Great British Bake Off winner, food writer extraordinaire, trainee barrister and gin lover John Whaite tells us about Christmas surprises, comfort food and what it’s like winning Britain’s most fiercely contested cake stand.
You’re our favourite-ever GBBO winner, so we have to ask – what was it like to hear your name called in the final?
Thank you – that’s very kind. It was awful. My legs went, my ears started ringing and my blood pressure rocketed. When I finally came back down to earth, I was utterly elated.
What are your favourite Christmas traditions?
Spending time with only those people that matter, and eating and drinking excessively. I try to be as charitable as possible throughout the year, but Christmas, for me – probably unconventionally – is a time to just retreat from everything and be with my loved ones. It’s also my Grandma’s 80th birthday on Christmas Day this year, so I suspect we’ll be having a right knees-up.
You’ve published a whole book full of comfort food recipes. What’s your favourite thing to make (and eat!) as a little gift to yourself?
It’s a hard question to answer because I rarely have time to revisit recipes. But if I’m feeling in particular need of something completely comforting, I’ll make my beef ragu and tagliatelle, or my spiced lamb stew with lager flatbreads (see recipe, page 40).
What’s your go-to gin cocktail for celebrations like Christmas and New Year’s Eve?
I don’t think you can beat a classic gin Martini, but I also have a severe weakness for a Negroni.
What’s been your best-ever Christmas surprise? I
It wasn’t a surprise for me, but a surprise for my partner. After we’d had a rough year with a house sale falling through, and a big move across the country, I decided we needed a good break. And so just after Christmas 2017 I took him to Banff in Canada. It was blanketed with deep snow, and the night skies were just littered with stars. We had the most awesome time venturing out in the dead of night to take photographs of the starry sky. We sat and drank gin cocktails in wooden lodges by the fire. It was the most memorable thing I’ve ever done.
Anything exciting coming up that you’d like to tell us about?
I’m currently studying for my barrister training course. While I’ll always be a food writer, I’ve realised that I have room for other pursuits in my life, too. And so I wantto straddle the worlds of custard and custody, tortes and tort (I could go on, but I’ve got a G&T to drink…).