Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Ideal Home Show, Gregg Wallace is making sure he’s keeping the punters entertained in his ‘Gregg Wallace Restaurant’. We quizzed the MasterChef host about his love of food, and what he gets up to when he’s not facing a dinner plate.
Gregg Wallace is best known for co-hosting the MasterChef and Celebrity MasterChef series on the BBC, alongside fellow foodie John Torode. The pair have worked up an appetite for pushing chefs to their absolute extremes over the years, and their high-pressure challenges have produced equally spectacular and disastrous results.
Of course, Wallace’s no-nonsense, gregarious approach to judging in the kitchen has made him a bit of a fans’ favourite. There must have been plenty of great moments from the series. What have been the best memories?
“I think the aside from some fantastic dishes, what really stands out with MasterChef is the travelling we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy. We’ve been to some amazing places. Amongst my favourites I think are Thailand and India, where there is such a strong food culture and yet so different to our own.”
That said, the emergence of an incredibly rich, vibrant and varied culinary offering in Britain is something, undoubtedly, to be proud of. Does Gregg feel the diversity of food will continue to expand or have we reached a peak?
“We are very fortunate in this country to have such a broad range of food available to us. In London, especially, it’s an incredible offering. I can only think of one comparable city, really, and that’s New York. We have such cultural diversity and that is expressed brilliantly in a huge number of eateries. What does surprise me, and it’s happened in the past five years or so, is that Asian food has become our takeaway or cheap lunch of choice. I think that fish and chips have gone and the noodles have taken over. I reckon that will continue and I think we will take on more and more influences, especially I think the healthier cuisines.”
Starting his life as a greengrocer, Wallace knows the ins and outs of healthy, fresh and seasonal produce. As we enter Spring, what are his tips for finding the best vegetables?
“We are now at one of the most exciting times of the year for fresh produce, which you can pick up at the old-fashioned greengrocers. The first of the broad beans, the start of the runner beans and spring peas are all coming through. There’s the first of the Cornish new potatoes too, and the Jersey new potatoes are just around the corner. And, of course, the ultimate in luxury vegetables, asparagus!”
Aside from his love of vegetables, Wallace has another very well known food romance, perhaps even more deeply rooted.
“I do love puddings. Not desserts… desserts is a French word. In this country we have puddings, Sir.” With a huge grin across his face, he tells us, “I love them because they’re so unnecessary; they are purely an indulgence. They’re a present to ourselves and that why I love them. And when Britain was in the culinary wilderness of cuisine with the rest of Europe laughing at us, we were still world leaders in the big, thick, sticky sweet puddings. We do it very well.”
Outside of talking about, and sampling, plenty of amazing food, how does escape the culinary world?
“MasterChef takes up a lot of my life, but when I’m not doing that my favourite pastime, funnily enough, is fitness and gym work. I’m in the gym six days a week, sometimes twice a day. People don’t realise that I’m also a qualified rugby coach and I absolutely love my rugby. Another thing people don’t realise about me is I’m a very keen amateur historian, so my house is stacked full of reference books. All those things, and I love my children – I’m a single parent and I love spending time with them. It keeps me busy, and busy is good!”