The Great British Bake Off is by far the nation’s favourite thing on TV and no, we won’t accept any refutes. But while there are plenty of reasons for this – the delicious (and sometimes disastrous) treats, the judges, and the endless memes on social media – the main entertainment comes from none other than the contestants.
Last year, Ruby Bhogal was among our favourites. Sure, she had a few shaky moments (two words: vegan cake), but the star baker made it all the way to the finals thanks to her innate talent and endearing personality.
Today, Ruby, who has amassed an impressive 141k followers on Instagram since leaving the hit Channel 4 show, uses her new platform to not only showcase her passion for food and baking, but to work with charities and spread positive messages.
One particular cause she is heavy involved in is The Hotel School, a recently-founded collaboration between The Passage homelessness resource centre in central London and The Goring Hotel, offering free professional hospitality training (as well as general mentoring, life skills and support) to applicants who are struggling to hold down housing and steady, secure employment.
Earlier this year, Ruby worked with the students in the programme by hosting a special baking master class – and answering all of their Bake Off-related questions, of course. So naturally, we went along to do the same. Or more specifically, to get all the tips and tricks on how to be the Great British Bake Off’s next finalist. Here’s what she had to say…
Don’t fake it till you make it
‘If you’re not serious about food or baking, you pretty much get found out from the get go,’ says Ruby. ‘You cannot fake it. Even just from the online application process for the show, it’s quite lengthy. There are pages and pages of questions on techniques and you have to give them pictures as proof that you’ve actually made the stuff you’re saying you’ve made.
‘There were times where I was tempted to be like “I’ve baked this” or “I’ve baked that” when I was filling my application out, but you need photographic evidence so there’s no way you’d get away with it.’
‘The main thing about the online process is, because a lot of the questions kind of seem like essay-style questions, you can end up answering them like its an exam – but just be yourself with it. If you can show as much personality from the offset then what’s the worst that can happen?’
She continues: ‘Even when you’re on set filming, we don’t get any camera training or anything like that so you are just expected to be your natural self. I remember the first day I was on the show, we met everyone the day before the first episode was filmed.
‘It was crazy, it was like being on a film set. There are probably around 25 different cameras but you tend to kind of zone out of all of that. You have a story producer that stands next to the camera man and will talk to you most of the way throughout the challenge. So because you’re spending so much time with them, you just kind of forget that there’s a camera in your face. That’s why a lot of the things that came out of my mouth were just embarrassing, I was far too comfortable on there [laughs]. But it really is all about being yourself.’
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) October 30, 2018
Be prepared for intense hours
‘All the filming is done during the weekends,’ explains Ruby. ‘I had a full-time job throughout the whole entire process. So, during the week everyone is doing their own thing – either practising, doing a full-time job or looking after kids – and then the filming for the show is done on Saturday and Sunday and you spend the entire two days filming. It is very intense. We all stay in the same hotel over the weekend so we’re constantly together but then over the week, people have that time to get into gear for the baking. Then you return on Sunday night and you’re back to work or your daily life again on the Monday. It’s crazy.’
Stay off Twitter
‘My number one rule was just don’t check Twitter,’ she urges. ‘When my season started, I was on such a high even though I was rubbish in the first week, but I didn’t care I was just happy to be on the show and it was just such a great experience. But then the next day I thought let me just have a quick look on Twitter, because everyone else was doing it, and I just thought OK that one negative comment that I’ve just seen just ruined everything. But you just have to remind yourself that it’s an amazing experience, you’re getting to eat cake every day, so don’t let one person’s negativity take that away. You can’t please everyone.’
‘Social media is tricky but phenomenal because it has done amazing things for people’s businesses and it gives you this incredible platform and then it’s up to you how you want to use it,’ she adds. ‘I would like to use my platform positively which is why getting involved in something like the Hotel School and working with different charities. It is so important to me. Social media can be kind of swamped with negativity and just general un-niceness so I try to use it in a positive way.’
Cherish the friendships you make
‘You see on the show that people form friendships and bonds really quickly. That’s because you spend such an intense amount of time with the same group of people. You kind of don’t have a choice but to get on,’ she says. ‘But we were lucky because we had so many different characters and personalities, so you always had someone to turn to no matter what mood you were in.
‘And we’re all still close till this day. We have a WhatsApp group that goes off every day, I have to mute it sometimes [laughs]. They talk too much. But there is no way we wouldn’t stay in touch. If someone tries to leave that group, they’d just get added back in. We’ve all got this bond over food and that is strengthened even more by this unique process that we shared. We’re not going to have that experience with anyone else.’