Interview: Great British Bake Off winner and Thames Ditton resident Sophie Faldo
- Credit: Archant
Fresh from her Great British Bake Off win, Thames Ditton resident Sophie Faldo tells Rebecca Younger about her future plans and why she doesn’t want to put all her eggs in one basket
Interview from 2018
Sitting cross legged on the sofa in her two-bedroom Thames Ditton flat, her Great British Bake Off (GBBO) cake stand trophy pride of place on the shelf above, Sophie Faldo seems relaxed but focused. Understandably for a GBBO winner, there are a huge number of work offers and options on the table (including potential work in the kitchen at the The Clock House, in Ripley, which was recently crowned with a Michelin star, ) but the 33-year-old says she is being cautious about what she wants to do next.
With her calm and collected appearance on GBBO, which controversially moved from BBC to Channel 4 this year, you would be forgiven for thinking that Sophie had been baking since childhood but in fact Sophie's introduction to baking came just five years ago when she made a birthday cake for her housemate.
"I thought 'this is quite cool' so I made a few more and then I did two wedding cakes for a couple of friends of mine," she says. "It was actually the decorating I liked more. I had quite a small oven in my old place so the baking was a real nuisance because it took so long to get the tiers done."
But it wasn't until she embarked on a ski season in Morzine with her chef boyfriend David (who works at The Glasshouse in Kew) in December 2016 that she was convinced to apply for GBBO. While she was there, she would bake cakes and other treats daily for the chalet guests' afternoon tea, which helped her hone her skills.
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"While we were there I was trying to apply to Le Cordon Bleu to the patisserie scholarship but found out they weren't doing it that year so David said I should apply for GBBO instead," she says. "I loved the show but because all I did was cakes and I didn't know anything about bread or pastry, I thought it was a bit ridiculous."
Despite that (and missing the initial deadline for entries), Sophie went on to wow the judges with her self-taught techniques, resulting in her clinching the Star Baker title twice and ultimately going onto win the show. However it wasn't all plain sailing.
"In caramel week, my millionaire shortbread didn't set in time and one of my showstoppers, my biscuit board game, I didn't even come close to finishing but no one noticed," she hastily admits.
And then of course there was new judge Pru Leith's faux pas in announcing Sophie had won 12 hours before the final had aired on television. "Bless her. A lot of effort goes into keeping it under wraps so it was not ideal but it was lucky it was only a few hours before," Sophie sympathises. "I saw it first, it was up for about 45 seconds and I was scrabbling around for numbers of someone to call and eventually found Pru's assistant's number and she took it down but it had already been retweeted. Unfortunately, I think that ended up being the big story of the day - not the fact that I won!"
While cakes and baking aren't usually synonymous with a healthy lifestyle, Sophie has already been for a run the morning I meet her and tells me the reason she moved to this part of Surrey was to be close to the river due to her love of rowing.
"I came here to row out of Molesey Boat Club, I had been commuting there from Larkhill [Royal School of Artillery] and really loved the girls there," she says. "I rowed for Kingston. I just love that view of Hampton Court Palace as you row along the Thames from Kingston. I used to be in a house share in East Molesey before I moved [to Thames Ditton]. It's a great location here but I used to live right next to a supermarket so if I was baking and had run out of something I could just pop down and get more ingredients but it's not quite as convenient here."
But baking and rowing aren't the only strings the former Royal Artillery officer has to her bow. Following a back injury, which stopped her from rowing competitively, Sophie took up cycling and ended up joining a race team. "I tend to take something up and then I get roped into competing but I'm not actually that competitive," says Sophie, who competed in the Ride London 100 through Surrey the year it was cut short due to the rain and has entered the ballot to race again this year. "The thing with the baking was that I wanted to get better, I didn't necessarily want to compete against anyone. And with the cycling, I'm quite happy to just do well and get a good time; I'm not one to throw my toys out of the pram if I don't win."
Not content with that, Sophie is also training to be a stunt woman. "It looks very complicated, there's this document with everything you have to achieve and you think 'how will I ever manage that?' but actually when I broke it down I realised, some of the qualifications I already had," she says. "At the moment I'm doing Taekwondo and trampolining and then in the summer I've got to do horse riding and then I've got to do some rock climbing and scuba diving. I like dabbling in a few things. In the military they really foster that - you get thrown into everything and generally, just keeping fit is part of your working day."
While a cookbook deal is undoubtedly on the cards (Sophie likes the idea of a patisserie book rather than joining the currently saturated home cooking market), she is keeping her options open in terms of where her new found GBBO fame may take her.
"I've always been told I'm indecisive and that that is a bad thing but I think it's nice because it keeps everything fresh," she says. "I genuinely don't know exactly what I want to do. I know I would like to work in television. I think people found it difficult to warm to me on GBBO, they found me a little vanilla, and so I'd like to do something that shows off a bit more of my personality and me as myself."
Well I'm pretty sure that, one way or another, we're going to see a lot more of this Great British Baker.
My favourite Surrey
View: The view of Hampton Court Palace from the river, as I'm rowing from Kingston.
Place of Interest: Hampton Court Palace. I love it. Even though there are some weird goings on there. I had a tour of some of the state rooms once and there were chandeliers swinging. In one of the bed chambers, I noticed a curtain twitch and I swear, I saw a hand dragging down the window and then the bed just shifted.
Shopping: I love Kingston because it's got so much choice but I also love Bridge Road in Hampton Court and enjoy mulling around the antiques shops there.
Place to relax: Hurst Park in Molesey. We often take a picnic and some wine down to the river there and sit and watch the boats.
Follow Sophie on Twitter: @SophieFaldo