The Shape I'm In: Andrew Smyth - Bake-Off finalist

The Shape I'm In: Andrew Smyth - Bake-Off finalist
Andrew Symth

WHAT do aerospace engineering and baking have in common? A lot, says scientist and Bake-Off finalist Andrew Smyth, one of the presenters of the family show Baking in Space.

“The common themes are precision, careful time management and enjoying your work. More specifically, an example I use in the show is how the meringue in a Baked Alaska insulates the ice cream inside in exactly the same way as the thermal protection tiles protect the space shuttle on re-entry from orbit, it’s all about tiny pockets of air being excellent insulators.”

From Holywood, Co Down, he was a 2016 finalist in the Great British Bake Off and says the competition changed his life.

“I was naive entering the process and thought life would go back to normal after the show aired, but instead it’s opened so many doors. I’ve had the chance to bake a rotating jet engine cake for Prince William, travel the world on food-related projects and have had my own live TV cooking slot. I’m so grateful for the whole thing.”

Aged 28 and living in Britain, he’s exactly where he wants to be in his career. “The dream for me has always been to take engineering to the masses and become a science presenter. I’m working towards that dream and am really enjoying the balance of work I have at the moment between aerospace research, baking and presenting. I always say I’m having my cake and eating it.”

As part of Science Week 2019, Baking in Space is at the Kino, Cork, tomorrow (Wednesday, November 13) at 7.30pm. Event partners are Yakult, Science Foundation Ireland and British Council Ireland.

What shape are you in?

I’m much fitter than I used to be, but am certainly no gym buff. I try to go running twice a week and either climb or cycle once a week to offset all the cake I end up eating. I used to be quite overweight and lost around 20kg in 2015 and felt much better for it.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I try to eat lots of fruit and veg, which was made easier by recently going vegetarian during the week. My housemate is completely veggie so eating with her during the week has made me more creative and aware of the balance of things I’m eating. I also try to have a no-snack rule unless it’s homemade.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I have a completely sweet tooth so anything dessert/cake/pudding related tends to tempt me in. I’ve tried making some healthy cakes before but I often find the flavour is lacking and you end up eating more of it anyway. I’m a big advocate of treating yourself in moderation and keeping everything in balance.

What would keep you awake at night?

Replaying conversations where I might have upset or annoyed someone. I don’t regularly drink any caffeine but if I do have a coffee after 3pm, I’ll be wired well into the night.

How do you relax?

As baking is now part of my job, I tend to relax in the great outdoors. I love adventure sports, water sports and skiing and love getting into the Peak District for a walk or cycle when the weather allows. I’m a keen traveller too and often keep lists of bakeries I’ve visited whilst overseas.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Elon Musk, to pick his brain; Helen Goh as she’d bring a delightful sweet treat along; and Lewis Capaldi, his social media cracks me up.

What’s your favourite smell?

Freshly baked bread, even better if it’s wafting from a French boulangerie.

What’s your earliest memory?

Paddling in the pool on holiday with my brother. He was a toddler at the time and had a little inflatable boat he could sit in, I entertained myself for hours pushing him round the pool.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

A slightly smaller bum so I could buy trousers more easily. When I find a pair that fits I tend to buy multiples, it’s the holy grail for me.

When is the last time you cried?

When a friend was going through a rough patch and I felt there was nothing I could do to directly help.

What traits do you least like in others?

I struggle with people who are disloyal or inconsiderate of those around them.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I can be quite jealous, but I try to use that to spur me on to follow up on opportunities and my work.

What quote inspires you most?

‘Waste not, want not’ — this was one of my grandad’s favourite sayings and it instilled the values in me I still hold true today: be grateful for the things and opportunities you have around you, use them carefully and don’t take them for granted.

What would cheer up your day?

A big slice of carrot cake with a steaming mug of tea. I might nip to the kitchen now actually.

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