Bake Off winner Nadiya delivers recipe for change

Nadiya has become a hugely popular figure with viewers and is tipped to win tonight's final of The Great British Bake Off. Photo: Love Productions. Photographer: Mark Bourdillon
Nadiya has become a hugely popular figure with viewers and is tipped to win tonight's final of The Great British Bake Off. Photo: Love Productions. Photographer: Mark Bourdillon
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SHE was watched by 14 million viewers as she wowed judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood to win the Great British Bake Off final.

But Leeds mum-of-three Nadiya Jamir Hussain has admitted she was worried that the show’s legions of fans might not warm to her.

“Originally, I was a bit nervous that perhaps people would look at me, a Muslim in a headscarf, and wonder if I could bake,” she said.

“But I hope that, week by week, people have realised that I can bake – and just because I’m not a stereotypical British person, it doesn’t mean that I am not into bunting, cake and tea. I’m just as British as anyone else, and I hope I have proved that.”

The recent representation of Muslims in the media has not, it is fair to say, been entirely positive.

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The rise of the so-called Islamic State has been in danger of cementing negative stereotypes – making Nadiya’s success a welcome breath of fresh air.

Rather than just winning a television cookery show, the 30-year-old surprisingly finds herself in the position of presenting a more positive image of her faith.

Adeeba Malik CBE, of the West Yorkshire-based QED Foundation, which specialises in ethnic minority-focused education, employment and training, says it might just prove to be a watershed moment.

“What’s really interesting is that we’re actually having a debate about it,” she said.

“Number one she is obviously a fantastic baker. Some of her creations have been spectacular – especially that chocolate peacock cake in the semi-final.

“But what’s also been fascinating is that here is a woman from a Muslim background who is doing something quintessentially British while wearing a headscarf.

“It’s a lovely story and I’ve been so impressed by her and what she is doing. She is changing perceptions.

“What I hope though is that in my lifetime we don’t talk about someone’s faith but their talent – the fact that they’re Muslim isn’t seen as important.”

And there can be little doubt that the public have taken Nadiya, from Roundhay, to their hearts.

She now has 30,000 Twitter followers and was hot favourite to win last night’s Bake Off final.

The bookies offered odds of just 2-5 for a Nadiya victory, while her fellow finalists Ian Cumming and Tamal Ray were 4-1 and 5-1 respectively.

During the course of her Bake Off journey, Nadiya has come up against some other hurdles too.
She revealed that her son had to watch her appearances from hospital after being taken ill midway through the series.

Thankfully he is now back home after making a full recovery.

And Nadiya says that the whole family are proud of what she has achieved.

She admitted to a lack of confidence before she went on the show, with her husband Abdal, a technical manager, and her sister-in-law persuading her to apply.

“My family are constantly telling me that they are very proud of me, and that really helps me through,” she told the Radio Times.

“My dad has loved the series and he goes up and down the street each Wednesday making sure everyone is going to watch it.”

Nadiya’s wide-ranging facial expressions – from her frowns of concentration and tears to her beaming smile – have also made her one of the viewers’ favourites.
There is even an homage to her on social network site Tumblr called The Many Faces Of Nadiya Appreciation Blog.

“It’s quite surreal to be in that tent with producers rushing around and the cameras in your face,” said Edd Kimber, who was working as a debt collector for Yorkshire Bank in Leeds when he won the first series of Bake Off five years ago.

He discovered that winning the title changed his life with cookbooks, slots on ITV’s Alan Titchmarsh Show and constant demand for his recipes from leading cookery magazines.

“I always say that whatever I could have wanted to change about my life back then, Bake Off changed it in the most amazing way,” he said.

“It allowed me to follow my passion and fulfil my dreams in a way I never imagined.”

Last night’s win will undoubtedly do the same for Nadiya.

But that isn’t the only thing that her success on the show is likely to achieve.
“Someone like her is great because she challenges the stereotypes,” said Adeeba Malik.

“Her performance has shown that just because she is a Muslim it doesn’t mean she can’t do well on something so typically British as Bake Off.

“I think that is the most powerful message to come out of it.”

And those earlier misgivings Nadiya had about being judged on her appearance rather than her culinary skills have long since melted away.

“I think the show is a fantastic representation of British society today,” she said. “The feedback I’ve had reveals how accepting people are of different cultures and religions.”

And last night saw her accepting The Great British Bake Off trophy – and the life-changing opportunities that come with it.

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