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02-12-2022

Giuseppe Dell’Anno: the Italian baker italiano who is winning over the British audience

In 2021 he was the first Italian to win The Great British Bake Off. He has recently published his first recipe book, Giuseppe’s Italian Bakes

Giuseppe Dell'Anno with his first book where

Giuseppe Dell'Anno with his first book where he collected 60 recipes among which classic cakes, desserts and savoury leavened products

Was 2021 Italy’s year? It would seem so, looking at some of the medals and prizes won by our fellow countrymen, from the Eurovision contest to the Tokyo Olympics, from football to food. Food? Oh yes. The winner of the much loved television baking competition The Great British Bake Off, was indeed, Italian.

Giuseppe Dell’Anno appeared on British screens amongst the 12 contestants of the famous format which launched in 2010 soon becoming a global phenomenon, counting many spin off series (from the Professional Bake Off to sewing, pottery and jewellery contests).

Giuseppe became immediately one of the favourite amongst the bakers thanks to his subtle irony, humble attitude and of course, incredible skills which eventually saw him crowned champion. A year has gone by, and his first cookbook has just come out. Aptly named Giuseppe’s Italian Bakes, it’s a fantastic collection of traditional, regional recipes from all over the country, but it’s much more than that. It’s a personal story of someone who, like many of us, finds himself in the middle of two cultural realities and the wish and the need to maintain our own identity even if we’re well and truly embedded in our adoptive country.

A picture of the day of the semifinal in the big tent of Bake Off. Along with Giuseppe, Juergen, Crystelle and Chigs

A picture of the day of the semifinal in the big tent of Bake Off. Along with Giuseppe, Juergen, Crystelle and Chigs

And Giuseppe's story, of how he took up baking and ended up at the Bake Off, is a beautiful one. When we meet (during his book launch evening), I ask him to start from the beginning. “My father was a chef, so I've always seen him in the kitchen and have always had excellent home cooked food. All handmade, genuine. It was a given that once I became a father, I wanted to make my children experience the same upbringing”.

Dell'Anno has three kids, and worked in engineering before sending in the application to the tv show, not thinking too much of it and motivated primarily by the endless lockdown boredom. He lives in Bristol with his family but, once filming was over, he had accepted an excellent job in Milan: more responsibilities, more career prospects and above all a return to Italy. However once the Bake Off aired several doors opened up: the chance to publish a book was simply too good to let it pass by.

So he waved goodbye to Milan and his full time job to dedicate his attention to everything that winning the program entails: the book, but also cooking shows, demos and TV appearances (for example as a guest judge at Bake Off Italia and in conversation with Iginio Massari at the Italian Embassy in London talking all things panettone).

Did he have any qualms about leaving a secure career path for a new, possibly uncertain one? “Oh yeah, sure. It was a tricky decision, mainly because in Milan I had a job that I really liked and many friends. It was like taking a leap of faith, I went from a job with regular hours and income to not knowing exactly what I'll be doing in two months!”.

But not all is forgotten and his engineering background surfaces subtly throughout his recipes, in the precise methods and in how the ingredients are carefully measured out for both the European and American markets (in 'cups'). He says that when he found his father's recipe book, typically lacking any detailed instruction and measurements, he had to use his best judgement for the processes and his mathematical mind quite a bit to convert the quantities. In fact, as his dad cooked for cruise ship passengers, his recipes included kilos, not grams, of flour!

Giuseppe Dell’Anno with two other stars of Bake Off, Rahul Mandal and Andrew Smyth, and the special cake that they both signed together 

Giuseppe Dell’Anno with two other stars of Bake Off, Rahul Mandal and Andrew Smyth, and the special cake that they both signed together 

It will certainly take a while to get used to the new life, but at the moment Giuseppe is very busy, presenting the book up and down the country and meeting the public. What effect did this enormous, sudden notoriety have on him? “Good question!” he exclaims - “The popularity of the Bake Off is huge, but what I didn't expect is how massive it is on social media, so much so that the production offers a lot of support to the competitors, to prepare them for the 'afterwards', the exposure and the risk of trolling”.

Dell'Anno has so far only had encouraging and positive comments and a lot of friendly attitude. “Or maybe I don't notice the negative ones!” he laughs. With over 250,000 followers watching his video recipes on Instagram, it seems it is a channel on which he is comfortable enough yet he does admit that before the Bake Off he only used Facebook to keep in touch with friends in Italy. And, new to him of course, he's almost surprised to be occasionally greeted and recognised at random, often by people who've watched the show outside the UK.

It is through the social platform - he explains - that the contestants of past seasons are extremely supportive with the new ones, offering a considerable network to rely on, and so he enthusiastically found himself in the same position a few weeks ago when the Bake Off started again. And it’s worth to note that compared to other 'food influencers', Dell'Anno is really friendly and responsive to those who approach him. When I point out that it doesn't always happen and it’s often the opposite, he tells me that it seems only fair to be polite and I couldn't be more in agreement.

And speaking of communication, I ask him how, in his view, can authentic Italian cuisine be communicated to a foreign audience.

“I actually still don't know the answer, I do wonder the same” - he admits - “because I'm waiting to see how the book will be received.” Born in Gaeta, Dell'Anno has put together recipes from all over the peninsula as well as his hometown, including well known classics and regional delights. He is keen to point out that his recipes are truly Italian, with ingredients and methods known to italians but which elsewhere (here in the United Kingdom as well as in the United States where the volume is about to be released) might put some people off, for example the idea of using  lard in shortcrust pastry. “In America they will be pretty blunt, so I look forward to reading comments or reviews and thus understand whether or not I have managed to communicate the authenticity of our cuisine, in my case both sweet and savoury baked goods”.

Giuseppe Dell’Anno in a picture by Matt Russell 

Giuseppe Dell’Anno in a picture by Matt Russell 

When dealing with the demanding practice bakes for the programme, he always added an 'Italian twist' to everything he prepared, nevertheless sticking to the basis of British cooking. “Here desserts and cakes are very different from ours, particularly when it comes to textures and taste. We will see how the public will welcome a different type of patisserie, especially in instances quite alien to the foreign palate such as pastiera”. And it seems our traditions will stand a good chance of gathering attention and appreciation through his posts and of course, his book: just a quick look at the recipes and the elegant photography of Matt Russell and you’ll want to get the stand mixer out. Useful QR codes load videos of Giuseppe explaining a technique or dough in depth to those not too familiar with those.

And then there’s the nostalgia for us, expats; the memories through cakes and flour: the Neapolitan Danubio, omnipresent snack at all school parties in the 80s; the torta della nonna, the brutti ma buoni, the bunuet; the deliziose, round biscuity pastries that my grandmother used to bring every Sunday lunch gathering.

The whole of Italy enters the pages of Giuseppe's Italian Bakes; let’s hope it’s just the beginning of a global baking journey.


Dal Mondo

Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose

by

Federica Carr

A British citizen from Naples, obsessive scuba diver, digital marketing manager Monday to Friday, foodie at any given time

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