Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Great British Bake Off: Belfast's bearded baker Iain Watters whips up a reaction online

Iain Watters, who is taking part in the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off. Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire
Iain Watters, who is taking part in the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off. Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire
The twelve contestants taking part in the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off. Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire
The twelve contestants taking part in the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off. Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire
Hosts of The Great British Bake Off Sue Perkins (centre left) and Mel Giedroyc (centre right). Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire
Hosts of The Great British Bake Off Sue Perkins (centre left) and Mel Giedroyc (centre right). Mark Bourdillon/BBC/PA Wire

A bearded baker from Belfast was an instant hit with the public on Monday night - even if his swiss roll wasn't quite good enough to impress Mary Berry.

Iain Watters, a construction engineer, is a contestant on the new series of The Great British Bake Off - which sees 12 homebakers battle it out to be crowned the best amateur baker.

The fifth season of the culinary TV hit, as well-known for its smutty puns as the kitchen talent, aired on BBC1 for the first time, having moved from BBC2 following its huge success.

Social media was abuzz with excitement about the new series and attention quickly turned to the only Northern Irish contestant, who was sporting a huge beard.

Twitter user @Calenmiriel said: "Iain needs to win purely based on that beard."

Even Northern Ireland chef Paul Rankin weighed in, tweeting about a challenge that saw Iain botch up a swiss roll: "What on earth was Iain doin with those cuts??!!!!"

Growing up just outside of Belfast, Iain says his mum taught him everything he knows about baking cakes and biscuits and he keeps all of his her traditional recipes, sending her pictures of his bakes back home as he now lives in London.

"I remember making shortbread biscuits for the school fete," he said.

"They were shaped like a head and my brothers and I used to decorate them. I also have great memories of making bread on a stick on a camp fire in the Cub Scouts."

Iain's dad is also a brilliant baker and bestowed his knowledge of baking bread upon his son.

Described as having "polite Irish charm, love of international travel, and organic and vegetarian principals", Iain brings his bakes to work for his colleagues on the construction site, but dreams of opening a cafe in East London.

He said: "I think always push myself to bake new things I haven't tried.

"I am never put off by difficult techniques and I keep using them until I have mastered them. I also love to experiment with unusual flavour combinations and incorporated these into classic bakes.

"I applied for the Bake Off because I love to bake and it is so different from my day job. I also applied because family and friends encouraged me to."

Iain, who has a twin, lives with his girlfriend Catriona in London. For nine months the pair lived together in a caravan in the Australian outback, where they baked together and "argued daily over who was the better baker".

He admits he's had a lot of baking disasters, but he takes it in his stride: "Like a lot of bakers, it's the best way to learn I think, because you discover the correct technique in making mistakes."

And there was no let up in the first episode of the show, when Mary Berry looked less than impressed with Iain's method of scoring his swiss roll.

Paul Hollywood then said he was "struggling to get some flavours" from his lemon drizzle cakes in the showstopper challenge.

Iain later said he thought Paul was the harsher critic, joking: "he doesn’t mince his words".

But the Northern Irishman came fourth in the technical challenge, baking a cherry cake that Mary described as "boldly decorated".

This year's show has its youngest and oldest contestants, with 17-year-old Martha Collison combining baking with her AS-level exams and coursework, while 69-year-old Diana Beard is the oldest baker so far.

The series is presented by Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc.

Clare Goodwin, from Cheshire, was the first contestant to leave the competition after breaking down over a Swiss roll.

She said she became "ridiculously worked up" over the cake and the pressure saw her burst into tears.

"Getting myself ridiculously worked up about the Swiss roll was my worst moment. Why did I cry about a cake?

"I don't know why I did, but at the time you feel very passionate about it, and everything is magnified and seems more important than it is," she said.

"But in real life, it is just a Swiss roll, and I had a bit of a laugh about it afterwards.

"My friend has got a mug made especially for me with the words 'I don't know why I am crying about cake... Claire Goodwin'."

Mrs Goodwin, a speech and language therapist, said her best moment was "pulling off" 36 chocolate cherry cakes even though they "exploded" and the judges labelled them "horrible".

She is now looking forward to watching the show from the comfort of her sofa.

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