1. Congratulations on the publication of your first cookbook! How does it feel to be able to finally share it with the world?
Thank you!! It feels amazing, the best feeling ever!
2. What was your favourite recipe to create?
I have so many favourites so it’s hard to pick! I do love the pigfiteroles (pig themed strawberry cream filled choux buns, in chocolate ‘mud’ sauce) as they’re fun to make and you can play about with how you set the scene, arrange the pigs and splatter the ‘mud’.
3. What is your favourite flavour combination?
Again it’s so hard for me to pick! But the first thing that comes to mind from the book is my stem ginger and salted caramel cake. It’s the ultimate go-to comfort cake! And you can decorate it in multiple ways. My favourite way is to decorate it as a Halloween cake with terrifying poached pear ‘trees’, meringue ghosts and haunted gingerbread house. So fun to decorate on your own or with friends or family!
4. What is your favourite Joy piece you’ve worn?
Oooh for the third time I’m going to say it’s SO hard to pick a favourite! I’ve loved popping into Joy in Leeds for ages because of the range of unique and colourful clothes (plus it’s called JOY so of course I’d be drawn to it!) so have collected lots of clothes from you! I love my yellow Louche jumper I received recently, and my pink shirt - and they layer so well together.
5. Have you always had such a unique creative eye?
I’ve always been drawn to the arts and being creative, but I’ve never really put that much thought to it until I’ve been asked about it more recently. I think being on GBBO made me realize I am creative, and made me feel much more confident in that. In retrospect, I probably was always creative as a child! I spent ages creating my own card game out of pictures cut from magazines and writing my own rules and stories. I created a lot of made up worlds with my brothers, and I was always the most opinionated on how everything should be. I also made another card game for my friends when I was at University. And I’ve dabbled in painting and drawing, as well as baking of course!!
6. Aside from baking, how else do you express your creativity?
I might’ve covered some of this in my previous answer - so I like to express myself through art and creating card games in the past. But also through how I dress. Clothes are important to me, and I rarely ever wear black because I need colour to feel like ‘me’! I went through a very brief period of wearing black as a moody teenager, but thankfully that didn’t last! I also like to write about my recipes and think of puns to go with them. Hence why there are a lot of puns in my book! Because how can you ever get tired of puns?
7. What pushed you to apply for GBBO?
2018 was the year I felt ready as I felt I had a decent knowledge of a range of areas of baking. I also had Nabil who is my ultra-supportive partner, and I just felt like the time was right. It was my first time I applied, and luckily I got through!
8. Describe your time in the GBBO tent in 3 words.
Special, stressful, and surreal.
9. Have you always been so positive or was it something you had to teach yourself to be?
My childhood was tough so I think I learnt to deal with things by smiling and laughing! Though I’m not sure if positive is the right word, as I often feel sad and negative, like we all do. I let myself feel like that when I need to, I talk to people close to me and I make sure that I reflect on how I feel. And like everyone, I sometimes am annoyed at myself for being negative! But I try not to put that feeling out into the world, because I want to help other people feel better, and sometimes when you act positive even if you don’t feel it, it can literally trick you into feeling a bit better. I say yes to things even if they’ll make me anxious, and just keep going! So it’s probably something I have taught myself, but it’s become quite automatic now!
10. What brings you joy?
Food!! Pajamas! My book! Nabil! Being in a position where I’m doing this interview now!
11. Do you find baking therapeutic?
Baking is very therapeutic because it has that structure of the science behind it and following a recipe. Structure is reassuring. But within that, you can also be creative and express yourself. You can also get lost in baking, which makes it a very mindful activity. Not to mention you get to eat it, and give it away to others - which in turn gives both you AND them joy. And there’s something about the smell, taste and feel of food that is totally associated with a feeling of happiness in our society.
12. As someone who previously worked in the mental health sector, do you see baking as a form of self-care (for you)?
Yes definitely! It’s the perfect hobby to give you time for yourself, but also feel productive and useful. I find bread very therapeutic, as it takes a long time to make, but I’m only actively doing things (like kneading and shaping the bread) at certain points. So the rest of the time I feel content knowing that I’m being productive, even if I’m just chilling on the sofa because actually I need some down time.
13. Where do you get inspiration for your bakes from?
I get inspiration from a lot of things! Sometimes I’m just browsing instagram and I’ll be inspired by some artwork, and it might be the shapes, colours or style I’ll be drawn to. And I’ll start thinking about how I could turn elements of that into something edible. I’m also inspired by stories and I love thinking about how people can read a story into one of my bakes.
14. How do you come up with your unusual flavour combinations? Do you travel a lot or make an effort to try new and different foods?
I do like to travel quite a bit and sometimes I’ll be out and about and get inspiration for flavours. For instance, whilst on holiday in San Francisco recently, I tried pluot sorbet for the first time, and it was mindblowing! Pluot is a fruit that’s kind of in between a plum and a peach. So now I’m thinking about how I can put pluot in a dessert! I love to try new flavour combinations. Particularly in ice cream for some reason! I also draw on flavours from my own background as my mum is Chinese and she grew up in Malaysia. So I love things like pandan, kaya jam, grass jelly, black sesame and red bean paste.
15. You have such a recognisable and unique style – is your personal style an extension of your creative bakes?
Thank you so much! I suppose it kind of is! I love colour in my bakes and also in clothes. And I love a little bit of quirkiness in my bakes, and in my clothes too. I need to bake a cake to match my dress someday!
16. How did you learn how to bake?Your icing skills are so precise! Was it just a lot of practise and time?
Thank you very much! Yep lots of practice and time, but also passion and enjoying what I’m doing. I started with bread and and simple bakes when I was at University, and then I dabbled with it on and off over the years. When I finally had a kitchen space of my own when I moved in with Nabil, my interest in baking became much more time consuming! My interest started with bread, but it was actually only a year or two prior to the bake off that I started getting into decorating and icing, and feeling more confident with that.
Thank you for the interview!