Nadiya Hussain: The idea of my own show ‘petrified me’, but now I welcome that scared feeling

Reigning Bake Off champion Nadiya Hussain talks about making her personal food odyssey in a new two-part series on BBC1

Reigning Bake off champ Nadiya Hussain talks about making her personal food odyssey on The Chronicles of Nadiya (BBC1, Weds, August 24), which begin in Bangladesh.

Will you be watching the one and only Great British Bake Off this year?
“Are you kidding me? YES! Absolutely. I’ve watched every series of Bake Off since the beginning. It’s a ritual in our house, the only programme I let my children stay up to watch with me. They can’t wait. I can’t wait! I’ll be willing those bakers on, supporting them all the way.”

Do you feel a tinsy bit sad that in 10 short weeks one of these soon-to-be-famous bakers will nab your winner’s crown?
“No. I’m well aware that this is their time now and that’s fine. I’ll always be part of Bake Off. I’ll always be ‘Nadiya – the one who made Mary Berry cry!'”

What’s been the most important thing since winning?
“For me, it has been to make my mark, to find my own voice, stand on my own two feet and grab every opportunity that comes my way. And I think I’ve done – am doing – that.’

We think so too. Your stints as a guest presenter of Loose Women and The One Show seem mere warm-ups for the next TV project we’ll see you in, the two-part special for BBC1, The Chronicles of Nadiya. Tells us a bit about that…
“It’s a food odyssey that follows me from my birthplace in Luton to my family village in the north-east of Bangladesh, it’s a fascinating look at the food, people and lifestyle that’s made me the person who I am today.”

How did you feel about the challenge of your own show?
“Going back to Bangladesh was a no-brainer as I hadn’t been since I got married there 10 years ago. Of course the idea petrified me – everything does. But whereas I’d have said no before Bake Off, now I welcome that scared feeling because I know it’ll bring out the best in me.

“My only reservation was leaving my kids as I’d never been away from them for two weeks before. But my husband, Abdal, said, ‘This is an amazing opportunity to do what you love. Go, I’ll have them.’

“He took leave from work and brought them toys every day! How do I compete with that? That’s not parenting!”

The project allowed you to undertake the food-inspired journey into your past, which must have brought back many memories…
“I was born in England, but spent every summer in Bangladesh. It was a completely different life. I’d be plucked from England with its clean, running water, and transported to a small, rural village where white clothes couldn’t be kept white!

“My mum used to sneak baked beans and sardines in our cases – my cousins in Bangladesh thought the concept of food coming out of a tin was disgusting!

“My dad wanted us to have the real experience and live like the rest of our family there; he once took us for eight months so we could share my grandad’s life as a rice farmer.

“We were up at 4am, milking 100 buffalos, collecting 200 eggs from the ducks, ploughing the land – there wasn’t anything we didn’t do.”

You stopped visiting after marrying Abdal there 10 years ago and having your first son. Had it changed much when you returned to make The Chronicles of Nadiya?
“Yes! For a start I didn’t realise so many had watched me on Bake Off and wanted to know all about it – it was great for my ego to relive it again! My proud dad erected a sign outside the village saying, ‘Nadiya is here.’

“They seemed fascinated by what I’d achieved but also a little shocked because women in Bangladesh cook for sustenance, to feed their family, not for pleasure or to make a living out of it.”

Interview by Rebecca Fletcher


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