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Depression and Heart Disease

Bake Off champ David Atherton has ‘fled two wars and had malaria nine times’ – The News

  When the heat was cranked up in the Great British Bake Off tent, David Atherton kept his cool to be crowned champion  But then the pressure was ­nothing compared with his regular job – looking after the sick in war zones around the world  Nurse David learned to keep his head as bombs went off around him in Ethiopia and Nigeria  People even threatened to kill him as he worked in Africa’s Ivory Coast for the Voluntary Service Overseas organisation  “There were bombs going off all around,” recalled David, 36.  “The windows smashed in our house It was frightening. There were people on the streets with clubs and machetes shouting threats to kill That was scary.”    Now an international health adviser for VSO, David has been evacuated from two wars – once by British special forces, once by the Americans  He said: “There have been times when I’ve been quite sick with a tropical disease  “I’ve been in life or death ­situations when treating children with malaria. I’ve had malaria nine times, which isn’t good, ­especially as I teach about it  “I treated it very early so I was OK. I was able to keep things in perspective and kept reminding myself that even if my pastry was soggy, or my cake didn’t rise ­properly, I’ve coped with more serious situations ”  David took that resilience into the Bake Off arena and walked away as the surprise ­winner  He pulled it off despite never scooping the Star Baker title throughout the entire series  The favourite was Steph Blackwell but she ­struggled to keep her composure after a catalogue of mishaps And David’s calmness and control shone through.    Having watched the show, David says he doesn’t ­recognise the man he saw on telly  He admitted: “I worry that ­people will be disappointed when they see me. They’ve seen the character David but I’m not that serious I go to the shops in the most ridiculous clothes.”  One shopping trip raised a few eyebrows when he forgot to wash off a cosmetic face mask before leaving home  He recalled: “People were looking at me so I thought they ­recognised me. Bake Off had been on a ­couple of weeks  “Then I got to the shop and I was wearing a face mask. A woman said, ‘What have you got on your face?’ I wasn’t ­recognised at all ”  That surely won’t be the case any more, as 6.9 million watch him crowned the 2019 Bake Off winner by hosts Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding  His social media following has gone from 260 to 100,000. Book deals and cookery shows await as David follows in the footsteps of winners like Nadiya Hussain  David’s love of baking goes back to his childhood in Whitby, North Yorks.  Mum Judy would ­encourage him to help her bake bread for the family With lots of ­projects in the pipeline, David already has an idea about what he wants to do  “I’d love to do a book. I’m interested in food, health and fuelling your body correctly ”  You won’t be seeing any over-the-top showstoppers made famous in Bake Off. Working in poor ­countries and seeing starving children, David shuns the fancy stuff in favour of more ­wholesome food  “I’m not into big, ­elaborate bakes,” said David, who lives in London with partner Nik “I don’t see the point in those extras that people don’t even eat. Things full of fake colours  “Many things I did on the show I did for the first time. I would stay away from the unnatural products and use beetroot powder rather than go for the easy option of food colouring I prefer things that are easily edible.  “When I was working out in Malawi they had a couple of bad famines when the harvest had failed It was so tough.  “When you see people who can’t even have a meal a day going into the bush to find insects, it puts it in perspective There’s a lot of food waste in this country and obesity is a real problem.”  It may come as a surprise to fans that David came close to missing this series because he was on the reserve list Only a last-minute drop-out meant he got a place.  “It was the first time I applied, many others had tried two or three times before I was disappointed when I was told I was a reserve but then I got told I had a place I wasn’t really prepared for it.”  Week after week he improved. Some recipes were hits with judges Paul and Prue, some were misses  David said: “Paul is not really nasty. I agreed with their ­criticisms. They were very fair We had differences in taste. It was frustrating when they said my flavours didn’t work but to me they did Paul doesn’t like spices and exotic flavours. He likes things plain and simple.  “Prue is really hard to read When you do something good her face lights up.” Read More The Great British Bake Off 2019  David says Noel and Sandi are ­always on hand for reassurance while Paul and Prue ­appear only to hand out their verdicts  “Noel and Sandi are ­hilarious the whole time. They read you and they know what you need I like the blunt truth.  “Sandi would come up and make a joke. She knew that’s what I needed ”  But at times their ­enthusiasm wasn’t always helpful. “The only thing you worry about is that they don’t know much about baking Read More The Great British Bake Off 2019  “There were times when they would come over and you’d go, ‘Don’t touch that ’  “You’d be nervous when they’d come around. They would move something or touch something they shouldn’t have ”  While a future in baking beckons, David is not ready to give up the job he loves  “My job feels more natural to me. I love the work I do.  “I just came back from Myanmar I squeezed it in because I knew it could get busy.”

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