When we last saw Crystelle Pereira, the sun was shining in the Great British Bake Off tent, and she was delighted to be one of this year’s finalists.
“Doing Bake Off was like a cross between being on holiday and doing a baking bootcamp,” says the 26-year-old, speaking to us after the final show aired.
Between wowing Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood with her flavour combinations, Crystelle gave us a glimpse into her home life, so it’s lovely that her “tight-knit” sisters Corelle, 28, and 30-year-old Chanelle joined her for her first-ever shoot when we visited the family at their home in north-west London.
Crystelle is still “coming down to earth” from her success on the show, which shoots during the summer, especially as she’d only cooked for friends and family.
“I can’t quite believe that it has happened.
"My dad keeps saying, ‘Crystelle, can you believe that you were part of Bake Off?’ I think it will hit me around this time next year when it has all sort of died down.”
Here, she tells OK! about why she had to borrow clothes from the crew, how the series ruined her sister’s pre-wedding diet and why she’s been declining marriage proposals on social media…
Crystelle, you were in a Bake Off bubble all summer – did you miss your family?
I did. I live at home with my parents and my two elder sisters and we’re all very close. Doing Bake Off was like a cross between being on holiday and doing a baking bootcamp.
I called my family every evening to fill them in on what was happening. It’s thanks to my sisters that I took part in the show in the first place.
How did they persuade you to apply?
I am very close to my sisters and sometimes they know me better than I know myself.
I have loved food from an early age and baking was a recent development for me, I only started doing it about three years ago and got more serious about it when I got a stand mixer for my 25th birthday.
My sisters kept saying, “You should apply to Bake Off.” I wanted to do it, but felt I needed more experience.
My dad suggested that the right time might never arrive and said I should apply now, as I had nothing to lose. I panicked when I found out that I’d got on and assumed I’d be out in the first week.
You mentioned on Bake Off that you were naughty at school…
I was known as the class clown. My family isn’t pushy and my dad always said, “Do your best and appreciate the education you have.”
He also said he didn’t care what grades I got at school, but when my GCSEs approached, my parents sat me down and said, “Crystelle, you can’t continue like this. If you fail your exams, what is going to happen with your life?”
I went to the same school as my sisters and they were both high achievers. Overnight, I decided to pay attention and work hard. I realised that I loved languages and maths.
I then went on to study French and Spanish at university.
Have you watched yourself on Bake Off?
I’ve had to because my family wanted to see every episode as soon as it came out, so we would all watch it together.
I still haven’t got used to seeing myself on TV. I remember getting very sweaty and nervous before the first episode came on.
My family were all very excited and would sit there screaming every time I came on.
Were you nervous about being scrutinised by Paul?
It was a bit scary, but the thing that got me was both Paul and Prue trying my bakes, because until then, I had only baked for family and friends, and here were these two professionals.
Before the first judging of my mini rolls, I was almost hyperventilating at the thought of them trying my stuff.
Did Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding ever put you off when they sidled up while you were baking?
Matt and Noel are a breath of fresh air in that tent. It is so high pressure and you’re under so much stress, that you can end up taking things too seriously.
Besides, I’m never baking in an empty kitchen – my sisters are in there pestering me and wanting to eat buttercream from the bowl. Matt and Noel just took the roles of my sisters, which was quite nice.
Did you hang out with Paul, Prue, Matt and Noel after filming?
No. They had to remain objective, so they were quite separate from us. When filming ended, we all had a drink together and Paul tried to troubleshoot my foccacia, but couldn’t put a finger on why it didn’t work.
Do your sisters cook?
Absolutely not! When we were growing up, I ended up being the chief taster at home, because I was the only one who had an interest in food.
I was the one who ate the most and cooked the most. My parents both cook. They were always in the kitchen cooking when I was a kid, so I picked it up from them.
You don’t look like someone who eats a lot of cake, how do you stay so slim?
I don’t know. I have a massive sweet tooth. I think it’s because I eat everything in moderation and don’t deny myself.
I never skip meals either, I always have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. My poor sister is supposed to be getting married next year and her wedding diet went out of the window because she had to try all of my cakes!
Have you seen the other contestants since filming ended?
Yes, we’ve got together a few times. They all came round to my house at the end of October. I cooked loads of curries and they all brought desserts.
Do you have any plans to move out of home and live on your own?
Not at the moment. I have thought about it, but my parents will do anything to keep us all at home. It is a blessing to live at home. We all get on very well. We’re a tight-knit family and we all pull our weight around the house.
Do your sisters borrow your clothes?
It’s the opposite. I am not a fashionista and will put on anything. I also wear a lot of black, but for the show, I needed more colourful clothes, so I raided my sisters’ wardrobes.
I genuinely didn’t think I would be in Bake Off for long, so I didn’t take enough clothes and had to buy more online. Towards the end of filming, I had to ask the crew members to lend me clothes!
What’s your relationship status?
I’m single. I haven’t got time for dating, but I’ve had a few marriage proposals via Instagram, which I’ve politely declined.
Have you been recognised yet?
I was at a JLS concert recently and these girls came up to me and said, “You’re Crystelle from Bake Off!” That was so crazy as I was there as a fan and I had my own fans. Everyone has been so lovely.
Were you disappointed at not winning?
No. There was something magical about Giuseppe [Dell’Anno]’s bakes and he was a worthy winner. We were friends and wanted each other to do well – we were all really sad when someone left.
It has been an incredible Bake Off series, have you come back down to earth yet?
I can’t believe that it has happened. My dad keeps saying, “Crystelle, can you believe that you were part of Bake Off?” It will hit me around this time next year when it has all sort of died down.
Have you had any work offers since the series ended?
I have an agent now, but it hasn’t been that long. I am still doing my day job. I work in finance in customer relations and Bake Off is a great icebreaker as clients love to talk about it.
What does the future hold?
I don’t know. I take things one step at a time. My passions are food, cooking and travel and if I could combine all three of them somehow, well, that would be my dream.
What are your plans for Christmas?
We never really go away and are always at home with family, where we’ll be eating lots of food. I’ll cook and bake a lot and watch
lots of Christmas movies and spend quality time with my family, which will be really, really lovely.
Do you have any special traditions?
We are Catholic so we always go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, but first we have a Portuguese-Goan tradition to make these sweets with almonds and cashew nuts and we make them together as a family.
And then after Midnight Mass, we crack open the tins and eat those.
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And will you be cooking?
Yeah, I absolutely love cooking especially at Christmas, but I also love cooking on Boxing Day because I am very big on not wasting food. I love creating new dishes and rummaging through leftovers to see what I can come up with.
Do you have any tips for keeping cool in the kitchen?
Number one for me is that I like to be in my own space so I kick everybody out of the kitchen! I also try to be organised where possible, so I make sure that I’ve got all the ingredients ready.
And most importantly, make something that you enjoy because the worst thing to do is cook in a really negative mindset. If you enjoy what you are doing then the whole thing will be better.
When you cook and bake with love, your dish will come out tastier as well.
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