Gregg Wallace: ‘Food can never be boring!’

TV food connoisseur Gregg Wallace explains to The Moment Magazine why good food is as much about who’s around the table as it is what’s on the plate

‘Have I ever found myself getting bored of food?’ Wallace begins, as we sit with him in a quiet, boutique hotel in south London, not a hundred miles from where it all began for the 48-year-old. ‘Never. It’s ever-changing. It changes with the seasons, it changes with consumer trends, it changes with imports bringing us varieties and styles that we’d never before tasted. How can you ever get bored of that?’

‘What’s always entertained me with food is that it’s about imagination. The market stall we used to have when the company first began was a lesson in basic raw essentials. We handled quality produce, of course, but nothing that we supplied was ready for immediate consumption; or if it was, it wouldn’t have you imploring your mates to rush over and buy some.

‘What we had was a basic ingredient, if you like – a type of product that required preparation, knowledge, innovation, creativity and, in some cases, no small amount of patience. It needed to be nurtured, and transformed into something 10 times the sum of its parts. That’s what cooking is all about. And that’s why it can never be boring, because whatever path you take on one occasion in creating fantastic food, on another it will be a completely different path, and different again the time after that. The possibilities, as they say, are endless…’

That the charismatic Elephant & Castle-born businessman and presenter has elevated his status from Covent Garden greengrocer to one of the most recognisable names in British cuisine is worthy of mention… even more so considering Wallace would rarely be seen near a frying pan these days. These days he leaves the culinary creations to his MasterChef contestants.

‘You call them contestants, I call them victims. The series has been a massive part of my life, and I suppose the danger is that people only recognise me for what I’ve done there. But the fact is I built up a company with an annual turnover of £7.5million, so there’s something else to me other than criticising people for burning their Dauphinoise potatoes!,’ he laughs.

Gregg and MasterChef co-host John Torode

The restaurateur has never been shy to offer his opinion, a stubbornness and brazen honesty that maybe stems from a tough upbringing.

‘In my parents’ time the pub was the beginning and end of the social life. There wasn’t anything else apart from the cinema. You’d use the pub during the week to relax or socialise, and at the weekend it was the setting for party time. It was a different era – different certainly because now the idea of socialising with a drink isn’t just reserved for “that place down the road”.

‘What I love now is that people have brought the community aspect of the pub into their homes, yet despite them doing that, food remains at the heart of entertaining. You don’t sit a bunch of friends around a table, get a bottle of whisky out and pass it around; you cook, engage, entertain, even show off. That’s the power of food and that will always be there, make no mistake. And we’ve never been in a better place as regards our passion for what we eat.

‘It doesn’t even matter where you live nowadays; there are so many influences from all around the globe. For instance, I really like parts of London which have big ethnic communities because they still have shops. So if you go to Turkish areas, African areas, Middle Eastern areas, and now Polish areas, you’ll see shops which are open well into the middle of the night, selling an incredible array of goods and produce. That’s what modern cuisine is, to me – people’s shopping reflecting the world as a whole, and keeping communities together.

Gregg Wallace’s autobiography Life On a Plate is out now, published by Orion, priced £18.99.

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