We spoke to Rowan, the vibey York grad who was on the Great British Bake Off this year

Somehow he wrote his dissertation whilst filming the series


The Great British Bake Off returned to our screens in September, and this year Uni of York graduate Rowan Claughton took to the tent and brought us week after week of snazzy shirts and iconic one liners.

Rowan studied English Literature at York and graduated this summer, finishing his dissertation whilst shooting for the series. He lasted five weeks on the show, getting eliminated in a double elimination in Pastry week alongside Nicky.

Rowan spoke to The York Tab about his time on the show.

‘Some people had Lionel Messi, I had Mary Berry’

Rowan applied to be on the show back in September last year having long been a fan: “I’ll be honest, I’m not a football lad. Shock horror. I’ve never been into that kind of stuff. I was always like, Mez Bezz’s bitch. My queen was Mary Berry so you know, people had Lionel Messi, I had Mary Berry.”

He told The York Tab that the application process, which included lots of interviews and trips to London with “cakes and stuff”, was “really long but it was fun.” For those keen bakers out there who fancy themselves in Rowan’s place in a future season, he said: “Apply just for the application process because that in itself was like a full experience.”

Rowan found out that he’d made it onto the show in February, telling Channel 4 that when he got the call confirming his place he “did the only this appropriate – [He] slid to the floor, screamed down the phone and ran to the shops for a bottle of prosecco.”

He told The York Tab that keeping the news a secret was a HUGE challenge: “I literally had to leave the room every single time I got drunk cause I was about to tell people it was awful. My parents knew and I’d filmed with a few friends from uni so they knew and they were keeping tabs on me. So like if I was on my seventh cocktail they’d come in and shut me up.”

Filming the show was ‘a very wholesome experience’

Image via Channel 4

When asked what it was like to film the show, Rowan said: “It was 16 hour days, but you have to travel down the night before and stay in a hotel, have a few drinks at the free bar and then go in and film 16 hours hungover, so it was really great. It was a very wholesome experience.”

When asked what it was like to film the show, Rowan said: “It was 16 hour days, but you have to travel down the night before and stay in a hotel, have a few drinks at the free bar and then go in and film 16 hours hungover, so it was really great. It was a very wholesome experience.”

“You also meet people you’d have never met in your life before. Like I would have never met characters like Nicky or Saku or Dan for example and now I’m really close with them because of the show, so it’s wholesome in that respect.”

Image via Channel 4

This series of Bake Off saw Alison Hammond replace Matt Lucas as Noel Fielding’s co-host on the show. When asked what it was like to meet and work with her, Rowan replied: “Oh Alison Hammond. You know what if I could make a podcast about Alison Hammond I would. She is just the most incredible, down to earth, it’s like she’s not even a celebrity.

“The first time we saw her, she came into the dressing room and gave us all Space Raiders or Monster Munch and she gave us all a pep talk. She was like ‘babes I’ve done this before, I was on Big Brother, got booted out and now look at me’. She really is one of us, she’s great.”

Filming for Channel 4 in the Morrell

Image via Channel 4

Rowan wasn’t the only Uni of York icon to make an appearance on the series this year, as York students everywhere were jump-scared by the Morrell Library in the first episode. The clip, which showcases Rowan’s student-status, was filmed back in April.

Rowan said: “The library staff cordoned off a little section for us, and we were walking around with like a full sound system, big TV camera, and we’re getting mic-ed up in the middle. I saw one of my friends who I hadn’t told [about Bake Off], we’re really close and he walked past and I thought like, shit I’ve just walked passed him looking like Princess Diana herself with this film crew. He didn’t even say a word, he didn’t clock.

“It was iconic, it was kind of like, oh look at me I’m being filmed.”

In the clip, Rowan tells his friend to put a book back on the shelf or the librarian would kill her. He said that in the day they had filmed for 12 hours in five different locations, so when he saw the final edit he said: “I don’t know why they chose that bit though cause I didn’t even think it was that funny. I was well funny the whole day, like librarians are murdering us and that’s the thing that gets on.”

What’s it really like in the Bake Off tent?

Image via Channel 4

Having experienced it in real life, The York Tab asked Rowan to tell all about what it’s really like to be in the infamous Bake Off tent. He said: “It’s more chaotic, like they edit it down so much. I can’t tell you how chaotic it actually is, because you’re so frantic and you’ve got maybe 15 sometimes 20 people in the middle… producers, sound people, camera people, runners.

