'Sir' beat 7,000 hopefuls to join baking dozen

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By Lichfield Mercury | Thursday, August 09, 2012, 09:20

A TALENTED Sutton teacher swapped the classroom for the kitchen to take part in a popular BBC amateur cookery competition.

Stuart Marston-Smith, a PE teacher at Bishop Walsh School is one of the final 12 in the new series of the Great British Bake Off which starts next Tuesday on BBC 2.

Each week aspiring bakers face three culinary challenges judged by cookery writer Mary Berry and Master Baker, Paul Hollywood.

Twenty-six-year-old Stuart is a keen pastry chef and told the Observer he has been cooking since the age of 11 and was inspired by the Jamie Oliver programmes.

"I think I was in the generation where cooking started to become a bit cooler and acceptable for men," Stuart said. "I cooked with my gran and mum and did home economics at school. We could bake what we wanted and I chose to do a lemon meringue pie when everyone else was baking cookies!

"I found baking let my creative side come out – I am not good at art or music.

"I was a really, really big fan of the first series of the Great British Bake Off but was too late to apply for the second series. But I picked up courage, sent off for a form and got selected for the latest series."

Stuart has made a 3D Thomas the Tank Engine cake for his nephew and made his own four-tiered wedding cake. He had to go through several interview rounds and cookery tests before he beat 7,000 other applicants to make it to the televised final 12.

The Lichfield resident and former Fairfax School pupil said he got to know presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins well but experts Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry had to keep their distance. "Mary and Paul aren't allowed to talk us off screen. They have to remain impartial," he said. "If they did speak to us a member of the production team had to be present.

"Mel and Sue were lovely and they would come over to us if things hadn't gone well," Stuart said.

"Looking back on it now it was very enjoyable to be around people with the same passion. It was just incredible," he said.

The first show will see Stuart and the fellow competitors attempt an upside down cake, Paul Hollywood's rum baba recipe and the 'showstopper'.



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