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Int’l scholarship student is GBBO ‘Star Baker’

Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off is back and the weekly battle for the title of ‘Star Baker’ has begun. But this year, nestled among the contestants is Rahul Mandal, an engineering researcher at the University of Sheffield who came to the UK from India on a student scholarship seven years ago.

Nestled among the contestants is Rahul Mandal (front centre) an engineering researcher at the University of Sheffield. Photo: GBBO

Mandal came to the UK in 2010 on a scholarship to study for his PhD

Mandal, who describes his style as ‘East-meets-West,’ started baking cakes for colleagues at the Nuclear AMRC just two years ago, but has made it on to the ninth series of the hit baking competition and has even been crowned week two’s Star Baker for his show-stopping two-tier chocolate cake.

“Colleagues I knew during my PhD don’t have a clue that I can bake”

Born in Kolkata, Mandal came to the UK in 2010 on a scholarship to study for his PhD in optical metrology at Loughborough University. He joined the Nuclear AMRC in 2015, to develop innovative automated techniques for inspecting components for contamination or flaw.

The 30-year-old, who specialises in light-based measurement of engineered components, has now joined judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith in the infamous Bake Off tent to compete for the glory of being crowned a national treasure.

“Colleagues I knew during my PhD don’t have a clue that I can bake. Back in India, I didn’t bake either. All of them and actually myself are surprised that I made it into the tent,” Mandal explained.

“I try to bake alternate days. If it is something big, I develop and design it over the week and then execute it over the weekend.”

Just five years ago, Mandal confessed, he had “no idea” about The Great British Bake Off.

“One of my colleagues kind of pushed me to apply… He kept sending me the application link,” he said.

Having survived week one – ‘Biscuit Week’, which Mandal described as “nerve-wracking, not as stressful as writing my thesis”– he went on to beat the 10 remaining amateur hopefuls in ‘Cake Week’ for the title of Star Baker.

Speaking about his win, Mandal said: “It feels so surreal… I just hope I haven’t piqued too soon!”

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