All work and no play makes Richard a dull boy so I escaped from the kitchen this week and had a blast.
Today’s the deadline for my book, B.I.Y. – Bake It Yourself, to be written and I can’t believe I’ve made it (well, nearly there)! The past couple of months have flown by and 2015 doesn’t really feel like it’s started yet for me as it’s been a bit like being in limbo. But I reckon I’ve done the best baking of my life this month. I’m usually pretty self-critical but I’m really proud of the recipes going in my book and I can’t wait for the next stages of putting it all together. On Tuesday next week I’m meeting with Quadrille to talk about the book shoot: what order I’ll be making everything in and what pictures to put in the book.
It seems the US is enjoying The Great British Baking Show on PBS too. I was interviewed this week by The Washington Post for this really nice article and I’m hopefully doing an online chat for their readers next week. Tonight, Episode 6 of our show is up against the Superbowl! I’m quietly confident we’ll trounce it in the ratings!
This week, I got to go to the Radio Times Covers Party at Claridges, ooooh! I wasn’t sure what the event was about until I got there but it was a reception where every Radio Times cover from 2014 was presented to someone connected to that cover by Graham Norton. The Great British Bake Off was on the front cover twice last year and Radio Times readers also voted for me to be on the front cover of the online edition in the week of the Bake Off final, which was a huge honour – my in-laws have it framed in their kitchen. I went to the event with Chetna and my wife Sarah and we met up with Luis and Paul Hollywood when we got there. Nancy couldn’t make it as she was skiing – a hard life! The evening was great. There were so many famous faces there that we kept saying it was like being at Madame Tussaud’s! I love telly and it was a real celebration of the best of British Television. I met stars from Strictly, the X Factor, The Apprentice, Downton Abbey, Gogglebox, Educating Yorkshire, Countdown and more.
I also met a few heroes: Jimmy Nesbitt and Aiden Turner (both in The Hobbit movies), Nick Park and Richard Starzak (from Aardman Animations), and the LEGEND that is David Tennant (from most things on TV!) Of all the people I’ve met through the Bake Off experience, meeting David Tennant was the first time I was totally star struck and lost for words. He was presented with a special award as he’s the TV star who’s featured on more Radio Times covers than anyone else. He’ll always be The Doctor to me.
It was good to put my builder hat back on this week too. I’m a member of the Federation of Master Builders and during my time on Bake Off, they were great supporters of mine. I’ve since met up with the Chief Executive of the Federation, Brian Berry (pictured with me above), to talk about how I might be able to help promote a different image of builders as it’s something that’s pretty important to me. There are a lot of stereotypes about builders that don’t fit with the reality of my life or the lives of some of my mates in the trades. The Federation of Master Builders hosted an event at the Houses of Parliament this week to launch their Programme for Government 2015-2020 and debate different parties’ policies on housing and the building industry ahead of the general election.
Sarah and I went along with my brother-in-law James (pictured with me above), who is a Chartered Surveyor and works for the City of London Corporation. James used to work on site with me when he was a teenager and this sparked his interest in building and property. He became a surveyor as a result of this. The current Minister for Housing, Brandon Lewis MP, spoke at the event. I was quite impressed with his speech but it’s a shame he didn’t stay for the panel discussion and questions as we all had a lot of questions to ask. The panel discussion included the Shadow Housing Minister, Emma Reynolds MP, and the Lib Dem Housing Spokesperson, Stephen Williams MP, and I was interested in what both of them had to say. I’m not party political, and neither are the Federation of Master Builders, but I’m very interested in politics. The statistic of the day for me was that the proportion of new homes built by small and medium-sized building firms (like mine) has fallen from two thirds in 1988 to just over one quarter in 2013.
Housing is going to be a major issue in the forthcoming election and also in next year’s London elections. I don’t know about the rest of the country but in London I think the cost and scarcity of housing is the number one issue people talk about. The only reason I can afford to live in London is because I’ve renovated both homes we’ve bought. Our first place was a tiny flat in Finchley. We slept on a blow-up bed in the kitchen for a year while I rebuilt and extended it. Our next home was so derelict that we moved back in with my parents for a year while me and my dad did it up. That would have been impossible if my parents didn’t live in London. To be honest, having the skills to do up your own home is one of the best reasons I can think of to become a tradesperson. Anyway, I’m looking forward to doing more with the Federation of Master Builders in the future on this and other issues. In a few weeks I’m presenting the “Best Kitchen” Award for them at the Builder of the Year Awards!
But I’m sure the question on everyone’s lips is “but Richard, what are the cakes like at the Houses of Parliament?” and I’m happy to say that as you can see in the picture above, the answer is “pretty good actually”. I make all my best decisions after eating cake so I’m reassured that the country is in safe hands!
Anyway, I still have a few recipes left to finish to meet my book deadline so I’d better get back to it. I’ve got a great week ahead planned so I’ll see you all again next week…