The fab­u­lous Bake Off boy’s back

When cheeky charmer Liam Charles was evicted from the tent last year, he vowed he’d re­turn. And now he has – with his own show

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - DYNASTIES PART TWO - Kather­ine Has­sell

When Liam Charles left The Great Bri­tish Bake Off in the quar­ter-fi­nal last year, there was a cho­rus of dis­ap­proval. The act­ing stu­dent from Hack­ney, east Lon­don, made such an im­pres­sion with his cheeky charm that he was dubbed the peo­ple’s cham­pion. He left say­ing, ‘I’m com­ing for Paul Hol­ly­wood’s job in a cou­ple of years!’

It was no empty prom­ise. Even though he’s only 21, ear­lier this year Liam made his pre­sent­ing de­but as co-host with co­me­dian Tom Allen on Bake Off: The Pro­fes­sion­als. He re­leased his de­but cook­book Cheeky Treats, and now he has a six-part se­ries start­ing on Chan­nel 4 – Liam Bakes.

The show’s work­ing ti­tle was Bake Boy, which would make a rather ap­pro­pri­ate su­per­hero alias. Liam’s a mas­sive fan of The Avengers, the band of heroes in­clud­ing Iron Man, Hulk and Cap­tain Amer­ica. ‘That,’ he ad­mits, ‘would be my ul­ti­mate act­ing goal. I want to play a su­per­hero.’ Well, heroes don’t just wear capes, they wear aprons, too.

The new show sees Liam in the kitchen with fam­ily and friends, and out and about in Hack­ney. It wouldn’t be com­plete with­out a cameo from his nan Cyn­thia. Liam loves to put his own spin on her tra­di­tional Caribbean recipes and won star baker in last year’s pas­try week thanks partly to a sal­satopped pie in­spired by her Sun­day din­ner – filled with cur­ried meat, plan­tain and po­ta­toes. Paul Hol­ly­wood loved it so much he called her a ge­nius.

‘When Mum was work­ing I’d go to Nan’s,’ says Liam of his child­hood, ‘so I had a lot of her food and still do. Her food in­spires my savoury bakes. Caribbean food has so many flavours – gin­ger, cin­na­mon, Scotch bon­net chillis, turmeric. Nan’d never put cur­ried goat in a pie, but she liked my pie... in spite of her­self!’

Liam will be seen mak­ing savoury scones with his mum. ‘My neph­ews are in the show too,’ he says. ‘We make a mas­sive layer cake. My youngest nephew is seven and he thinks

I’m cool. My el­dest nephew, who’s 12, plays it down. When we were dec­o­rat­ing the cake he was buzzing, say­ing, “I made this!”, but then he was com­plain­ing that his friends and teach­ers are al­ways talk­ing about me.

‘A great thing is when young­sters get in­spired,’ he adds. ‘One boy, who was 11, came up to me and said, “Bro, you got me into bak­ing.” I didn’t go out to in­spire peo­ple, but it’s cool.’

While the head­lines tend to con­cen­trate on the seamier side of in­ner-city liv­ing, it’s im­por­tant to Liam to present the re­al­ity of life in Hack­ney. ‘There’s good and bad ev­ery­where,’ he says, ‘Hack­ney’s changed a lot.’

He has been heav­ily in­flu­enced by the di­ver­sity of his sur­round­ings. ‘I’m a com­bi­na­tion of ev­ery­thing around me,’ he says.

‘ If you go to Stoke New­ing­ton there’s loads of Turk­ish restau­rants, so it’s baklava, rose wa­ter, pis­ta­chios. If you go to Dal­ston there’s a heavy Caribbean and African in­flu­ence. That’s a walk of just ten min­utes. All those flavours to ex­cite your palate. Food brings peo­ple to­gether, it’s a uni­ver­sal lan­guage.’

Liam wouldn’t be sit­ting here now if it wasn’t for Bake Off – watch­ing the show taught him to bake. ‘I was 16 when I got into bak­ing,’ he ex­plains. ‘I’d watch loads of cook­ing and bak­ing shows on TV. I loved watch­ing Bake Off. If it was, say, bis­cuit week, I’d look at the recipe books I had and make bis­cuits in­spired by the show.

‘I watched loads of Paul Hol­ly­wood shows too,’ he adds. ‘He was my food hero – he made me think, “I need to do this.” And Tom Ker­ridge – he had a se­ries where he baked a cake on a bar­be­cue. He­ston Blu­men­thal is like a mad sci­en­tist.’ Liam was ac­tu­ally voted the stu­dent most likely to ap­pear on Bake Off when he was at school. ‘I’d do a week­end bake and then come into school with my Tup­per­ware,’ he says. ‘To go from watch­ing the show to stand­ing in the tent was an out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ence. It was crazy. I was in so much shock.’ Stand­ing in front of Paul and Prue Leith with your bakes is scary, but they were ‘very pos­i­tive and en­cour­ag­ing. Paul’s cool and Prue’s like the aunt you don’t want to dis­ap­point. Af­ter week three – my rock­i­est, as it was bread – Paul said, “Just fo­cus.” So I did. Ev­ery­thing they say is con­struc­tive.

‘But fifth place is good. I was there to prove to my­self I can bake to a good stan­dard, to learn. We were all mates in the tent and still see and mes­sage each other. I was with Steven Carter-Bai­ley [one of last year’s run­ners- up] only the other day.’ Liam’s full of praise for the Class of 2018. ‘I was so happy Rahul won. He took us on a jour­ney and it was amaz­ing. He’s so dead­pan, he doesn’t re­alise how funny he is!

‘ I loved Kim- Joy in Choco­late Week,’ he says. ‘The way she poured hot choco­late on her show­stop­per then we saw the lit­tle tur­tles she made... wicked. ‘And I adored Ruby from week one – she’s a Lon­doner, so that’s fam­ily for me,’ he adds. ‘She won star baker two weeks run­ning and, like me, she’s a Man Utd sup­porter. I was so sad to see Bri­ony leave at the semi­fi­nals. I felt ev­ery emo­tion the bak­ers went through. And that wagon wheel chal­lenge in Bis­cuit Week!’ he laughs. ‘ I don’t know what would’ve hap­pened if it was me.’ Still study­ing Drama and The­atre Arts at Gold­smiths, Liam grad­u­ates in De­cem­ber. ‘Drama was my first pas­sion,’ he says. ‘I went to the Young Ac­tors The­atre in Is­ling­ton. I did Silent Wit­ness in Year Seven at school – my first drama job.’

But right now it’s the bak­ing that’s tak­ing off. ‘It’s mad,’ he grins. ‘I pinch my­self ev­ery day. To have a show about what I love to bake is awe­some.’ Liam Bakes be­gins on Mon­day at 8pm on Chan­nel 4.

Liam to­day and (be­low left) with host Sandi Toksvig and judges Paul and Prue on Bake Off last year

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