Bake Off are our favourites – although Bake Off is not trash TV, of course!

I ab­so­lutely love watch­ing the show now. It’s nice to be emotionally de­tached from the cakes and Mary [Berry] and Paul [Hol­ly­wood], and I didn’t en­joy watch­ing my­self. I spent the whole time think­ing I should have worn a bet­ter out­fit or not had so much to drink the night be­fore.

Just after I won there were a few re­ally mun­dane months when no one ex­cept Paul and my close fam­ily knew the re­sult so as not to spoil the com­pe­ti­tion. I’d fin­ished my law de­gree at the same time, and felt a great deal of de­layed ex­cite­ment. When the show was ac­tu­ally broad­cast, it was a com­plete whirl­wind – and I re­ally be­gan to un­der­stand what that cliché meant. I had to leave my job and spent all my days trav­el­ling into London to dif­fer­ent TV and ra­dio stu­dios, go­ing from pub­lisher to pub­lisher hav­ing meet­ings and so on. It was

Herbal tea or stiff drink? Stiff drink. Watch­ing my mum make but­ter­fly cakes. I would stand on this lit­tle chair at her side so I could peek over the coun­ter­top.

Any­thing you can’t cook? When I can’t do some­thing I make sure I learn it, even if it takes me all day and I spend £1,000 on in­gre­di­ents. I will bloody well master it, be­cause I’m a con­trol freak.

Great­est ex­trav­a­gance? Food and cock­tails. We went out a few weeks ago and the bill came to £400, pretty much just on mar­gar­i­tas… there were three of us, to be fair. Some­times if I can’t be both­ered I don’t get or­gan­ised, so I’ll just throw all of my used pots in the sink. That way I get re­ally stressed be­cause the kitchen is a mess and I’ve got no one else to blame but my­self.

Who will win ‘GBBO’ this year? I hope Nancy. Nancy, Nancy, Nancy. I am Nancy’s boy, I love her.

Most common ques­tion from fans? It’s al­ways to do with bak­ing. How do I get my meringues to rise, or how do I get my Vic­to­ria sponge right? I never mind chat­ting to peo­ple about the Bake Off – it’s nice that when I get recog­nised it’s be­cause I’ve done some­thing peo­ple en­joy, not be­cause I’ve done any­thing wrong. There are so many. I love Fanny Cradock for the en­ter­tain­ment, Nigel Slater for his lit­er­ary abil­i­ties and I love Nigella be­cause she’s just in­dul­gent. And Richard Bertinet, he’s very good. ex­haust­ing but so ex­cit­ing, and it is still so busy even now, two and a half years later, which I didn’t ex­pect. Touch wood it will last for­ever.

I’ve now got to a po­si­tion where I can choose what I do. There are a few pub­lic­ity things I did that I slightly re­gret now, be­cause they were cheesy and cheap­ened me a lit­tle, but I felt that I couldn’t be a diva and turn op­por­tu­ni­ties down or I wouldn’t get any­where. So I rolled my sleeves up and got stuck in. Now I’ve done two books and have my own range of cho­co­lates, The Hun­gry Dog Ar­ti­san Cho­co­lates company. I named it after my grand­dad, who sadly passed away just after we fin­ished film­ing Bake Off. He was a farmer and al­ways used wildlife and na­ture analo­gies, and he’d say to me “the hun­gry dog hunts best”. I think it means that you might not know what you want in life un­til you’re so hun­gry that you’ll go out and find it.

Choco­late pro­duc­tion has halted at the

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