Ravneet Gill on Junior Bake Off, biscuits and speaking out

The star pastry chef has been back on screens this month as a judge on Junior Bake Off, alongside running empowering hospitality platform Countertalk and releasing her third cookbook, Baking for Pleasure – she certainly keeps busy. Ravneet Gill talks to us about levelling the playing field, pregnancy cravings and her love for chocolate cake…

Ravneet Gill on Junior Bake Off, biscuits and speaking out

What did young Ravneet enjoy eating?

I was a fussy eater. I grew up eating Indian food, having roti most nights or chicken and chips, because I had quite a bland palate when it came to anything else. I didn’t even like ketchup. But I loved sweets. I grew up above a corner shop and got a hole in my tooth because of how much sugar I ate. That’s probably why I’m now quite good at knowing how much I can consume…

What has your experience of pursuing a career in pastry as a woman been like?

As a female chef it is common to be dumped into pastry. In my experience, most of the pastry team would be women. People would tease you and I didn’t like that – the idea being that you were weaker for being in pastry. But I went into it because I loved it. And the minute guys from the kitchen had to cover a pastry shift, they would have a meltdown. It’s a tough job because you’re the first one in and last one out – you have to wait for everybody to decide if they want dessert. When you start to get more confidence and own it a bit more, it becomes less of a bother.

This is your fourth season as a Junior Bake Off judge. Have there been any surprises?

I got the job through an Instagram DM. I showed up thinking I’d be trained but was just thrown onto the set! At the beginning, my critiques were quite harsh because I was used to leading adult pastry teams. The floor managers kept saying, “Can you say it again, but a bit nicer?” Funnily enough, though, I think the kids respected that I would give them tips as to why something had happened and what they could do next time.

A child's hands decorating gingerbread biscuits
Ravneet encourages the young bakers with thorough feedback


What inspired you to launch hospitality platform Countertalk?

I had years of working in one good kitchen and then a bad kitchen. I thought, why isn’t there a place that shouts about the good ones? We’re doing a series on how to read your payslip, and another on starting a business: what’s a shareholders’ agreement? What’s trademarking? These are resources you wouldn’t know where to find, especially in hospitality. When I was asked to write a book proposal, I remember searching ‘What is a book proposal?’ on Google. I think it’s important to be transparent if you can, especially with pay, to help someone coming up behind you.

What drives you to use your voice in this way?

I’ve always been the one to open my mouth when I see something’s wrong or someone needs something. It has got me into trouble, but I’m that person on the train who, if I see something wrong, I’ll say. If I think something should be simplified, if I can help someone or be honest, I’ll just do it – without thinking too much about repercussions.

You had a sweet tooth as a child; what’s your relationship with sweet/savoury now?

It’s more balanced, but I do eat something sweet every day. A few months ago, I was in London and bought a Crumbs & Doilies cookie and cherished it. I went to Krispy Kreme late that night too… But I was on the brink of giving birth; when else am I going to do that? That’s what I imagined cravings to be like – I didn’t have them but I wanted to fulfil it.

A close up of a large chocolate chip cookie
A sweet treat a day is the recipe for happiness, says Ravneet


Did your appetite change at all with your pregnancy?

I wanted to be that stereotypical girl who wants ice cream at two o’clock in the morning, but I just wasn’t! My husband Mattie is a chef, so I feel lucky. I’d say, “I fancy barbecue chicken and mac ’n’ cheese” and he’d say, “OK, I’ll make it.”

You’re both chefs; what’s that dynamic like?

We met in a restaurant kitchen: he gave me plates of food and I would feed him cake and cookies. I’ve learned so much from him. Mattie’s got a great palate and quite diverse cooking skillset. He’ll say, ‘Maybe think about adding this’ or ‘it needs more acidity’ or ‘we should definitely add some salt to that’. He opens my eyes to things that I probably wouldn’t see if he wasn’t around.

Tell us about your new cookbook, Baking for Pleasure…

My new book is for people who want to make delicious things for others. There’s a great brownie recipe (I’m fussy about brownies) and there are three pies: rhubarb and custard, lemon meringue and banoffee. There’s also a savoury section: the chicken and Marmite pie is fantastic, and I hope people make the samosas because it’s my mum’s recipe.

What is your dream dessert spread?

I’m actually putting that together at the moment because we’re having an Indian wedding this year – just the formal party, as we’re already married. I’ve got Terri Mercieca of Happy Endings Ice Cream doing a soft serve station, Abigail Scheuer from Le Choux doing a table of all different types of choux buns… And then I’m going to ask another pastry chef friend to bake a massive chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake is my favourite thing in the world. If I’m feeling down or I have the time, I’ll make a chocolate cake. I’m going to make one today because it’s raining. If you use good chocolate it’s just the best.

A large chocolate cake on a cake stand, with a slice removed
Classic chocolate cake takes some beating


What do you sip or snack on when you’re relaxing at home?

I have a bean-to-cup coffee machine, so every morning, if my husband and I are together, we’ll have half an hour in front of the TV with a coffee and biscuits (which sometimes will turn into my breakfast). I love custard creams and bourbon biscuits. Do try M&S’s chocolate-covered custard creams. You can only eat one – two maximum – but they are top tier.

Baking For Pleasure (Pavilion £26) is out now. Inspired to get baking? Discover Ravneet’s recipe for gianduja chocolate tart.

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