Masterton’s Courtnay Fafeita will be a contestant on The Great Kiwi Bake Off starting on Thursday. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED
Courtnay Fafeita hopes she’s whipped up the right recipe for success after getting the spatula out for this season’s Great Kiwi Bake Off.
The popular baking show returns to television screens on Thursday night, and Masterton’s Fafeita is part of a new batch of contestants who will be showcasing their baking skills to the rest of New Zealand.
Although most would consider a contestant to be close to a seasoned pro, Fafeita said she only took up the trade in a serious manner four years ago after giving up another profession she was much more renowned for.
The 28-year-old made a name for herself on the athletics field, representing New Zealand in discus and hammer throwing and was lucky enough to be in the training squad for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Discovering athletics wasn’t feasible for her to continue with during her university years, she decided to take up baking after watching a few cooking shows.
“Baking wasn’t something I overly did much as a younger child,” she said.
“I didn’t even come to do it until university age, where I replaced the discus with the baking side of things.
“I don’t know where the urge to do it came from, but I feel the rise of cooking shows is probably where I discovered I had a natural ability for baking.”
Fafeita said the free time in lockdown last year helped spruce up her baking skills even further, which led her to start posting her finished products on social media.
Her selection of creative cakes immediately caused a stir among followers, who would leave comments encouraging her to enter a television show.
“I felt like I had a bit of baking practice when applications for the [Great Kiwi Bake Off] came up, so I thought, “why not”.”
With thousands of applications coming in for the show with only 10 to be chosen, Fafeita said she never believed she had a shot. However, after thinking nothing would ever come from it, she suddenly found herself cast on the show, which took her by surprise.
“I don’t know what happened there,” Fafeita said in explaining her reaction.
“It’s one of those things you apply for, never really anticipating that you’ll get in.”
Although she said her time on the show was an exciting “once in a lifetime thing”, where she met some amazing people. Fafeita also described the entire experience as no piece of cake.
“It’s one thing to be in your home kitchen doing your own baking, it’s a whole other thing to be around 10 other people with camera crews filming you,” she said.
“I’ve never been more scared of cracking an egg. I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to butcher this. There’s going to be shell everywhere’.
“It’s quite terrifying.”
Each 90-minute episode had three challenges, Technical, Signature and Showstopper.
While nerve-racking, Fafeita said she had come away from the show a far better baker than she did going into it.
“Weirdly enough, my confidence has grown from it despite having people judging your food,” she said.
“Everyone’s their own harshest critic. I know I am. Before I left for Auckland I said to mum, “see ya in a few days”. But it makes you realise you’re not as bad as you might think you are.”
She said she was very nervous about seeing the show on air for the first time but said she would have family and friends over to help calm her nerves.
“My first bake in the kitchen I’m so scared to watch because I don’t remember what I said,” she said.
Asked what her signature bake was, Fafeita said she had a love for cakes.
“Definitely cakes. I like the creativity you can have with them. Also, what I love about baking is that you get to share that with other people. You can make something and bring it to others, whereas you mainly do it for yourself in athletics.
“It’s the part I enjoy about baking the most.”
Although Fafeita knows the show’s outcome, she wasn’t allowed to share how far she got.
One can only hope by the end of the series, she didn’t get the wooden spoon.