baking power: nadiya hussain interview

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Nadiya Hussain came to the nations attention when winning the Great British Bake Off in 2015.

Since then, she has released 4 cookery books, appeared in her own TV programmes (The Chronicles of Nadiya and Nadiya’s British Food Adventure), as well as co-presenting the BBC’s The Big Family Cooking Showdown. Nadiya will be at this years Bath Children’s Literature Festival (6th October, 4.30pm at The Guildhall) promoting her new book ‘Nadiya’s Bake Me A Festive Story’ and talks to Craig Maplesden about her career, how the Great British Bake Off has boosted her self-esteem as well as how cooking teaches children self-confidence.

Many thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to me. Tell us a little about your new book ‘Nadiya’s Bake Me a Festive Story’. 

Nadiya’s Bake Me a Festive Story is my second cookbook/storybook compilation for children and families publishing on 5th October 2017. It will contain 30 recipes, alongside stories that are a mix of my take on traditional Christmas stories like The Little Fir Tree, plus original stories I’ve written like Where Do the Odd Socks Go. Families can enjoy them together throughout the year, but particularly at Christmas time. The book features fun photos of me and my three children with gorgeous intermingled illustrations from Clair Rossiter. It really will be a celebration of the joy of sharing food and stories.


You bring such enthusiasm and passion to your baking/cooking. What were your first ‘food’ memories?

Every weekend, my dad would buy half a sheep and we’d have the whole family over. It was such a busy house that we’d all sit round on the floor and tuck in because we couldn’t all fit around the table. That’s a very fond food memory for me.

Do you think having positive early memories of food/cooking are important for children growing up, giving them an understanding of taste combinations/health benefits and more?

Definitely! I think all children should be involved in the kitchen – cooking not only hones a skill that is needed in life in general beyond childhood, but it also teaches self-confidence, how to be frugal, understanding ingredients and where they come from, measuring, being organised… the list could go on! My eldest son Musa loves to cook and often prepares dinner for the whole family. He can whip up a mean spaghetti bolognaise.

I read that you suffered from low self-esteem before winning the show. How difficult was it, and how much courage did you have to find, in order to enter?

I was so busy being a mum I forgot to make time for myself. I had three very young children and I was a young mum. Being their mum was all I thought about for a long time. I think a lot of parents can relate to that. Luckily I have a very supportive husband and it was actually Abdal who entered me for the Great British Bake Off without me knowing. He said I should go and do something for myself. Of course I was nervous doing it but I just took it week by week and I’m so thankful I did it. Look at the amazing opportunities it has given me!

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It is amazing to see you now, full of confidence, and embracing everything that comes your way. Do you still have those self doubts though?

Winning has meant I’ve been able to do everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I’m shaping my future every single day and seeing where it takes me but I’m not a different person, I’m a different version of myself. I still relate to that slightly nervous character on the Great British Bake Off.

Having suffered from low self-esteem what would be your message to anyone stopping themselves from achieving something that they really wanted?

I suffer from panic disorder and it can be different things that set it off. It has no rhyme and reason and you get to learn your triggers and give yourself coping mechanisms. So I would advise people to be kind to themselves and recognise when they need to take a step back.

Winning the ‘Great British Bake Off’ and receiving such positive feedback from viewers must have been an amazing feeling?

It’s really nice to see that my background paired with the win can inspire so many different people. What has really stunned me I have to say is how much it has inspired the younger generation to get in the kitchen. I have met many parents who have said that I have inspired their younger children to get in the kitchen. Now to me that feels like the biggest achievement.

The last two years must have been a whirlwind. I understand meeting Ainsley Harriott even topped meeting the Queen! Has there been anything since that has topped it?

It’s hard to top baking the Queen’s birthday cake but I got so nervous when I saw last year’s Strictly winner Ore Oduba at a do recently. I was too shy to say hello so I gave him a little smile and he did the same to me. I loved him on Strictly so I felt so gutted that I’d not had the courage to say hello. I sent him a tweet after!

What has been the best bit of advice you have received since winning the show?

To have boundaries between your life as someone in the public eye and your life as mum. Selfi es seem to be the new autograph and I’ve had to learn to say no to people when I’m with my kids. That’s when I’m mum so I’m polite and say hello but I don’t do selfi es anymore when I’m with my children.

I loved your ‘Nadiya’s British Food Adventures’ TV programme. You are so natural in front of the camera. Are there any further TV shows in the pipeline?

I loved making Nadiya’s British Food Adventure. It was so interesting and the people I met were inspiring. Coming up there’s The Big Family Showdown that I’ve done with Zoe Ball, Giorgio Locatelli and Rosemary Shrager. Presenting is a different skill that I’ve had to learn (as with everything since the Great British Bake Off). Zoe is an old hat and so good at giving me tips. She’s a great sidekick although actually I’m the sidekick! It was a lot of fun to make and I hope people really enjoy watching it.

Finally, you are holding a dinner party. You can invite 5 people (living or dead). Who would you invite and why?

Sir David Attenborough and Steve Backshall so I could watch them talk about wildlife. Mrs Marshall my home economics teacher from school. She inspired my love of baking and I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without her. Nigel Slater is my favourite chef and Marian Keyes is my favourite author who I love to read for myself. And I’d have to invite Ore wouldn’t I?!

Nadiya’s Bake Me a Festive Story (illustrations by Clair Rossiter) publishes in hardback on 5th October 2017, £14.99 from Hodder Children’s Books available to pre-order now.

Nadiya's Bake Me a Story book jacket_FINAL

Win a copy of Nadiya’s new book ’Nadiya’s Bake Me A Festive Story’.

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