Celebrity MasterChef’s Stephen Hendry: “the only time I watch snooker is when I’m paid to”

"I work for the BBC and ITV4, so obviously I’m watching a lot of games during commentary, but when I come home the last thing I want to watch is more snooker"

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How do you start the day?

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If I’m in the kitchen I’ll have Talksport on in the background. If I’m just lounging around I tend to have cooking channels on more than anything else.

Swotting up for MasterChef?

Yeah! In terms of TV chefs I like Rick Stein, but my favourite cooking show is The Layover (Travel Channel) with Anthony Bourdain, who travels the world eating and drinking weird stuff.

Are you an adventurous eater?

I do a lot of travelling to China for snooker. My first visit was in 1987 and I hated it; I was 17 years old and I wouldn’t try anything. But now I love it. I’ve been to about 50 different cities in China, and I’ve eaten some pretty weird stuff along the way. In the north of China in a city called Harbin I was taken to this exclusive restaurant: dishes included wolf, starfish, and then the strangest one was bear’s claw. I think it’s illegal to shoot them, but like most of the things in China they say it’s “very good for the man; keeps the man strong”.

I bet you didn’t serve anything like that to the judges on MasterChef…

I don’t think the BBC would have liked that! I wouldn’t say I’m a very inventive cook; I have lots of books, and I like to cook from a recipe. Peking duck is one of my favourite things to eat. In China, you get the skin and it’s served with popping candy, so you get the fat of the duck and the sugar of the candy that melts in the mouth.

Why is snooker so popular in China?

I get recognised in China more than the UK now. I’ve played matches in shopping malls in front of 4,000 people. The Chinese like individual sports that take a lot of dedication and time to master. They really understand the hours of practice needed to perfect it.

How many hours of practice have you put in to perfect your game?

I was given a small table for Christmas just before my 13th birthday. Within a couple of weeks I had made my first 50 break. I didn’t have coaches then – I just used to watch the top players on TV and copy the shots they were playing.

If you’re not commentating or playing, do you still watch snooker for fun?

No, the only time I watch snooker is when I’m paid to! I work for the BBC and also ITV4, so obviously I’m watching a lot of games during commentary. But when I come home the last thing I want to watch is more snooker.

So what’s your guilty TV pleasure?

Eating in front of the telly with Hollyoaks. My girlfriend [actress Lauren Thundow] and I watch it and think, “Why do we watch this?” Love Island was the same – we were seduced by that this summer.

What’s it like sharing a commentary box with Steve “Nugget” Davis?

We get on great now, but we would never have socialised together when we were battling for World Championships. If we’re commentating, there will be six or seven of us there for the BBC, so we’ll all go out together, play golf or go to the casino.

Snooker players must have a hell of a poker face…

Everyone seems to play poker the same way they played snooker! Steve Davis never plays a hand; he just sits there for hours and is very patient. Whereas Jimmy White and Willie Thorne are the complete opposite: they want to get their money in straight away and go for it.

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Celebrity MasterChef begins on Wednesday 16 August at 8pm on BBC1