One day I was innocently browsing the BBC website – perhaps seeking a spot in the Question Time audience or something – when I came across a link to ‘Become Britain’s next best baker’. At the time I was working my notice period in a secure job having already decided that it may be quite fun to start a pudding business. With not much else to do, I applied, met Mary Berry and made a big mess in that tent.
Surprisingly, it went quite well at first. I survived the first week despite managing to create Victoria Sponges resembling Yorkshire puddings – insisting that Sue Perkins ate her slice with gravy. But back then everything was different. The viewing figures, the technical challenges, the locations. Of course now the iconic tent stays in one place, at Welford Park in Berkshire. But there was something exciting about travelling around Britain with a bunch of strangers, a television crew and classy celebs. It consolidated our friendships and contestant comradery is something that’s united every Bake-off series since. Perhaps that’s why it’s such good TV? Britain’s gunning for their favourites while contestants gun for each other. And there’s been nothing on our screens more nail-biting in recent years that watching ten amateurs bakers prove their worth – often asked for their best ice cool bakes in tropical tent temperatures. Clearly a winning recipe for TV gold.
After a good run, I went out the week prior to puddings. In hindsight, dumb luck when you consider the consequences to my pudding businesses prospects had I not myself proved my worth. Luckily since then the proof has very much been in the puddings. A few months after Bake Off filming finished I set up a stall at my local market and quickly built a network of markets in London and a loyal customer base to boot. But, the perishable nature of freshly made pud forced me to find a more permanent pitch to flog by wares. This let to a mobile pudding van – later named The Pudmobile for its resemblance to the Pope mobile – at St Albans City Train station selling pudding to hungry, tired and (often) late commuters returning home from The City of London. This continued to go well and so demand grew for permanent premises in St Albans where I (and my growing team) could bake and sell all in one place.
Today I have two Pudmobiles, one shop, more than a bakers dozen of employees, a second shop looming and Puddings – a cookbook featuring family favourites and puds from The Pudding Stop. The book has been incredibly hard work, as well as great fun and rewarding to write. The team at Orion has done a wonderful job creating a beautiful cookbook containing the only pudding recipes you’ll ever need again!
The journey from Bake Off to where The Pudding Stop is today is tiers apart with plenty of tears and sweat shed from the trials and tribulations of what it takes to start and run a successful food business. Life has never quite been the same since stepping inside that tent and I would never choose to change a thing.