Masterchef: the Professionals – meet new judge Marcus Wareing

Michel Roux Jr's replacement on reducing contestants to tears and why he suddenly has a smile on his face...

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We quizzed Marcus Wareing about his taste in television and being MasterChef’s Mr Nasty…

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Did you have a favourite programme as a child?
My main memory is of watching Coronation Street or Brookside with my mum. Never EastEnders because we were northerners – I grew up in Southport. From the age of 11, I was usually out working with my dad in the evenings and at the weekends.

What did your father do?
He was a fruit and potato merchant. After school I’d go to the warehouse and clean up, sweep up, make tea… I absolutely loved it, partly because it was chance to be with him. He was a workaholic and never at home.

It must run in the family. How do you relax on a rare night off?
Boxing and football matches. I’ll watch boxing on a Saturday night, then tape what goes on in America overnight so I can watch it for another three hours on Sunday morning. It really annoys my wife!

What do you enjoy about boxing?
I did it as a kid, from the age of nine up to 18. At that age I was very shy and didn’t want to do anything where I was reliant upon teammates. The self-discipline was probably good training for being a chef. 

Any clashes over the remote?
No squabbles, but my wife and I differ in the way we watch. She will happily read a book or a newspaper at the same time, whereas I can’t. When I’m doing something, I want to focus on it.

What can’t you stand?
I’m sick to death of CBeebies because of my six-year-old daughter. And don’t get me started on Peppa Pig!

Do you allow a radio in your Michelin-starred kitchen at The Berkeley hotel in London?
No chance – I refused on principle: you shouldn’t have music in the kitchen. But at my latest restaurant, Tredwell’s [also in London], the general manager wired the sound system into the kitchen as well, which came as a massive surprise to me. The chefs were allowed to choose a couple of tracks during the morning mise en place.

Did Michel Roux Jr mind you stepping into his MasterChef: the Professionals whites?
He was the first person on the phone to congratulate me. I’m a graduate of the Roux School: I was working for his father Albert when I was 19 and I feel like part of the family. For me, it’s a privilege. It’s the one show I always wanted to do.

As guest judge you’ve reduced contestants to tears. Did you know you’re considered the show’s Mr Nasty?Yes, but to be fair to me, I’ve worked in professional kitchens since I was 14 and run them since I was 25. When you come into an environment like MasterChef, you say it as it is. I don’t say it with a smile on my face all the time because I take my job very seriously.

Yet you seem positively jovial in the new series…
Professionally, I feel like I’m in a great place. I’ve stopped driving myself like a lunatic and I’m starting to focus on other things – and that does make me smile.

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Masterchef: the Professionals begins on BBC2 tonight (4th November) at 8:00pm