We caught up with Edi fourth year Peter Sawkins one year on from his GBBO win

If Peter can write a whole book alongside his degree, there is no excuse for your procrastination anymore

It’s a grey Wednesday as I leave my flat and walk across the Meadows to meet Peter. Not for the first time though, as only a few days prior my fellow Bake Off obsessed flatmate and I walked past him. I had excitedly turned to my flatmate and given her *the look*. Turns out she had no idea what I had been gesturing to, and sadly continued her long streak of missing famous faces.

I walked into Teviot and decided that the Sports Bar would be a good spot – not too quiet, not too busy. I let Peter know I had arrived, and like a diligent 4th year he had already been studying in New Amphion for most of the morning.

Feeling slightly like my professional air of ‘arrived early’ had disappeared, I ventured into New Amphion. Having never stepped foot in here, all I knew was that he was waiting for me on the “upper deck”. Safe to say I felt pretty disappointed that there wasn’t a full-size study pirate ship waiting for me, but there we go.

Ascending the stairs, I frantically looked around for him and managed to spot him in the far corner on the upper deck. Approaching, I started to put on my friendly smile before remembering I was wearing my mask so probably just looked really weird.

Nearly at his desk, I enthusiastically spoke my first words, “Peter, hi!”, a look of slight panic came over his face. No doubt thinking me to be some Bake Off obsessed fan, and while that part is true, I could freak out under the guise of doing an interview.

Realising that he obviously had absolutely no clue who I was, I reassured him, “It’s Ellie, from The Tab, for your interview?”.

Making myself comfortable and trying to look like I knew what I was doing, I whipped out my phone and started recording.

So how’s everything been going with you?

Peter tells me: “It’s been alright, still only two hours a week in person, so most of it is still online, I did lectures in the library this morning, and Eduroam wasn’t playing ball, so that’s frustration that’s still going on!

“I’m missing in-person classes a lot, it’s nice to have a couple back, but I’m looking forward to it being in person properly, getting discussion back, I learn a lot better in that environment.

“But no, in general things are going good, got midterm assignments and exams going on at the moment, but so has everyone, so we’re doing okay!”

I dare to, out loud, say the ‘dissertation’ word and ask Peter how it’s going. But, surrounded by studying students I could sense the eyes of multiple 4th years around the room on my back, sending daggers of hatred into my heart.

“So I’m actually going to be doing that next year, I’m doing part-time study, so makes it a bit easier to balance things out.”

As well as baking, one of Peter’s passions is Badminton, and you can regularly see him with a racket in hand. As president of the club last year, he experienced first-hand the effects that Covid had on the sport, as well as how it is now beginning to bounce back.

Peter tells The Tab: “We were quite a lucky sport in that we got to keep on going throughout the whole first semester and then we came back from April onwards. It was very different from a normal year; you have to book in to play with individual people on the court.”

But it seems like things are on the up for the Badminton Club as they have a “record number of 260 members”, and the social aspect of the sport is returning as they can now have “up to 80 people in the hall”, according to Peter.

Asking the real hard hitting questions that the people want to know, I asked Peter what his favourite nightclub in Edinburgh is, as I know he was spotted at the first Big Cheese back. Like a true Edinburgh student, he tells me that his favourite would “have to be Big Cheese”.

Peter has built up quite a fanbase in Edinburgh, and I asked him whether he still gets recognised and how he feels about that. After all, winning a baking competition is one thing, but becoming a minor celebrity is quite another!

Peter responds by saying: “Yeah actually it’s not too crazy, and if anyone does recognise you they just come up and say hi, which is nice! So really doesn’t affect my day or anything.”

Like all of us, Peter is trying to work out exactly what he wants to do after graduating: “Nothing definite at the moment, current thoughts are to continue to do the baking but also do some accounting exams and things like that on the side. So trying to do a bit of everything, and right now just chatting to some lecturers who know the field and know about what to do about that. So just trying to run them both for as long as I can, even past uni.”

And of course your book has just come out! Was there a lot of eating failed attempts?

The amount of eating that took place is evident from his enthusiastic response: “Oh yes!”

Expanding on this, Peter tells The Tab: “Yes, there was lot of eating, a lot of cake baking. It was really good fun to write the book because I got complete free rein to do whatever I wanted. Create new recipes, test them, bake them, amend them, change them. So just amazing being able to have that much creativity in the field I love!

“It was quite intense because it needed to be put out fast. So it was an intense time and doing that alongside a full third year semester was challenging, but really good fun! And then you see the book together and can see the thing you’ve created was an absolutely great feeling so I’m so happy to have it out.

“But yes, lots and lots of cake was eaten – I handed them out to my pals and forced them to eat it, so they could give me a little bit of feedback.”

If you are one of Peter’s friends and are reading this, feeling traumatised by being made to eat so much cake, you can always reach out to us and we can make sure you get the proper help and support that you need after going through that cake hostage experience.

Rather like a parent unable to admit which child is their favourite, it seems that all the recipes that made the final cut are loved equally by Peter, as when I asked which recipes from the book are his favourite he told us that: “I struggle to pick my favourite recipes. There were some that struggled to make it into the book, I was testing them out and just not happy with them then I just had to think it’s not going in the book. So everything in there are things that I love, and things that I enjoy making so I do struggle to pick favourites.”

Excited to ask a bake-off winner where the best place to buy tasty baked goods in Edinburgh from, I forgot that Peter was a baker himself: “I don’t really buy cakes from other places. My flatmate brought home some croissants that were really good, but we make bread in the flat so we never really buy bread!”

I tell him that I too once tried making bread, focaccia to be precise, as it is apparently the easiest bread to make. It was somehow both raw, burnt and really thin. Overall the worst thing I have ever eaten. So now I stick to the Sainsbury’s bakery bread.

And lastly, have you got any advice for people who have just started baking and also for people who have just started uni?

Peter tells us his advice, saying: “Yeah so with uni, definitely get involved in a club or society because you’ll have this shared interest with people, and find your community.”

“And then in terms of baking, try simple things at first and along the way you’ll pick up things, work out which things will work and which things will fail. So then try it again and change one thing in it, and you’ll get better and better as you go. But keep it simple at the start!”

Upon reflection, it seems that advice on baking can apply to a lot of things in life. Things will never go perfectly, but if you keep at it you will only improve.

I left Peter to his studying, made my way out of New Amphion, inhaling the smell of burnt nachos as I left.

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