The first thing you notice about Nadiya if you are lucky enough to meet her, is her radiant smile. Still beaming and still in some disbelief about her success in winning the competition in 2015 in spite of how it has catapulted her to baking stardom, she remains quite shy if her appearance in Windsor for the Queen’s 90th birthday is anything to go by.
Commissioned to design and bake probably one of the most famous occasion cakes in the world, the pressure was on. Whilst the Queen received the cake with her usual grace, Nadiya herself was quite emotional about the criticism she received about the cake being ‘wonky’. She is a perfectionist.
Nadiya, a mother of 3 children, never expected such fame as she practised her art in the kitchen and worked her way through the gruelling and intensely difficult rounds of the competition. Now a sought-after guest on daytime TV including Loose Women and The One Show and with 2 recipes books to her credit, Nadiya remains with her feet firmly on the floor and with no delusions about stardom.
Nadiya’s philosophy is ‘never say never, or even maybe’-something she never dreamed would be her attitude – she prefers to say ‘I can and I will’. This attitude towards her baking prowess is apparent, having recently landed a job as a judge for the upcoming series of Junior British Bake Off. Coupled with her own series The Chronicles of Nadiya, where she returns to her native Bangladesh to showcase her culinary heritage, it is obvious that her star is certainly in the ascendancy.
So how did she reach the pinnacle of the Great British Bake Off, watched by 15 million viewers in the nailbiting final? With 10 rounds to get through to win the coveted trophy under the watchful and relatively critical eyes of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, all the bakers suffered ‘mini-disasters’ as they fought their way through the competition. All competitors admit that conditions in the famous GBBO marquee can be tricky, particularly if the weather is hot and icing is involved!
It’s not all about competition though. Nadiya says that the masterclasses from Paul and Mary are invaluable to a career in baking as there is always something to learn. The masterclasses in Series 6, October 15, involved many recipes that may have seemed simple, but the slightest preparation or baking error could cause disaster. She recommends working with any professionals holding masterclasses, particularly as she was faced with some bakes that she had never done before, such as Raised Game Pie, Biscotti, Cappucino Crème Brulee, Apricot Frangipane and of course, some of Paul’s famous breads. Macarons that look so light and simple are in fact extremely difficult to master, as most contestants discover.
Of course we all need to remember Nadiya’s ‘showstopper’. Having not had a wedding cake at her marriage to Javid (husband), she was determined to finally enjoy one. Her ‘Big Fat Wedding Cake’ was received with great appreciation by the judges and it showed Nadiya’s patriotism with its red, white and blue decoration. When Nadiya was announced as the winner of 2015, both she and Mary Berry cried, such is her likeability and popularity.
Nadiya has gone on to great heights in less than a year, affirmed by her appointment as a columnist in the Sunday Times Magazine. Behind her gentle demeanour however, there is a ‘baking tigress’, who cooks from the heart but with a steely determination not to be beaten.