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Manon Lagreve from 'The Great British Bake Off'
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Manon from ‘Bake Off’ reveals how London inspired her to start baking

Rose Johnstone
Written by
Rose Johnstone

Manon Lagreve drew on her French heritage to make it to the quarter-final of this year’s ‘Great British Bake Off’. But, as she tells Rose Johnstone, it was London that inspired her to enter…

‘I came to London from a small village in Brittany in 2011 as an au pair, and that’s when I discovered cupcakes. We had three bakeries in my village, but I had never seen the colourful cupcakes and tiered cakes that you find in London! I became obsessed with Hummingbird Bakery, and I bought their book so I could start making cupcakes for the kids I looked after. I realised I really, really liked baking – the decorating and the colourful things you could do with icing. It all started from there.

After finishing as an au pair, I started my first office job. My colleagues all loved “The Great British Bake Off”, and one year, when it was on, we organised a competition for charity. I ended up winning, then I started making birthday cakes for people and started a blog. That’s when I began to take it much more seriously.

Baking was already in my blood. I grew up on a  dairy farm where everything was made from scratch. My mum is an amazing chef, and there are two restaurants in my family – we live around food, essentially. But coming to London, I met people from all over the world, from cultures that I’d never really come across. I live in Shadwell in east London, and I like that it’s so diverse and open-minded. It’s also so much easier to fly everywhere from London, so since I’ve been here, I’ve travelled much more. I’ve been to Japan, Denmark, Canada – and I take inspiration from the flavours of different cultures in my baking.

It was my friends who encouraged me to enter “Bake Off”. It was the first show that I watched when I came to the UK, and I had little traditions around it with my best friend, who I live with. Every year, I’d always think: What would I do if I was in this baking challenge? So I filled in the long application form, then went through four months of auditions before, finally, I was selected!

I’m a software project manager, and I was working at the same time as I was on the show, so it was quite challenging. In fact, I nearly called production to quit before filming started! Luckily, all my family and friends convinced me to do it, and being Star Baker the first week was such a boost. All the contestants had a WhatsApp group, and that was a huge support: they’re the only people who can relate to what’s going on. People don’t realise that we’ve spent four to five hours in a hot tent for each challenge, non-stop.

One of the things “Bake Off” helped me to understand is the type of baking that I do. Before going on the show, I thought: I am so London – there is nothing French about me any more! But obviously, whenever I said anything about France, they put it in the show. The week after I left was Patisserie Week, and I was itching to jump in and make choux pastry. But the other bakers did so well, and it hasn’t stopped me from making patisserie or eating my favourite, a Paris-Brest.

I have big plans for 2019. I want to champion the idea that French cooking doesn’t have to be fancy, and bring down-to-earth French cuisine to London. “Bake Off” made me realise that the French way of baking is ingrained in me – but I still think of myself as a Londoner.’

You can try Manon's recipes at

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