“You’re frantic. You’re like screaming at people saying ‘give me this, I need more of this, watch this, get me a cup of coffee, put some vodka in it’. That kind of thing. So it’s frantic and people cry and we have seen a few tears… it’s a very intense situation, I loved it.”

Image via Channel 4

With three bakes per contestant a week, and up to 12 bakers in the tent, there’s plenty of bakes to go around. When asked what happens to all the spare food, Rowan said: “The crew always has a little spoon or fork in the back pocket, and we all eat each others.

“At the end of the day it’s brought into our green room… and we all like dive in and try each others and you know everybody’s really good at baking, shock horror, but it all tastes really good.”

Let’s talk about the pies

Image via Channel 4

Rowan’s Bake Off journey came to an end in week five, when his Pastry Week Showstopper pies fell apart. When asked what happened, he said: “Oh my gosh, I’m a knobhead.”

“It was dreadful, it was like soup. At least Alison helped me break it, so we kind of bonded over that aspect but it was kind of devastating because it was going so well. I remember saying to the story producer, I was like ‘this is going well’. I’ve never had something go so well so quickly and then in the last half an hour everything just went diabolical and sealed my fate.”

Image via Channel 4

Soup-pies aside, Rowan told The York Tab about his favourite bakes whilst in the tent: “It was probably the first signature in week one, that really tall vertical layer cake… but also the lobster, because who the hell makes a lobster out of cake? Like what was I thinking?

“I think I wanted to be all like subversive and not do a dog but yeah that was probably cool just because it was different. It was a dead lobster because live lobsters are blue and I thought I’m not giving them a blue lobster that sounds untoward, so I just painted it red and served them a dead one.”

Rowan finished his dissertation while filming the series

Filming for the series took place earlier this year, while Rowan was still working towards his degree at York. He told The York Tab that “having to film and then write a dissertation was the most stressful thing [he’s] been though.”

He said that he finished writing it during Bread Week: “There was a night where I just had to stay in my hotel room and not hit the bar and just bash out this essay and it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written. It’s probably unfinished, I didn’t check over it, I didn’t have any sources, basically I’m a failure to myself in that respect.”

What’s it like being famous?

Whilst on the show, Rowan charmed the nation with his wacky one liners and infectious personality, cementing himself as a true Bake Off icon. He told The York Tab about his new-found fame: “It’s actually quite lovely… I was out in York yesterday and like 15 to 20 people stopped me and just told me they thought I was great.

“I don’t like the attention but it’s nice to have nice things said to you because we all have our insecurities and we have our struggles in life so just to hear it from people, nice things from people you don’t know is quite affirming and up-lifting.”

If you do see Rowan out and about, he said people shouldn’t be afraid to say hello: “I’m not scary!”

Rowan’s go-to cocktails

From the first episode, the nation could tell that Rowan is the type of person that would be fun to have a cocktail with, which he happily confirmed: “Super fun honestly, to have a cocktail with me is just like a party in itself.”

On the topic, Rowan shared his top three go-to cocktails:

“Number one is a Pickle Juice Martini. I’m obsessed with pickles, and if you just do like a very dirty vodka martini, then top with pickle juice and a little pickle, it’s incredible. Second is a Vine which is a vodka wine, so it’s one part vodka, one part wine, And the third is an Aperol Spritz.”

Didn’t think I’d ever have to bring pickles to pre’s but here we are.

What’s next for Rowan?

Image via Channel 4

Since Bake Off, Rowan has continued to show off his bakes on Instagram and TikTok. Alongside baking, he shared that he really enjoyed his time on our screens and would love to keep entertaining: “I literally can’t help myself, so instead of wasting this weird wacky personality, why not put it on TV for the world to see?”.

During his time as an English student at York, Rowan also wrote several articles for The York Tab (which he said was “well fun”). He told York Mix that he would love to continue writing in the future, particularly food writing.

Whether it be TV appearances or cookbooks, I’m sure we’re all excited to see more of York’s very own Rowan in the future.

Fancy seeing yourself on the show? Applications for series 15 are now open!

Featured image via Channel 4.

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