SHe was the bookies’ favourite, but Nadiya Hussain never really believed she had a chance of winning The Great British Bake Off.
“I kept thinking they had made a mistake,” says the 30-year old mother-of-three.
“At every stage throughout the process, from sending in my application form, to getting down to the final 12 and then winning I kept thinking: ‘They are going to ring me and say they’ve got it wrong.’
“When I first walked into the tent I thought someone was going to drag me out and say: ‘What are you doing in here? We’ve made a mistake.’ When I got into the final I kept thinking ‘What’s going on?’ Even when they announced my name and Paul Hollywood came over and said: ‘You’ve won’, I said ‘Are you sure?’”
But it was far from a mistake. And for Nadiya, it has been the old cliché, life-changing. “
For me, it was far more than winning a cooking show.
“It has given me so much confidence, confidence I had lost having been a stay-at-home mum for 10 years. It was my choice and I have loved it, but you start to wonder how you will cope going back into the world of work,” says Nadiya who actually did far more than stay at home and look after her children. In the last decade, she studied for a degree and was an active member of the Bangladeshi community in Leeds.
But she experienced what many women who have taken time out of the workplace experience – a lack of confidence in her ability to make it back.
One person who never doubted Nadiya’s ability was her husband Abdal. It was he who convinced her to enter The Great British Bake Off and it is him who is now helping her to follow her dreams.
“I have got an amazing husband – he kept telling me to believe in myself even when I didn’t.
“Throughout the 10 weeks of filming Bake Off he did everything at home. And this is a man who doesn’t know how to cook. He told me to go for it. He promised that the children would be fed, clothed and go to school and when I came back from filming the house was tidy, the washing was done and there was a takeaway ordered – well he doesn’t cook.
“He did put things away in the wrong places – you always know when someone has been in your kitchen – but I told him I didn’t mind if he put the chopping board on his head, he was so amazing. He was constantly reassuring me. He said ‘Just be your usual self and everyone will love you’.”
And Abdal’s support for his wife hasn’t stopped with her winning Bake Off. “He said: ‘Go out and win this and we will move to closer to London, move closer to your family. If you win this we will do what we have to do’.”
And true to his word, the family have just sold their house in Leeds and will move south to Milton Keynes to be closer to Nadiya’s parents and sisters and to make it easier for her to work in London to follow her dreams to do more television work and write a cookery book.
“I have lived in Leeds for 10 years and I love Yorkshire,” she said.
The people have been so good to me and I will be back up here as much as I can. But Abdal can move with his job and I really want to be closer to my family – I will be able to get some help with childcare for the first time!”
She added: “Winning Bake Off has given me back my confidence, it has really made me believe that it is my time and I can achieve anything I want if I put my mind to it.
“I loved my life before Bake Off, but life is much better when you believe in yourself.
“I feel I am a better mum, a better wife and a better person.”