22. A more surprising reveal came from the season three winner (or the Great British Baking Show – The Beginnings if you’re watching on Netflix) John Whaitewho suffered a gnarled cut on the hand from his kitchen appliance blade and had to leave the tent. However, he was allowed to return to the competition the following week and 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 being the youngest ever winner at 23 (20-year-old Peter overtook him last year). “There are days when I wish I had never been on the show because it really derailed me from a steady life path,” he wrote. The former law student was in demand for a year and publishers, product companies and TV bookmakers were eager to work with him, which led to his quitting his job at the Royal Bank of Scotland. But then public interest waned when the next group of bakers walked in, John explained, and let him drift. He began to drink heavily and became depressed. “He waited on the phone like a worried 1980s teenager, urging her crush to call.”
Recalling that no one from the BBC or the production company had given him guidance on how to navigate his strange new world, he continued, “Maybe after the breakdown and suicides of reality TV stars, there should be some serious reform the way the performers are prepared and guided through their post-show lives, but I don’t think it would have made any difference even if they did [in my case]. The addiction to the dazzling naturally came to the youthful self. “
John admitted that he was fortunate enough to have saved his money through the lucrative cookbook deal that was immediately offered to him and through various media opportunities. He broadened his culinary horizons by enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu for a pastry certificate. He has published three books and opened a cooking school on his family’s farm in Lancashire in 2018.
“Use it while you can, take the money and run if you want, but don’t take it too seriously,” he concluded. “Most importantly, don’t get watered down by any of this. The person you were before the show is the best version of you; that’s the person you should always be.”