This week, we caught up with the hugely talented Benjamina Ebuehi - baker, food stylist and co-founder of The Sister Table a food and lifestyle brand which she set up with her sister, and which includes hosted brunches for creative women.
Benjamina made it to the quarter finals of the 2016 Great British Bake Off, which gave her the confidence to pursue her love of baking full time. She is also an Ambassador for Luminary Bakery - a social enterprise which offers skills-training, paid employment and a supportive community to help women, at a social and economic disadvantage, to thrive. Benjamina has her first cookbook coming out this autumn.
Newnham: What were you like growing up? How would your friends and family have described you?
Ebuehi: Growing up, friends and family would have described me as quite hardworking and competitive. I always did well at school and my mum often reminds me of how I would win every single game at all my own birthday parties! But they’d also say I was kind-hearted.
And I always had a big smile on my face!
Newnham: When did you start thinking about food as a career?
Ebuehi: From a young age, I’ve always loved cooking, eating, and being in the kitchen. But the idea of being a chef and working in a professional kitchen didn’t appeal to me much so food just remained a hobby until Great British Bake Off (GBBO).
Once I’d finished the programme, I got exposed to so many cool and interesting options within the food industry that I’d never heard of before and so decided to just give it a go.
Newnham: What was the experience on GBBO like and what impact did it have on your career?
Ebuehi: Being on The Great British Bake Off was such an incredible experience and has given me such a great platform. I had been a fan of the show for years and couldn’t believe that I’d actually be going into the tent.
Whilst the experience was mostly enjoyable, it was definitely much more intense and stressful than I anticipated. All of my evenings and weekends were spent baking and practicing and my technical skills were really stretched and challenged. But a real highlight was meeting and becoming friends with eleven other wonderful bakers! We get on so well and still meet up when we can.
Before going on the show, I was working as a teaching assistant with the view to becoming a maths teacher the following year. But working with food is much more fun and I wouldn’t change it!
Newnham: Some of your work now includes being a food stylist – what tips have you got for the many foodies who want to take great pics of their food?
Ebuehi: My top tip would be to always use natural light when taking your photos!
The food is the star of the show and so your photos should be easy to take - good lighting really makes a world of difference.
Another important tip is to not worry about buying lots of fancy equipment, especially when you’re just starting out. These days, our phone cameras are more than capable of capturing beautiful shots meaning you don’t have to fork out for an expensive camera. The same applies with sourcing props. Charity shops are amazing for finding unique plates, cutlery and linens that you could use to make your photos stand out.
Newnham: Good tips. Can you tell us about The Sister Table which you started with your sister – what is the mission behind it?
Ebuehi: My sister and I are both creatives - she’s a graphic designer - and we love hosting our friends round regularly for food. We thought it would be a great idea to replicate that on a bigger scale, and create a space where women could come together, eat good food, engage in conversation and build relationships. And so The Sister Table was born! We host regular intimate brunches for all women in different locations around London and collaborate with other female creatives for each one.
Newnham: Love this. You are also an ambassador for Luminary Bakery – can you tell us more about it and its mission?
Ebuehi: Luminary Bakery is a social enterprise that uses baking as a tool to empower women. They work with women who have been socially or economically disadvantaged and equip them with employable - and life - skills with the aim of breaking generational cycles of abuse, prostitution and criminal activity.
I absolutely love working with Luminary and I’m so inspired by their hearts for women in their community, and the way in which we can use our own gifts and talents to benefit others.
Newnham: What’s next for you?
Ebuehi: I’m currently writing my first cookbook which is all very exciting and should be out this autumn. It’s about about one of my favourite things - cakes! It will be full of modern cakes with new and creative flavours, with plenty on tips on how to style them too.
We can't wait!