'We make a really good team' - GBBO winner Sophie Faldo working with Irish boyfriend David Slattery at Michelin star restaurant
Great British Bake Off winner Sophie Faldo's Irish boyfriend David Slattery signed her up for the show, and now they're working together in a Michelin star restaurant.
Sophie (33) from Surrey triumphed on the first series of GBBO to air on Channel 4 last month after several weeks of creating consistently stunning showstoppers and exhibiting nerves of steel.
The former British Army officer, who is also training to be a stuntwoman, has now landed a job as a trainee pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Glasshouse restaurant in Kew.
It happens to also be the workplace of chef boyfriend David (24), who originally hails from Killarney and trained under celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, and the happy couple now work side-by-side.
"[Before Bake Off] we were out in France working and I was trying to find a pastry school but they were really expensive so I was looking into scholarships" Sophie tells Independent.ie.
"That's when I entered Bake Off and it has been brilliant. It has opened all the doors and more that I could have hoped for."
Of joining David at the Glasshouse, she laughs, "It was really tough for me to get in there!"
Sophie is gearing up to work New Year's Eve and the head chef is even considering allowing her to invent her own dessert for the night. However, he did have reservations about the situation initially.
"He was a bit nervous about having a boyfriend and girlfriend working together but we make a really good team," says Sophie. "We work really well together. It's really good fun. Some couples prefer to have distance at work but we are quite happy. I love being with him. I miss him when he's at work so we're both really happy."
It can be a pretty gruelling gig at times, with 18 hour days, but she says "there's a real sense of purpose and achievement. I love it. I feel it gives me some credibility in an area I really love. I'm very willing to work hard."
Her work ethic was evident on Bake Off as she consistently finished her bakes on time and to perfection with viewers commenting on her apparent unflappability under pressure.
"There were times that I was very stressed. All but two of the bakes were right up to the wire, but I think it was the military training that helps - when I'm under stress I've learned not to show it," she admits.
"And there were times where I just didn't allow myself to get stressed. I could feel it building up and I'd tell myself to calm down, there's no point in getting stressed, just do what you can do in the time you have."
Sophie was the first baker to receive a coveted handshake from judge Paul Hollywood and she says that was the first moment where she felt she deserved to be there.
"I genuinely never thought I would win," she says, "I thought Steven [Carter-Bailey] would win. But what that first handshake did was it made me realise I really did deserve to be there, because I wasn't an experienced baker and part of me thought, I'm going to get found out - with things like the technicals I haven't a clue what I'm doing, but [the handshake] made me feel like okay, I actually know what I'm doing."
Steven and Sophie forged a firm friendship over the course of the series and at the end said they wanted to travel to Scandinavia to check out the bakeries. They haven't made the trip yet, but they're still in touch.
"Funnily enough, and it sounds odd, but I'm in a hotel with Steven at the moment!" she says. "We're here for an event. And I still see Stacey [Hart]occasionally - I'm giong to her son's bar mitsvah next month. I still speak to most of the other bakers - we're in a Whatsapp group."
While competitiveness has occasionally gotten out of hand on previous series (let's not mention #bingate), Sophie says that if it did exist it was not apparent on this series as most of the contestants went out of their way to help each other.
"There were times on the show where people would help other people if they had time to spare," she reveals. "You have this realisation that you're not really competing against each other but it's about you and your bakes and doing those to the best of your ability."
Sophie was not perturbed in the least when new judge Prue Leith accidentally revealed her as the winner on Twitter hours before the final aired on the BBC. She also felt newbies Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig filled the shoes of former presenters Mel and Sue very well.
While a career in baking is on the cards, Sophie has not abandoned her other ambition to become a stuntwoman. She's also in training to take part in the Track Cycling World Championships in LA in October.
"I like challenges, especially when it comes to exercise," she says, "I have to have a race or a target. And it's quite nice to have a few hobbies. A lot of people only do cycling and when that gets too much they feel they have to take a massive break but because I've a few different hobbies if I get tired of one I just run with another a bit more. It keeps everything fresh."
Given her new public profile and penchant for keeping fit, she would be an ideal candidate for a reality TV show a la Strictly or Dancing on Ice. Last year's Bake Off winner Candice Brown has signed up for the new series of the latter.
"I would be really enthusiastic about doing something where you learn a new skill, where you're thrown in the deep end. That would really appeal to me," she muses.
In the meantime, however, she's planning a baking-free Christmas with David's family in Killarney. She's no stranger to Ireland given her grandmother is from Galway.
"I see David's parents more than I see mine," she laughs. "We're doing the big Irish Christmas with all 57 million cousins."
Is she planning on baking for the family? "No, I'm not going to interfere. It's David's mum's kitchen on Christmas!"