Giuseppe Dell’Anno: “I thought Bake Off was going to be a nightmare” | The Great British Cake
IIt was a grand slam for Italy – Eurovision and Euro 2020 winners – this week, as Giuseppe Dell’Anno triumphed in The Great British Bake Off. The 45-year-old engineer – with his precise and impeccable English; his life in Bristol; wife and three sons; and his incredibly tidy workstation – never considered himself a showman. “Every time I do a Myers-Briggs [personality] test, ”he told me the morning after the last tunes,“ I go out like a massive introvert. Nothing gives me more energy than locking myself in a room and working alone. When I walked into Bake Off I was like, “This is going to be a nightmare.”
But the cameras, the audience and – most importantly – the judges loved him. Two-time star baker – once for a pain au lait that looked like vegetables, again for a German cake that looked like an alien invasion on the verge of victory – for the uninitiated, his creations may have seemed as elaborate as those of any Bake Off winner. “But one of the comments Paul made to me a lot,” he recalls, of those times before a handshake in Hollywood, “was that my baked goods were“ fairly simple but very effective ”. It’s my way of working. I’d rather spend time doing something small, and do it really well, than venture into something fancy.
Giuseppe Dell’Anno is a lovely man, but why are they are always so adorable, the cast of Bake Off, series after series? Is the genius of the casting: a national manhunt for the 12 nicest people in the country? Or is there something about being creative and engrossed that brings out the best in everyone? It’s about getting lost, he said. “On Bake Off, the emphasis is on pastries. You are just the means by which pastry comes to life. This is probably why there are no quarrels. That makes it very sweet, if you will allow me the pun.
This sweetness is what makes the show, and it indeed looks very authentic. Dell’Anno is full of affection for favorite Chigs Parmar. “While we were making practice baking, Crystal [Pereira] was always the first to arrive in the tent, I was second or third. The chigs would show up at 11 a.m., play in the kitchen for two hours or less, and nail him the next day. Although he spoke on the phone, I could almost hear him close his eyes as he delightedly described Pereira’s talents. “I couldn’t believe how good she was at combining flavors. When she made this focaccia: how do you combine grapes, fennel and goat cheese with vinegar and make it work? It was to die for. And then there was Jürgen Krauss, eliminated in the semi-finals, to the astonishment of an audience who thought, reasonably enough, that anyone who could make a windmill out of such a thin cookie had surely made a pact with the devil. “The pastry knowledge that he has managed to get into his head is phenomenal,” says Dell’Anno.
It was a tight set at Covid, with competitors living in a bubble and many going for long periods without seeing their families, so it’s no wonder they became close. But what’s amazing is how they managed to pass those long absences to loved ones, especially Dell’Anno, who has three sons, aged five, seven and nine. He hadn’t even told his wife, Laura, that he got into Bake Off until he got the call telling him he was on the show. She said, ‘It’s one of the many crazy things you’ve done,’ but there was never friction, only disbelief. I always had phenomenal respect for my wife. – especially after seeing childbirth – but when I realized how selflessly she was supporting me, I realized I was the luckiest man on Earth.
While her performance on the show was impressive, it wasn’t all easy. The night of the final, everything went wrong. He wasted 15 minutes when his oven door was not properly closed, and the other two looked extremely strong and had started putting their caps together while he was still cooking poisonous mushrooms. And yet, he managed to get out of it. After nine rounds, he had gotten used to upset times – his signature gesture put his head in his hands – and says the life of an engineer had prepared him (“I’m used to very difficult clients and stressful situations”) . What he planned to find the most difficult in the tent weren’t the challenges but the hubbub – dozens of people around, constant human stimuli, complemented by Noel Fielding in your grill asking you to kiss a spatula. And okay, maybe Noel was a little distracting, but not like he expected. “Noel and Matt are very considerate: their job is to be an ‘entertaining nuisance’ but they never intentionally disturb you,” he says. “But in the first few weeks there was a part of my brain that was like: it’s Noel Fielding right there speaking to you It took me a while to adjust to the presence of celebrities around me.
However, the rest of the frenzy was a revelation for Dell’Anno. “It was all so nice and natural,” he says. “It made me realize that I can show my real self on national television without any fear or worry. People usually leave the tent more confidently to cook – I left the tent more confident. “To be myself in all aspects of life. It’s a really great thing to say on a baking show, but it’s the truth.”
His plans for the future may be atypical for a Bake Off winner, at least insofar as he doesn’t want to change jobs (he’s just accepted a job in Milan, in fact, where he’s from. , and commutes between the UK and Italy). In the end, it was “a validation exercise on a spectacular scale”, but it is “a very conscious person… I have a mortgage to pay and three children to feed, and also it took me a lot. time and a lot of effort to build an engineering career, ”he says. “I’m not ready to give up on this.”
Still, there is a project adjacent to Bake Off that he Is want to do, which is to publish a family cookbook. (“Give them to posterity, if you will, mainly for the inheritance I took from my father.”) He dedicated his victory to his father, and says it took him years to realize that the cakes he made every Sunday were “indeed his vocabulary, his way of being close to people. When you have that kind of epiphany, you realize how beautiful it has been.
Brexit hovers on the edge of the conversation: its practical implications for Dell’Anno, and why it feels so particularly right – and so utterly Bake Off – to see an Italian victory a balm for our frustrated Europhilia. While Dell’Anno loves his hometown in Italy, he says he misses the UK when he’s there, and vice versa. “I have to learn to live with it, because once you leave your home country, it’s bittersweet. You will never be home anywhere, but your horizons are expanding. It’s so rich.