Great British Bake Off's Freya Cox: Scarborough vegan baker talks about Christmas traditions and life after GBBO

Former Great British Bake Off contestant Freya Cox has revealed what it was like to go from eating meat to becoming vegan - and how it changed her Christmas routine.

Freya Cox has been preparing for Christmas with her family.
Freya Cox has been preparing for Christmas with her family.

From next month, the 20-year-old baker, from Scarborough, will have been vegan for two years.

But she's not alone in her family, as her father, Simon, has also been vegan for seven years.

Now Freya Cox reveals how her vegan journey started and what life has been like since appearing on the Great British Bake Off.

Scarborough student Freya Cox, who competed in the latest series of The Great British Bake Off. (Photo: Channel 4)

"I decided to turn vegan when me and my two best friends, both vegan, were going through a drive-through. They were like, 'what do you want?' and I said 'oh I’ll get a chicken burger'," Freya said.

"I remember both of them looked at me and they said 'you know an animal has died for that'. They were kind of joking but not really.

"Before that, I hadn't really thought about it and I was thinking 'oh I kind of feel rubbish about myself right now', so I ended up not having the chicken burger and thought I'd give [veganism] a go.

"I [initially] decided to go vegan for a month, just to test it out, and then I never looked back. I never went vegetarian and then vegan, I just decided to go vegan because it worked really well for my dad, who is already vegan, so he already cooks."

Freya wowed the judges with her vegan-inspired recipes and entertained viewers with her snazzy outfits. (Photo: Channel 4)

Not only were Christmas gatherings organised differently for Freya before Covid - with her family visiting her grandmother and seeing her cousin and aunt - but dinners were very different too.

"Before I went vegan, I was a massive meat eater. I was the kind of person who thought without meat 'it's not a real meal', which when I look back now I think I was [wrong]," she said.

"We had all the [Christmas classics], we had turkey, pigs in blankets, I think my gran cooked beef, although I never really liked eating beef.

"My Christmas dinner would be filled with all the usual meats that everyone would eat and now I couldn't think of anything worse.

"I don't miss it as you can get really good vegan pigs in blankets; we've got loads in the freezer ready for Christmas, so no missing out.

"Nowadays, so many people tell me, 'I do eat meat but way less [than before]', and I think that’s what it’s all about, creating that conversation."

Due to the new Covid variant, Omicron, and the daily surge of cases, Freya and her family decided to keep Christmas low key with just her immediate family spending Christmas Day at her house.

"After Covid last year we ended up having Christmas with just my immediate family and then my aunt (who is vegan), she came round with her uncle and we just had a really chilled Christmas at mine," she said.

"I baked loads of things and we all just ate cake, it was really nice. This year we are just doing the same so my immediate family will be visiting my house.

"It was [and is] sad to not go round to my gran’s house but I think it's just safer, less stressful for her and everyone could see each other when it was safe. Hopefully this is not going to be forever."

With a father who is vegan and a mum and brother who are both vegetarian, Freya said the transition wasn't too difficult for her. She describes a typical Christmas dinner at the Cox household.

"We have vegan pigs in blankets, we also have these quorn tempura things which are really good and vegan duck rolls with hoisin sauce," Freya said.

"It’s really random, not the usual Christmas dinner. That’s not because you can’t cook a vegan Christmas dinner - most people do - it’s just a bit of a faff. Since there aren’t many of us, we just put the food in the freezer."

Freya revealed she has been baking more since she left the show than before and Christmas is no exception. She’s planning on baking a classic yule log and some frangipane mince pies, as they are her mum’s favourite.

When asked what she enjoyed the most about being on the Great British Bake Off, Freya said: "Meeting all of the people, all of the moments outside of filming.

"It all felt like a massive holiday; hanging out with your close friends, playing games, meeting [these new] people absolutely changed my life.

"I'm really close to Lizzie [Acker]. Usually I go round to see her most weeks. We've got loads of plans, things to do and we just take lots of little trips together. She's become one of the best people I’ve ever met.”

Freya admits that the show has been a big learning experience for her and she’s come out of it stronger and a better baker.

"I think what I’ve learnt from the show is to massively believe that if you really want to do something, just go with it," she said.

"You take away so many skills; I didn’t realise I could bake as much as I could [until I was on the show]. I always loved it, but I never took it very seriously, it was just really eye-opening.

"I was also really inspired by what the other contestants were baking. I never thought I could put certain flavours together, so it was a huge experience.

"I made Giuseppe's Joconde [Imprime Dessert] from week four of the show but a vegan version and that was incredible."

Freya has taken a year out of university to focus on a few projects which are currently in the works for next year - so watch this space.

You can follow Freya's journey on her Instagram profile @freyacox_