The other day I wanted to make a flourless chocolate tart and ended up choosing a delicious recipe by the model turned food writer Sophie Dahl. In recent years, there have been a number of models who have turned to baking/cooking, including Lorraine Pascale, and Ruby Tandoh who was in the 2013 series of The Great British Bake Off. Clare Zerny ( or The Queen of Tarts as she is now known!), is certainly a multi talented lady. Not only did she win ‘Supermodel of Great Britain’ at the age of 16, but she then became a journalist for Marie Claire magazine. Clare always had an affinity with baking so she studied for a Professional Patisserie Diploma’ at Westiminster Kingsway, where she graduated with distinction.
Clare Zerny now does pop up shops and has baked for private commissions, including weddings. Style & the Bride recently caught up with her to find out amongst other things what she would bake if someone commissioned her for their wedding and what’s next for her…
A signature macaron tree by Clare Zerny
I read in your biography that you have always been interested in baking and started making fairy cakes at Brownies whilst dreaming of owning a teashop? How old were you in the time when you started getting into baking?
I’m not sure how old I was, but as far back as I can remember, I was in the kitchen with my mum, watching and learning as she baked. I found an old careers day folder a while ago where I’d written that my dream job was to own a tea shop! Although these days I’m a coffee drinker and my career path certainly digressed. However, considering where I am now, I clearly should have listened to my 13 year old self more!
At the age of 16, you won ‘Supermodel of Great Britain,’ moved to London and travelled the world. Did baking take a bit of a back seat then?
It was always a hobby until much later, when I finished school and went off travelling and modelling at 18, I was living all over the place so had little access to a kitchen for baking. I never stopped researching though! Luckily I’ve never struggled with my weight, In fact I was half way through a doughnut when a I was scouted by a modelling agency in Euston station.
You then made the transition into journalism, how did that come about?
A girl from my agency had started working in magazines and was really enjoying it. When my model booker went to work at Elle, I contacted her and asked if I could come in and do work experience. From there, I ended up getting an internship, then a job at Marie Claire in the beauty department. I loved the shooting and writing that went with the position, I just never got the hang of being in an office every day or being told what to do – managing my own business suits me much better!
When did you decide to take baking more seriously?
When I was working at Oxfam, I signed up to a part-time patisserie course at Westminster Kingsway and I quickly realised it was the one day I really looked forward to each week. I started renting my living room out and saved up the money to do the full time course. I signed up and that was it, no going-back, I handed in my notice and just went for it.
You are now a food journalist and bake for private commissions, is that correct?
Yes, I’ve always really enjoy the writing, I’ve also been busy working with Aldi recently, shooting recipe videos for them. I do love the catering aspect too, dessert tables for small to medium sized events are my thing, I love coming up with ideas with my take on patisserie and getting to be creative with my baking. Whilst working in magazines, I styled a lot of still life shoots which really helps me when styling my food.
Can brides-to-be commission you to bake items for their wedding?
Yes definitely, although I’m not traditional cake maker, I like to create dessert tables or big pieces like my large tiered macaron – basically things that are a bit different. I have three bespoke ‘dessert trees’ that were made for me by a sculptor and I like to create scenes by dressing them up in foliage and adorning them with the patisserie.
If you were asked to make things for a wedding, what would you make/bake? Do you have a signature bake/style?
That really depends on the brief, especially for a wedding. If I’m asked for my ideas, it would probably be my trees, dressed with tartlets and surrounded by other mini delights like macarons and petit choux.
What do you think of The Great British Bake Off? Are you a fan of the programme?
Absolutely, I love it! Seeing Nadya’s confidence grow in this last series really resonated with me, it was just so lovely to see her realise her own potential.
What’s next for Clare Zerny?
I’ve just shot a Christmas campaign with The Telegraph and Aldi which will be out soon in print and recipe videos online. In the meantime, I want to try and concentrate on my own Queen of Tarts blog as there’s so many ideas I want to get out. I’ve a few catering projects on too and am working with a video director on some baking recipe short-films – they’re something a bit different so rather excited! I also only moved two months ago and am mid planning kitchen renovations. I am very excited that I’ll finally have a decent sized space to bake and shoot in but it is going to make baking a tad tricky in the meantime!
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