GBBO 2015 contestant Ian Cummings on where to eat in Lewes

We asked Great British Bake Off contestant Ian Cummings, official photographer to Southover Bonfire Society and former Lewesian, where he would enjoy good quality bakes in Lewes, and how he came to star in the nation’s favourite cookery show.

Image: BBC

Image: Love Productions/BBC

My reasons for entering Bake Off were probably a little bit wrong… Watching last year’s final, my wife joked that she would love to go the to tea party held on the last day and please could I sort it out for her. “Yeah sure,” I replied, not for a moment thinking that I would actually follow through on her request.

Shortly after I applied, I got a call back from the Love Productions team and then the long and testing audition process began. I took some daft risks with some of the test bakes that I had to bring down to London but finally, after about two months, I got the call to say that I was one of the 12. After a brief moment of euphoria, the practicing and recipe development phase began. During this time I almost entirely gave up my photography work so I could concentrate on the task ahead. Much of the time I felt seriously out of my depth but in some ways, the more difficult the recipe, the more fun it was: you’ve got a problem, now you have to find a solution, and a tasty one at that!

It’s over 3 years since I lived in Lewes but I am still a regular visitor so although I am little out of touch with some of the more recent additions to the Lewes foodie scene, I like to think that I am reasonably in touch with things.

When I lived in Lewes I had a studio in the Star Brewery, however, I also considered that I had a second office in Patisserie Lewes. With only the slightest excuse, I found myself switching off from the cafe hubbub and tucking into an almond croissant and cappuccino. Flint Owl Bakery was just starting to creep into town. As a special treat to myself, I used to buy a loaf of their rosemary and sea salt bread from the Lewes Food Market. It’s a loaf that I have tried to recreate on many occasions and still feel I have some way to go yet – but there again, Bake Off is for amateur bakers so maybe I ought not be too hard on myself.

When I left Lewes, there were already so many places to have a cake and a coffee and since then there seem to be yet more – even my insatiable appetite struggles to keep up with testing them out on my return visits. Likewise, I think the pub and restaurant scene has probably moved on a lot, so it would be slightly useless to dwell nostalgically about those heady, rose-tinted days. I must make a special mention, however, for the Sussex Pond Pudding I had about five years ago in The Kings Head: a sublime mixture of suety pastry and luscious lemon that I have tried, and failed, to recreate on many occasions. Give me that recipe (and a few fireworks) and I’ll be at peace with my move to the flatlands of Cambridgeshire.

Watch Ian compete in the Great British Bake Off on Wednesdays, 8pm, BBC1 or on iPlayer catch up.

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