As the winner of last night’s The Great Irish Bake Off enthuses about her future plans, Denise O’Donoghue hears from other cookery title holders about the hard work and focus needed to succeed
What’s next for last night’s winner of The Great Irish Bake Off? I caught up with Tracy Coyne following her victory in the popular TV3 programme to chat about what the future may hold. She mused that she might write a cook book someday.
“I have a blog with some of my favourite recipes on it which I would love to grow and develop a little more. Who knows, maybe there’s a book in it.
“My friends regularly moan about not being able to turn ordinary ingredients into extraordinary dishes and I seem to have a knack with that little bit of magic that evades most people. I’d like to share the secrets and the skill that makes that easy for me.”
The dream doesn’t stop there though. Tracy is keen to develop her baking into a successful business in its own right.
Tracy credits her mother and her grandmother for imbuing her with the skills that have made her an award-winning baker.
“My mother taught me how to feed a family well on very little, and how to make meal-times family-times. The kitchen was the heart of my mother’s home growing up with her three sisters and it was the heart of our home growing up with my three sisters.
“For us, baking and cooking is about more than the food, it’s about who you are doing it for, and why.” !Since filming of the Great Irish Bake Off finished she has been swept off her feet with appearances, often alongside some of her heroes.
“I have already done some pretty exciting things and there are more in the pipeline. I was invited to demo at ‘The Taste of Dublin’ in the same tent as two of my absolute food heroes, Darina Allen and Clodagh McKenna. I even got a selfie with Clodagh!”
“It’s been really positive so far. The traffic to my Twitter and website has increased. People appear to be attracted to my style of food — that’s the real reward I guess.”
Tracy’s self-confidence has grown since she started the show, and it has continued to strengthen since her win.
“I developed an absolute confidence in myself as a baker. Now I’m much more inclined to believe I can accomplish something rather than not.”
Her can-do attitude will be a great asset when she sets out as a baker on her own.
One thing is certain though. A win on a national cookery competition alone does not guarantee success. Last year’s winner, 22-year-old student Stephen Chisholm, is disappointed with the lack of opportunities he has encountered in Ireland.
“Lots of photos are taken, interviews take place, people want you to attend events, tonnes of orders come in and it’s all very busy ... for a few months. As time goes on I have found that the hype around it dies out and then suddenly it stops all together.
“I was very proactive and worked with a PR company in order to promote myself and look for opportunities all over the place. Ireland just doesn’t have the same capacity as the UK in terms of Bake Off related ventures so it has been tough.”
The pressure of being known as an award-winning baker can be intense at times, as Stephen has experienced.
“I have found the last year to also be rather stressful. People’s expectations of you as a winner become automatically higher so trying to meet them has been hard at times.”
Life after The Great Irish Bake Off is not as Stephen anticipated.
“It’s a year on from when we finished filming and things are different than I imagined they would have been.”
It is apparent that it takes a lot of hard work to live up to the title of The Great Irish Bake Off winner. Stephen has since started taking classes to further improve his baking and he has begun working as a baker in a café.
Siracha sourdough! pic.twitter.com/bUFIycrke2— Stephen Chisholm (@steviechis) June 30, 2014
“I’ve been appearing at food festivals and doing some demonstrations at different places,” says Stephen.
“I have a radio slot on BBC Radio Ulster where we submit a recipe for the week and talk people through how to make it at home.”
Stephen’s advice to this year’s winner is simple: know what you want and don’t try to do everything.
“Get yourself a game plan. Know exactly what you want to and where you want to go. It’s also worth getting some professional help for this. Learn to say no to people. Offers will come and you want to say yes to everything, but very quickly you will find yourself spread too thinly.”
It’s clear that winning is not the end of the long, hard slog – it is only the beginning. Diana Dodog is the most recent winner of RTE’s Masterchef. Diana says her win alone was not the key to a promising future in cooking.
“You’re not guaranteed a career just because you won, you need to work hard and be passionate.”
Diana says Masterchef was an “amazing experience”.
“Being up against some extremely talented chefs and proving my worth was so rewarding. I recommend that if you have the talent and commit to work hard then your career can really benefit from being on a show like that.
“It was validation through competition. Not only did I prove my worth, I also improved my skills.”
Diana’s newest venture, the Food Depot, is a welcome twist on traditional fast food.
“We saw a gap in the market. People want to eat healthier but they want to have food prepared quickly too. The Food Depot is the answer. We serve wholesome, local food on the go.
“Some of those coming to us over and over again never even knew I was in Masterchef and were surprised when they made the connection. I think it’s great, they simply come for the food and I’m happy knowing that my cooking speaks for itself.”
Diana’s success proves that hard work will bring you far.
Tracy is “determined not to have any regrets” about The Great Irish Bake Off and feels that at 41 her maturity is what will give her a better chance at success.
“I think that being a bit older than most of the contestants gave me an edge. I embarked on the journey knowing that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that I needed to cherish every minute of it.”
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