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Great British Baking Show

Become Your Own Baking Champion

Tips on how to perfect your kitchen skills!

July 6, 2016
The Great British Baking Show is back for another season, following the trials and tribulations of passionate amateur bakers who are vying to be named the UK’s best. For the ten weeks of competition, contestants will face off as their skills are tested by baking cakes, breads, pastries and desserts.  
 
Going from amateur baker to the best in Britain, and having television celebrity status, is quite the feat. For those who want to start off small — perhaps learning first how to prepare the most delicious eclair or blueberry pie — cooking classes are a great way to get started. 
 
In Vancouver, British Columbia, Valentine Kitamura leads classes through her company Tartine & Maple, which offers tutorials on cooking as a couple, preparing a vegetarian feast, mastering soups & stews, making ice cream without a machine, whipping up delectable desserts, and more.
 
“People can relate to [TV shows with amateur chefs] more than when the pros compete against each other, it’s more approachable and relatable,” she says.
 
Kitamura is a passionate home cook and a full-time professional baker who learned her tricks from her chef father, growing up in the French Champagne vineyard countryside. Across the bottom of her website (where she lists her latest classes) is a quote from Julia Child: “Cooking well doesn’t mean cooking fancy.” Kitamura says that her most popular classes are a bit more advanced, like the choux pastry tutorials, but her dinner party series is also very popular. In that series, students can watch her cook an entire meal from scratch, and then enjoy it with her at her table. It’s not as hands-on as the other classess, but it’s a unique experience to learn in an unintimidating environment.

The classes she offers, which take place every few weeks at Uncommon Cafe where she is a baker by day, are a mix of what she wants to teach and what people have requested.
 
“It’s a mix of what I like to do most, and requests from customers. Working in the cafe is helpful because I can talk to the clients, they’ll see my poster, and give instant feedback,” she says. 
 
For Kitamura, French baking is a passion, so that was her main focus for Tartine & Maple. By talking to customers and getting feedback, she’s been able to offer a wide variety of other events she might not have thought to present, such as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cooking.
 
Her top tips for amateurs who are looking to ramp up their baking game are simple. She says to have a good attitude and don’t be afraid to fail. “If you are planning a dinner party, don’t wait for the day of the event to make your first macaron.”
 
While some recipes might not work the first time, she recommends practice, practice, practice. “Don’t set very high standards when you’re just starting out, because you’ve never done this before and it will take time. Fail now to succeed later.”
 
While a cooking class can definitely help you hone your skills in the kitchen, Kitamura also recommends doing research online, by watching YouTube videos and reading recipes. “Always look at the comments too. That’s where people might leave tips, tricks, or might have shared the mistakes they made. There’s so much you can learn.”
 
The Great British Baking Show premieres Friday, July 15 at 9 p.m. on KCTS 9. 
 

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Rebecca Bollwitt

Rebecca Bollwitt founded the award-winning blog Miss604.com in 2004 where she covers events and lifestyle news in the Metro Vancouver area. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook .

More stories by Rebecca Bollwitt

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