22. A more surprising revelation came from season three (or The Great British Baking Show—The Beginnings if you’re watching on Netflix) winner John Whaite, who suffered a gnarly cut to the hand from his food processor blade and needed to leave the tent. He was allowed to return to the competition the following week, though, and he stormed back to win it all.
But the taste of victory soon turned sour, John recalled in a 2019 essay in The Telegraph, seven years after he became, at 23, the youngest-ever winner at the time (20-year-old Peter passed him last year). “Some days I’d wish I had never been on the show, because in reality, it totally derailed me from a steady lifepath,” he wrote. For a year, the former law student was in demand, with publishers, product companies and TV bookers clamoring to work with him, which led him to quit his job at the Royal Bank of Scotland. But then public interest trailed off as the next batch of bakers rolled in, John explained, leaving him adrift. He started drinking heavily and became depressed, “waiting by the phone like an anxious 1980s teenager urging their crush to call.”
Recalling how no one from the BBC or the production company gave him any guidance about navigating his strange, new world, he continued, “perhaps in the wake of reality TV star meltdowns and suicides, there should be a serious reform of the way contributors are prepared for, and guided through, their post-show life. But I don’t think it would have made an ounce of difference even if they had [in my case]. Addiction to the razzle dazzle came naturally to the youthful me.”
John acknowledged that he was lucky to have saved his money from the lucrative cookbook deal immediately offered to him and various media opportunities. He broadened his culinary horizons by enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu for a pastry certificate. He’s released three books and in 2018 he opened a cooking school on his family’s farm in Lancashire.
“Take the opportunities while you can, take the money and run if you want to, but do not take it too seriously,” he concluded concluded. “Most importantly don’t let yourself be diluted by it all. The person you were before the show is the best version of you; that’s the person you were always supposed to be.”