Back to his baking roots

Peter and Mich
Peter and Mich

THE presenter of the new ITV1 programme Britain’s Best Bakery has paid homage to his Ballymoney grandmother boasting she ‘probably gave me my baking roots’.

According to Peter Sidwell, now an award-winning chef, cookery book writer and restaurateur, his late granny Sadie Sidwell (nee McCotter), who was born in Rodden Foot, was a ‘terrific traditional Irish cook’ and made the most amazing cakes especially apple pie.

Peter, whose father Geoff was born in the Robinson Memorial Hospital and grew up in the town before the family moved to England, frequently visits the Borough to see family and friends and has fond memories of cooking with his granny.

Speaking to the Times, Peter explained: “Both my dad and his sister Eileen were born in Ballymoney to my great-grandfather and great-grandmother Gordon and Mary McCotter who were from Rodden Foot. They later lived in Leslie Hill where my grandad (also called Geoff) raised poultry on part of the estate. He loved fly fishing and often fished the River Bush for his favourite brown trout. I inherited his love of fishing and my granddad’s fishing rods. My dad went over to Ballymoney in September and he saw the owner of Leslie Hill and he could remember my grandad which was lovely.

“My grandad moved first to England in search of work and the rest of the family moved to Hereford in 1954. I was born sometime later in Wellington, Somerset but raised from 12 months old in Pocklington, East Yorkshire. My granny passed away a few years ago but her sister Ann McCotter still lives in Ballymoney and sister Jean Dillon lives in Dunloy.

“My granny was a terrific traditional Irish cook and over the years that never left her. I have many fond memories of seeing her cooking away, she made a mean apple pie - and that’s probably where I got my love of cooking and my baking roots from. I remember seeing her in the kitchen cooking a family meal, or baking something, but as a young energy filled boy I was always being sent outside to play, where I could get into less trouble. But it was her passion that inspired me to continue.

“Baking was the first thing I felt I was truly good at; when at school, cooking came easy to me and I really enjoyed the process of creating something from raw ingredients. Over the years I have immersed myself further and further into the world of food and cooking until it has become a hobby and a career. I am very lucky to be able to make a living from my hobby and passion; I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Broadcast for the first time last Monday (November 26), the daily programme is a Shine TV Production (makers of Masterchef) and will run for four weeks searching for the ‘best bakery in the UK’.

Alongside Mich Turner MBE (TV chef, author and owner of Little Venice Cake Company), Peter will be one of the judges sampling the delicacies of the country’s favourite independent, family run and community bakeries, tasting and critiquing their way through breads, cakes, pastries and pies.

Peter added: “The fact that there are not too many young bakers in the industry has surprised me. Children need to be encouraged at a young age and I definitely was by my granny Sadie. We need to get young people excited about baking and help them realise there are careers out there in this field.

“We hope to take the search for Britain’s best bakery over to Northern Ireland next year. I also plan to bring my wife and young family over to Northern Ireland next year to meet friends and family as my best man at our wedding Brian Murry moved back and its been to long since I had a good soda bread.

“So while I’m over I’ll definitely be popping into Ballymoney and seeing the cooking delights they have there.”

* Wanted Britians’ Best Bakery for next year’s show! Any brilliant bakeries in Northern Ireland, please send your nominations to @bestbakery2012 (Twitter) or email

Britain’s Best Bakery, 4pm weekdays on ITV1