Scots pastry chef aims to win BBC Bake Off spin-off show

Helen Vass - Cr�me de la Cr�me finallist. Picture: Contributed
Helen Vass - Cr�me de la Cr�me finallist. Picture: Contributed
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It is the Great British Bake Off of the pastry world and tonight viewers will find out if a Scottish chef and her team are the Crème de la Crème.

Glaswegian Helen Vass and her two team mates will battle it out against two other teams in the grand final of the hit BBC Two show.

I never get recognised despite being on the TV. Long may that continue as I want my food to make people turn their heads, not me

Helen Vass

The sister show to popular Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood-fronted Great British Bake Off,the show sees teams of top pastry chefs battle it out to see who can deliver the tastiest and best looking sweet creations.

Helen and her team-mates – Mark Tilling, a UK Chocolate Master for four years, and Samantha Rain, UK Junior Chocolate Master 2014 – are one of 15 teams of professional pastry chefs vying for the title.

The Scot says she was “utterly stunned” to have made it to the final and revealed how she refused to take part in the show “for months” before team-mate Tilling convinced her she was good enough.

Helen said: “I’d only qualified as a pastry chef a year before being asked, and I thought there was no way I would put myself up against the best in the business. I was terrified I’d be totally out of my depth.

“But it has been incredible, I have amazed myself at how well I have done, but it is all down to team work.

“There are no gimmicks on the show, they are strict about the time you have and the judges are looking for perfection. To say it was stressful is an understatement, but it was also super fun and everyone was just great.

“Tom Kerridge is exactly like you see him on TV, so warm and fun and enthusiastic and the three judges, well they are super strict but they know their stuff. And they were delightful too, and very funny.”

The 33-year-old qualified in a HNC in pâtisserie from the City of Glasgow College in 2014, after years of working as an administrator in both Glasgow and Barcelona.

After graduating she worked with some of Europe’s best pastry chefs in Barcelona – a city which she says inspired her to take up her vocation.

She worked as a translator at chocolate making classes held by Tilling and he soon saw the Scot’s talent for turning the plain into the extra-ordinary.

Helen, a former pupil at Glasgow’s Bearsden Academy, said: “A lot of people don’t realise just how ahead of the game pastry chefs are in Barcelona. They are so advanced and innovative and the way they make deserts and pastries look is simply breath-taking.

“In the UK we do afternoon tea but there they do a much lighter version, with smaller more artfully made pastries, which don’t fill you up and leave you plenty room for dinner. To them it is all about taste and look rather than quantity.”

Since returning to Scotland Helen has taken on the role of pastry chef at award-winning Number 16 restaurant on Glasgow’s Byres Road where she creates and makes all the desserts and pastries.

She said: “Office work wasn’t for me so to be able to give that up and start a new career doing something that I love this much is a dream. I love being back in Scotland.

“And as I look so different on the show, no make up and all hot and sweaty, I never get recognised despite being on the TV. Long may that continue as I want my food to make people turn their heads, not me.”