To launch series five of the Radio Times Podcast, host Kelly-Anne Taylor is joined by the double BAFTA-winning TV chef Big Zuu.


Born Zuhair Hassan to a mother from Sierra Leone and a dad from Lebanon, he grew up on the Mozart Estate in West London.

He started cooking aged nine to, as he says,"help around the house" when his mother fell pregnant with his younger brother. It was while he was studying to become a social worker at university that he decided to drop out in pursuit of a full-time music career.

After making a name for himself as a grime MC/rapper, he turned the heads of TV commissioners when he started posting videos of himself on social media cooking. That landed him his Dave show Big Zuu's Big Eats.

In this episode, Big Zuu talks about his love of Strictly, why his mum thought he was possessed by the devil and learning Latin with Boris Johnson.

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This interview was originally published in Radio Times magazine.

What's the view from your sofa?

I’ve got a massive sofa. Big up DFS! They gave it to me for some social media posts. It has charging points, reclines, turns into a bed – it’s proper cool. The TV is also massive – 82 inches. On the shelf I’ve got a few accolades – the BAFTA and some broadcast awards, pictures of the lads, a painting from my sister and a fake plant.

You live with four of your friends in London — who controls the remote?

Me! I’m a very good selector – I watch a lot of Action Bronson’s F**K, That’s Delicious and other food bloggers on YouTube. I don’t watch much terrestrial TV, but I have been watching Strictly.

I wouldn’t have had you down as a Strictly fan…

I watched the first episode with my mum because she loves it, and since then I’ve been keeping up – Bobby Brazier is the most beautiful man to ever live!

Would you ever go on Strictly? Do you have rhythm?

They’ve asked me before… Yes, I’ve got rhythm! You should be able to tell! I can’t do a quick step or a flamenco or whatever – but I’d try. If I went on Strictly, I’d want to have a love scandal. Do a Stacey Dooley. Sorry Stace!

So, you’re a natural on the dance floor — but were you always a good cook? When did you start?

I was nine. My mum was pregnant and I did it to help around the house. I was good from the off – I’m basically Gordon Ramsay! I’ve always been a young fat man. Cooking is in my blood.

What were you like as a youngster?

Annoying, but smart. I was actually inducted into Gifted and Talented [a government scheme for bright pupils] at my school by Boris Johnson! I went to a humble school in Kilburn, and he came to visit while he was running for London mayor and did a speech. We didn’t even know who he was – everyone just booed him. At the end he asked a number of students to stay behind. Naturally, I thought I was getting into trouble. When everyone else left he was like, "Welcome to Gifted and Talented," and then he taught us Latin for an hour. I didn’t listen.

How does your TV set-up now compare to that of your childhood?

We moved around a lot – but I did have an 11-inch TV in my room. It had an aerial which I had to bend to get it to work. I used to hate it when the aerial started fuzzer-ing and going "grrgrr" – especially if Match of the Day didn’t play properly. I’d be like, "This is why I’m poor!" You only got one Match of the Day. There was no iPlayer! Bad life! I’m joking, I’m all right. I wasn’t rich, but I had a TV in my room.

How did your mum take it when you dropped out of studying social work at university to pursue music?

She thought I was possessed by the devil – it’s very African. I was the first person in our family to go to university. It was a shame thing – people looked at her like she’d failed. Now, she’s my biggest fan!

Big Zuu at the BAFTA Television Awards in London wearing a dark suit jacket and white shirt
Big Zuu at the BAFTA Awards. Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images

How did you go from chart-topping grime artist to TV chef?

I made two episodes of a cooking show on YouTube to promote my music. A developer at a production company saw it and then he hit me up and asked me if I wanted to make a pilot for a show. I didn’t even know what a pilot was! I got my mates Tubsey and Hyder involved, and the rest is history.

You’ve won two BAFTAs for Big Zuu’s Big Eats. How did it feel to win?

When I looked out at the audience from the stage, I thought, "We’ve done it. We deserve this. We’ve worked so hard." Everyone works hard to make a TV show – but our story of who we are [Zuu and his co-hosts] is so different. In my acceptance speech, I’m angry because of what I had to say. I had to talk about working class people and representation in television. I should have been celebrating. I was upset that I had to use my moment to do that – but I was also happy to try and make a change.

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