Whether it’s a simple mint chutney or a complicated recipe, Chetna Makan who took the audience of the Great British Bake Off 2014 by surprise every time she entered the show, finds baking a perfect outlet for her creativity.
Trained as a fashion designer in Mumbai, Chetna—a mother of two—moved to Broadstairs in Kent a decade ago. Speaking to Anjana Parikh, she shares her amazing journey which has given her the confidence to try new combinations of flavours.
AL: How would you sum up your experiences of Great British Bake Off contest?
Chetna: It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I met some wonderful people and made great friends. It was a great learning experience as well.
AL: Which of your recipe inspired the judges the most?
Chetna: Very difficult to name one, they did really appreciate my savoury biscuits, pie tower, Eclairs and dobos torte to name a few. It was my fusion of traditional baking with Indian flavours which they liked the most.
And, how did you come up with that particular recipe?
Chetna: For all my recipes, I wanted to add my personal touches to it so it stands out and for a few of them; I used my Indian cooking knowledge to inspire me.
AL: Had you ever participated in such a competition before?
Chetna: This was the first time I ever took part in a baking or cooking competition. I was absolutely over the moon when I was selected as one of the final contestants.
AL: How did you develop interest in baking cakes and biscuits instead of a proper Indian cuisine?
Chetna: I have a very sweet tooth and love cakes in particular. After having kids, I wanted to bake cakes for their birthdays and then my interest developed further.
AL: What was your initial reaction when you were named the star baker by the judges?
Chetna: I was very pleasantly surprised to hear my name as a star baker. I was very happy that they loved my bakes.
AL: Were you nervous when they asked you to bake stuffs which you had never heard before?
Chetna: Yes I was very nervous but it was also very exciting.
AL: How did you beat the pressure?
Chetna: I was very keen to enjoy the process in spite of the pressure and made amazing friends which helped me cope with the pressure in the tent.
AL: You made an impression because of your use of Asian flavours. What differences can such flavours make when it comes to baking?
AL: I think flavours make all the difference whether it’s cooking or baking and my addition of Indian flavours to the bakes were very well received. I feel adding different flavours to baking can transform a dish from ordinary to extraordinary.
AL: How well has the British society accepted your use of spices in cakes and biscuits?
Chetna: I have had a very positive response to my baking and use of spices in it. Even the judges and my fellow bakers loved the bakes I made in the tent.
AL: What was your reaction when you were criticised for your baklava?
Chetna: I was not very happy with the response on the baklava but I knew that the ones I made were very tasty and it only needed a bit more time to absorb all the lovely flavours from the syrup. It was very well received by the public and is now on the BBC website.
AL: Since Christmas is coming closer, have you thought of any exclusive item?
Chetna: I am currently doing some recipe development for Christmas bakes and the recipes will soon be available for people to try.
AL: What’s your next plan?
Chetna: I hope to continue baking and develop many more exciting and new bakes. I would love to do a book with a different twist to traditional baking.
AL: Last but not the least; has your new found fame helped you to increase the demand for your cakes?
Chetna: I have always baked for family and friends. Now I am continuously being asked by people regarding my baking.