Beware: if you haven’t seen the first season (the first British season — available on PBS!) of The Great British Bake-Off (or, The Great British Baking Show, if you’re bowing to Pillsbury’s ownership of the term “Bake-Off” in the United States), spoilers lie ahead. OK, ready? Let’s go:
Like all people with living, beating hearts, I was utterly charmed and delighted when Edd Kimber won the first season of GBBO, and found himself catapulted from a depressing bank job to working as a food writer and stylist. Edd is sweet and shy and utterly delighted by the relationship we form over food, and it’s an unmitigated delight that he agreed to speak to me on my podcast, The Sewers of Paris, about how entertainment has changed his life.
Obviously, GBBO has probably had the biggest impact. It wasn’t quite the juggernaut back in 2010, but it was still enough to change everything. “I never wanted to be famous,” he said. He didn’t even think he’d make it onto the show, but after he won, “I moved to London with almost no money in my pocket.”
It was a huge gamble, and one that could have been a disaster. But three books and countless TV appearances later, it seems to have paid off. “None of this would have been possible without the show. And I’m forever thankful to it because it allows me to do something I love as a job, and that’s all you can ever hope to do.”
GBBO is notorious for its niceness, and it’s all genuine, Edd reports. During the first episode, he found himself talking for an hour about mixers because they’d never found such kindred cooking spirits before.
“It helped me find out about who I was,” he said. “I was the classic drifter,” moving from job to job. He studied politics, then went into finance with no idea what he wanted to do. His bank job involved suing people who’d failed to pay their loans, and resulted in him getting death threats all the time. That was a terrible fit for the shy gay kid who just wanted be left alone.
Growing up, he had great difficulty opening up about his sexuality. But shows like Queer as Folk helped — he always identified with Michael, the nerdy one.
“That subtle geekiness was something I always identified with,” he said. “I was incredibly unpopular.”
When he went to university, he decided that he wanted to come out. He found a group of friends who were accepting, and in his politics program he took a class on the politics of gender. That was a bit of an awakening, and Edd learned about the Mattachine Society and Stonewall. Suddenly he realized he wasn’t alone.
From there, he joined his school’s LGBT society. The group screened the movie Beautiful Thing, and he decided at that moment to come out. He texted his brother the next week, and the reaction could not have been more positive. All of these experiences — finding friends, seeing queers on TV, coming out to family and friends — all gave Edd those little boosts of confidence that got him to his life-changing experience with GBBO. Who knows — he might never have had the courage to get on the show if he hadn’t come to terms with who he was. And now, appearing on TV and in magazines and on books (and on his new podcast, Stir the Pot) he can finally be the kind of publicly gay figure that inspired him when he was young.