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Great British Bake Off winner David Atherton reveals how hospital work in Malawi prepared him for the show

Great British Bake Off’s newest champion David Atherton has detailed how working in a hospital run by charity Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Malawi helped him in the show’s intense tent. 

Watched by an average of 6.9 million people on Tueaday night, he clinched the title of Britain’s best amateur baker with a picnic basket dubbed “exceptional” by judge Paul Hollywood.

But before applying for the program, the 36-year-old spent worked in a UK Aid-funded hospital overseas. He trained nurses and midwives to improve care for newborns and help prevent maternal deaths, and even contracted malaria while on duty. 

He said: “Volunteering with VSO was predominantly positive but there were some harrowing times, and I think that really helped me in the Bake Off tent because I wasn’t going to get stressed by a cake not rising, or my pastry going a bit soggy, because I’d seen other people go through so much in life and be so positive, and I was determined to do the same.” 

(Mark Bourdillon/Channel 4 )

In a new promotional video for the charity, Atherton, who will now return to being an international health adviser in VSO’s London office following his win, also revealed the thing he missed most while working abroad.

He said: “When I was in Malawi I didn’t miss a lot of food back home, if anything, maybe marzipan. A lot of volunteers really miss cheese, that seems to be a theme for the UK volunteers, but for me, yeah it would be marzipan – or maybe a croissant.”  ​

Viewing figures for the final episode dropped by 1.3 million compared to last year’s series final, as Atherton saw off competition from 28-year-old shop assistant, Steph Blackwell, and talented Geography teacher Alice Fevronia, who were both left in tears during a stressful picnic basket-centred finale. 

The winner faced criticism today from fans who claim series favourite Ms Blackwell was “robbed”. But the health worker has brushed off rebukes, encouraging his 60,000 followers on Instagram to reach for the stars in a post-win comment.

He wrote: “I didn’t think I’d get through the auditions and now I’m writing this as the winner of series 10. Can people just go for it please, apply for things, push boundaries, but through it all be kind and be yourself.”

Bake Off will return to Channel 4 in 2020.


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