TV star's new book plates up surprises
Almost no graduates land a glittering dream career straight out of university, and Liam Charles can’t quite believe his luck.
But it probably comes as no surprise to many others. The Great British Bake Off quarter-finalist – smiley, humble and a natural in front of the camera – instantly won hearts on the show in 2017, and at just 19 was one of the youngest contestants the series had ever seen.
The former drama student only graduated from Goldsmiths University last December, yet he’s had more TV work since Bake Off than many of the show’s winners – being a judge on Bake Off: The Professionals two years running (“insane”) and Junior Bake Off this year, as well as hosting his own six-part series Liam Bakes, last year. Now, he’s published his second cookbook, Second Helpings.
“What the hell is going on? I’m only 22, you know!” he exclaims with a laugh.
“Combining food, which I love, and performing and presenting myself to people, that’s another love, and being able to combine that straight off the back of uni is probably one of the best things,” the London-born foodie adds.
Publishing cookbooks is a bonus and while most will know Charles for sweet treats, his new offering is split down the middle: 50 per cent savoury, 50 per cent sweet. “It’s pretty much a reflection of how I eat on a daily basis,” he says. “I thought it was about time I showed some people I’m not just a baker.” So Second Helpings is packed with comfort food, generous sharing meals, lighter salads, soups and juices and, of course, loads of pudding yet almost always with a creative twist. There’s a cottage cheeseburger pie, a chicken katsu doughnut, and a dessert lasagne.
It’s also written exactly how Charles comes across in real life, so laid-back he’s almost horizontal but with plenty of personality.
He says: “My style’s pretty laid-back when it comes to savoury stuff, but when it comes to sweet treats, it’s expressive and it’s very personal. Every recipe that I try to make has to have a personal connection because if I don’t have that, there’s no point in doing it. It’s like a baby, you see it grow and you have a genuine attachment to it.”
His rice pudding holders – rice pudding inside a sponge, with a jammy dodger base and topped with rice pudding buttercream and jam – are an elaborate take on a childhood favourite.
“I love bakes and dishes that are very nostalgic, that revert me back to my childhood.
“My earliest memory is going to my nan’s after primary school and seeing her make dumplings and ackee and saltfish, especially dumplings which are essentially bread, and you’re not going to not measure anything, but she never did!
“And it always came out the same.”