David Atherton is a food writer and the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2019. We chat to David ahead of his new book, talk about his career, influences and future plans...
Thank you for taking the time out to chat to me, I understand you have a new cookbook coming out; aimed at teaching children how to bake. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
I love writing recipes, but I’ve realised that most of all I love writing for kids. This month My First Baking Book is released and I’m very excited! It is about baking pure and simple, and also about having fun. For me, kids recipes only differ in one way from adult recipes, they need to be robust so that kids can make errors and the recipe will still work out in some shape or form. I think it’s also good to give room for experimentation and being able to ‘put your own stamp’ on the recipe so I give advice for how kids can change the recipe to make it their own.
How important for you is it to encourage children to cook, and have fun while dong it?
I am passionate about making the kitchen a fun place for kids to play, create and learn from experience. My books are designed to allow the child to be the lead in the kitchen with illustrated step-by-steps and ingredients lists for every recipe. It takes a lot for parents to step back and allow some mess and a little chaos, but it is so important in giving kids confidence and making the kitchen a place they want to be.
"This month My First Baking Book is released and I’m very excited! It is about baking pure and simple, and also about having fun."
What are your earliest memories of cooking/baking, and was having fun whilst learning a reason you have made a career out of it?
I started very young. My mum had 5 kids so using the kitchen as a duel activity of keeping us entertained while also making dinner/snacks was a must. My mum believed in making everything from scratch and she even made homemade bread for the whole family every week (we never had shop bought bread). Therefore bread dough was our playdough. To be honest, I never wanted a career in food, even as a child I recognised that work came with stress and I wanted the kitchen to be a haven for me. Now that it is a career however I couldn’t be happier.
I understand it was your Mum that inspired you to start baking. What were the first recipes you tried and can we see some of these in ‘My First Baking Book'?
I would say that almost all my recipes are inspired by my mum in one way or another. Recipes develop and change, and even as a child I was an experimenter, but the core recipes I use today come from my Mum’s originals.
I know another passion of yours is maintaining a healthy lifestyle (hence your ‘Good to Eat’ release last May), of which food plays a major role in this. What tips do you have for individuals (or families) to convert unhealthy habits into healthy ones?
I am a trained nurse and have my masters degree in public health. I’ve always found diet and nutrition interesting in-and-out of my work, so making food healthy while tasty is very important to me. My biggest tip is to make small changes bit by bit. Dramatic changes to lifestyle are hard to sustain, but making smaller changes are easier. Choose one meal, for example your lunch, and make the effort for this meal to be healthier. Also, remember that a healthy diet isn’t all about weight-loss and is more about the good food you’re putting into your body. My biggest tip is to challenge yourself to eat more fruit and vegetables (especially in your bakes).
The book has been superbly illustrated by Harry Woodgate. Was it a conscious effort to make this book as fun and imaginative as possible?
I love, love, love kids picture books and always have. I’m obsessed with the new wave of illustrators coming out of the UK and wanted to show my support. For my first kids cookbook Rachel Stubbs was the illustrator and she is also one of my best friends. I wanted to use a different illustrator for each book and we’ve tried to make the illustrations as inclusive as possible so that all kids will be able to see themselves and their families reflected. Harry’s illustrations in this my third kids cookbook are so bright and playful.
Creativity and imagination is a major part of your make-up, and shines through in your work. Did you think that The Great British Bake Off was the best way to showcase these talents, or were you quite nervous about entering?
I’ve always been a creative. In my spare time you’ll find me sewing quilts, throwing pots, gardening, drawing, embroidering and of course cooking up a storm. I’ve always baked for my colleagues and every year they implored me to apply for GBBO. I resisted as long as I could and then one day I decided to take a chance. Thousands of people apply so it really is a lottery whether you get through the rounds and rounds of auditions and tests. I was surprised to make the cut and since I am not a competitive person I worried I would fall at the first hurdle. Luckily for me I am a multi-tasker, stay calm under pressure, and work fast which are the key skills for GBBO. Every baker on there can bake, but doing it under time pressure is the real test.
"I’ve always been a creative. In my spare time you’ll find me sewing quilts, throwing pots, gardening, drawing, embroidering and of course cooking up a storm."
Finally, what else do you have planned for 2022 and how can readers pre-order the book?
It has been a lot of fun getting out and about in 2022. I’ll be popping up at a lot of events through into the autumn and you can always find me on Instagram (where you’ll also find my cat and dog). My First Baking Book comes out on 18th August and hopefully will be stocked in the best bookshops (Mr B’s Emporium is a favourite of mine). If people want to pre-order, Hive.co.uk is a great way of supporting independent bookshops, but you should be able to find it in all respectable online shop. And if you like it, My First Cook Book, and My First Green Cook Book is available too.
a copy of MY FIRST BAKING BOOK
by DAVID ATHERTON
(WALKER BOOKS LTD: £ 11.75). For a chance to win, simply click on the link below and follow the steps.