I almost won season 12 of "The Great British Bake Off" ("The Great British Baking Show").
The show's crew is amazing and it's truly a paradise for foodies like me.
Sometimes I struggled to deal with imposter syndrome on set and to watch bakers go home.
I was a finalist on season 12 of "The Great British Bake Off," also known as "The Great British Baking Show" in the US.
I had an incredible experience being on the baking-competition series, but it came with a few highs and lows.
Being on the show is a foodie's dream
People often ask me what skills are required to make it to the iconic white tent, but I can't say for sure. I applied with zero expectation of making it on the show, then somehow ended up in the final.
All I know for certain is that you don't need a ton of experience — I'd only been baking for three years before being on the show but I had the time of my life because I am obsessed with food.
I honestly believe that if you have a true passion for food and baking you will thrive in the "Bake Off" environment. You spend every day on set baking, recipe testing, talking about bakes, and eating them.
It can be emotionally and physically exhausting, but if you're a real foodie, you will push past the stress and really be in your element.
The unsung behind-the-scenes heroes made the experience wonderful
On screen, all you see are 12 nervous bakers in a tent, two intimidating judges, and hilarious hosts Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding. But there's a much larger group of people working behind the scenes to make this show happen.
My family and I were so nervous when the show sent a crew to film my first "backstory" at home. We expected a strict and scary group of people with cameras but lo and behold, they were the friendliest crew. They made my first experience on TV so enjoyable and easy.
Those moments where I'm waffling on about the inspiration behind a bake or recalling memories of my late grandad I wasn't actually talking to myself (though I have a tendency to do that, too). I was talking to a great story producer who was behind the camera asking me questions.
We also worked with a stellar team of pot washers, who cleaned up our (mostly my) messes; home economists, who made sure every ingredient we wanted was available; runners, who helped us with almost anything; and our "care bears," two lovely producers who looked after us bakers.
The show has given me amazing opportunities
I always dreamed of having a career in food, but it felt unattainable until "Bake Off."
I am grateful the show has opened so many doors for me and led me to incredible opportunities that were unthinkable a year ago. I've cooked live on daytime TV in the US and UK, met Prince Charles, walked on a catwalk to open the "Bridgerton" premiere, and even interviewed for Vogue.
Most importantly, I've built a supportive community on social media who remind me every day how much I love what I'm doing. It's so rewarding to read positive and warm comments from my followers and see them recreate my recipes.
On the other hand, it was hard seeing someone leave every week
Even after the first couple of days in the tent, the 12 of us bakers had become such a close unit.
Part of it is probably because we were in a COVID-19 bubble — for my season, which was filmed during the coronavirus pandemic, we all stayed in the same hotel and didn't go home between bakes for safety reasons. So we ate together, baked together, and even went on walks together.
It's a competition and we knew someone had to leave, but we didn't want them to. "Bake Off" is the least-competitive competition out there because we help each other and really want everyone to do well.
We even tried to pitch a new concept to the producers, whereby all 12 bakers stay for the entire season and collect a score at the end of each week, and at the end, the person with the highest score wins. They didn't buy it.
When each person left, it was heartbreaking. We'd huddle around their car, wiping tears from our eyes and waving goodbye as they drove off. At least we're all reunited now!
The imposter syndrome is tough to deal with
It was a dream to be on "Bake Off," but I didn't think I was anywhere near the required standard to make it onto the show.
I was more of a cook than a baker, and all I really knew was how to make basic cakes with piping techniques I'd recently learned.
"Bake Off" isn't just about baking, though. You have to be clever enough to engineer creations, imaginative enough to come up with wild designs, and collected enough to deal with the pressure.
The application process was super intense with multiple rounds of interviews and a ton of forms to fill out, so I decided (with much encouragement form my family) that I'd apply three times. I thought that by my third attempt, I'd have more experience under my belt and a higher chance of getting on the show
But my first application resulted in a phone call from the showrunners and, eventually, I made it through every round of the casting process. I was excited but panicked because this wasn't what I had planned.
I was terrified of how my bakes were going to turn out, especially when I saw the briefs for the challenges. Anti-gravity cake, interactive biscuit toy, layered bavarois dessert surrounded by a Joconde imprimé – I didn't even know what half of these things meant!
When I arrived at the tent and saw the caliber of bakers I was up against, I called home and told my family: "I'm going to be home in a week." I felt so out of place and incapable.
My family helped me fight imposter syndrome by reminding me that I was there because I loved baking and that I should have fun and enjoy the experience.
During the semi-final, I experienced another bout of imposter syndrome. I felt like I didn't deserve to be there and was the weakest link out of the four competitors who were left. But again, thanks to my family's words of support, I baked as it if were my last time in the tent.
I ended up with a signature Paul Hollywood handshake, the Star Baker title, and a place in the final.
Never, ever make a sugar dome
I couldn't write this whole post and miss out on one of the most stressful moments in the tent, could I?
Caramel Week's showstopper involved making a sugar dome, and I don't recommend doing so to anyone — not even my worst enemy.
It's very difficult, you don't even end up eating it, and you'll probably shed a pound of weight in blood, sweat, and tears whilst making it.
And if you feel like you want to ignore my unsolicited advice and put yourself through the horrors of making a sugar dome, then I highly recommend that you don't put it down on a sticky surface. It will get stuck and almost entirely break.
Been, there, done that. It did make for some good TV, though.
Crystelle Pereira was a finalist on season 12 of "The Great British Bake Off" You can find her on Instagram @crystellepereira.
Read the original article on Insider