Published: 19th January 2019
Colour, spice and drama is always my style with baking: Antony Amourdoux, Pondicherry-based banker-turned-baker
The Great British Bake Off contestant speaks about mixing a bit of his own identity into his delicious desserts and how life has changed following the show
Antony Amourdoux describes himself as the 'Bollywood Baker'. The stellar pastry chef from Pondicherry does have the energy and charisma of a dozen item numbers combined. Antony was one of the 12 contestants to participate in the 9th season of The Great British Bake Off. The banker-turned-baker got had to leave the show on Bread Week, the third episode of the show. Although the show has altered the very course of his life, he says, "When they stop me on the road as the 'Bake Off' guy, I must say my brown skin goes pink! I am thankful for the love I’ve gotten after the show and can’t wait to give back all of it through delicious baking recipes, collaborations and more smiles." We speak to him about his favourite flavours to work with and plans to bring his expertise back home. Excerpts:
How did you first discover your love for baking?
My love for baking goes way back – growing up in India, I was always in awe of the cakes and delicious meat-based pies my dad used to bake for the family. My most cherished memories are from Christmas time when we got together to bake traditional fruitcakes. From then on, it was a dream for me to be as good a baker as my Dad. But like most Indians looking for a career, I took the safe route and opted for accounting and finance. I joined a bank and put my passion for baking to one side. Only when I got to the UK, a couple years back, did I reignite and rediscover my passion. It makes quite the juxtaposition – banking to baking! I started building recipes, practising techniques and experimenting with bakes a year back under the watchful eye of a friend of mine, who just happens to be a chef. In fact, it was the same friend who secretly sent off an application for me to compete in The Great British Bake Off.
How would you describe the flavour of your food? What makes it unique?
I do spend a lot of time playing around with flavours and I don’t follow the rules. From throwing chilli in jams, mixing up classic Indian desserts and giving classic bakes a twist, I do think I’m a spicy baker – cardamom, saffron, turmeric, chilli are some of my favourites flavours. I love to give a desi twist to traditional British bakes. Colour, spice and drama is always my style with baking. I add flavours like cumin seeds, turmeric and chilli to classic bakes and it makes my work in the kitchen very interesting. My favourite concoction is my Indian twist to the classic shortbread with turmeric and cumin seeds sandwiched with a mango chilli jam.
CAKE'S SAKE: Antony with one of his famous sugary concoctions
What are the most important lessons you learnt from the experience, the other contestants and the judges?
After The Great British Bake Off, I have spent more time learning how to bake. I took a lot of learning from the tent, for instance: follow the recipe (which I still tend to deviate from – sometimes resulting in a new discovery and at other times, disaster!), always practice and the number one lesson: don’t beat yourself up when it comes to bread! Bread is super challenging, and it’s something I intend on learning more about. Paul (Hollywood) taught me some fantastic tricks, such as the yeast test (put a small ball of dough in warm water to check if there’s enough yeast for the rise), and the wonderful Prue (Leith), who is a fountain of knowledge, taught me to be more creative with my flavours and again, not to be fearful of failing. As per the other contestants, I must say everyone has taught me how to be patient, precise and methodical when it comes to baking. This is something I need to remind myself of most often!
Do you plan on bringing your expertise back home to India?
Back home in Bangalore, I was known to be singing with choirs and bands, never for baking, so my family and friends were pleasantly surprised. I absolutely plan on doing a lot of collaborations with chefs and artists around India. Going into 2019, I will be focused on working with a dear friend and pastry chef, Vinesh Johny, who runs one of the best pastry schools and bakeries in India. Alongside this, I also want to focus on bringing back South Indian food from small cities in India back to the UK
SWEET LIFE: The contestants of the 9th season of the show
Is it difficult to balance your work life with your passion?
Following the show, it has been back to work, really. But the late evening baking has taken as much priority. Considering my mantra in my personal life is 'wing it', I find managing my time for activities outside of work particularly difficult. However, I have been blessed with people who have pushed me to make time for what I’m passionate about and so, I changed my mantra to 'start a plan and stick to it'.
How has your life changed following the show?
The show has opened up so many opportunities and immensely increased my love for baking. And the fact that I can now give back to children through my favourite charity ‘World Child Cancer’ and also help the LGBTQ network, especially with the Asian community. I personally cannot wait for what is in store for 2019.