When I ask Gregg Wallace what keeps bringing him back to the MasterChef kitchen he says: “The money.” It’s a blunt answer, delivered surprisingly seriously. But coming from someone who can wax lyrical about the depths of flavour from a thimble of food, it’s clear there’s more to it than simply punching in.
“I like telly. I think you can tell,” Wallace says, as he returns for the twelfth series alongside fellow judge John Torode. “I don’t think you can fake it. I like doing telly and I like people. I like chatting to people. And we get to do some incredible stuff. We get to go to some really cool places.”
Wallace is happy to see the return of the amateur series, too. While he’s among the hosts on the professional series and lines up alongside Torode once again for the celebrity version, it’s the home cooks he prefers to watch rustle up the grub.
“It’s just real people. The celebs are celebs, the pros are pros – the amateurs are just people out of their homes. I just love to see them achieving stuff. I think it’s brilliant.”
And the former greengrocer says those amateurs are going back to basics this year. The contestants have ditched the gizmos.
“What I am surprised by is the lack of gadgets, which I’m pleased about. There’s just a reliance on cookery skill. We seem to have lost dry ice, which I’m pleased about. We seem to be seeing less water baths, which I’m pleased about.” (It was filmed a while back, so we’ll forgive him forgetting the water bath that turns up in the first episode).
Wallace confesses that it’s his partner Torode who likes people to be “unusual” with their flavours or cooking techniques. He sees himself as much more conservative.
“I’m terribly, terribly boring. I’d be really happy if everyone came on and made a roast dinner and a crumble.”
This provides a neat segue into talk of puds. Wallace after all is well known for his love of a good dessert.
“There’s a phenomenal amount of good puddings this year,” he confirms. “And they are a delight.
“The reason they’re a delight is because they’re so bloody unnecessary,” he admits. “They really are just an absolute self-indulgent treat, aren’t they? You have to eat to live but you don’t have to submerge yourself up to your earlobes in something sweet and sticky. It’s a fantastic thing to do.”
We’d talked earlier about his pretty impressive fitness regime, which sees him in the gym six times a week. He also continues to log what he eats in his calorie counting app. But while Wallace reveals that the most common question he’s asked about MasterChef is ‘is the food cold when you eat it?’ (John Torode debunked this for us earlier in the year) I wanted to know whether his daily calories ever added up so rapidly he’d had to cut filming.
“Oh no! That would never happen,” he laughs. “You couldn’t do that anyway. You’re not eating a great deal of food. You’re having a mouthful of each plate. So if you taste eight plates of food you’re only really eating the equivalent of a light lunch.”
It’s a good job really, otherwise it would be keeping the weight off that doesn’t get tougher than this…
MasterChef returns tonight at 8:00pm on BBC1