Saturday Kitchen fans were as deflated as a dodgy soufflé when it was announced that James Martin would be leaving the show after 10 years.
With him in the kitchen, the cult Saturday morning cookery programme had swelled, with viewers in their millions tuning in every weekend for their fill of celebrity chat, food and good wine.
Following James Martin’s departure, the programme featured a smorgasbord of celebrity chef guest presenters. Some fared better than others – interviewing while dicing onions isn’t as easy at it looks – but Matt Tebbutt proved a natural.
Then, after about a year of doing an “on-air audition” as he puts it, Matt was confirmed as the new permanent Saturday Kitchen host. Well, sort of.
Matt is only hosting Saturday Kitchen on alternate weeks, with guest chefs including Angela Hartnett and Michel Roux Jr presenting every other week. It works well for the show, but it was a decision that came from the BBC.
“I think they like that sort of Have I Got News For You kind of way where you have a rolling group of people coming in,” Matt explains. “And everyone brings a different thing to the table. I think it’s good for the show to have other elements involved, rather than just one person dominating it.”
He says it’s a routine that suits him, too. Although he would “never say never” if he was asked to host the show every week, he’s happy for now to just come in every fortnight.
“I like it because [Saturday Kitchen] takes up Friday and most of the Saturday by the time you’ve travelled around,” he says. “It’s a cracking gig, but I think my wife quite likes to see me occasionally.”
Was Matt worried about replacing James Martin?
“There’s always that element to it,” he admits. “James did have legions of loyal fans, so there are very big shoes to fill. But you do what you do and if people like it, great. If they don’t like it then you’re not on for long. Fortunately, for one reason or another, I’m still here.
“To be honest, if you think too much about things like that it’s going to drive you insane. You go in, you have a laugh, you chat about food, you do it to the best of your ability and then you see what happens. In my mind there’s nothing more you can do.”
On the whole, the reaction from Saturday Kitchen fans about him landing the job was positive, although Matt is modest as ever.
“You take these things with a pinch of salt,” he explains. “For every one person who says ‘that’s great’, there’s someone else who says they’re going to switch off. You have to be a bit measured and balanced about it. But I am just very grateful really. I love doing it and it’s one of those things where people either like you or you don’t. There’s not an awful lot you can do about it, and telly always polarises people.
“It’s a great show to do and a huge privilege,” Matt continues. “It’s live so it’s terrifying and rewarding in equal measure. It’s hugely exhilarating but you never lose that shred of nerves about what could go wrong. I’m always slightly worried that the autocue might go down, but fortunately so far that hasn’t happened.”
If he wasn’t already busy enough, Matt is now also presenting First Class Chefs – Family Style for the Disney Channel. Made by Jamie Oliver’s production company, the show follows teams made up of one child and one adult as they try create a healthy and tasty meal in just one hour.
“There are 10 shows and I was judging some of the aspects of the food – how quick and easy it was to do mid-week suppers, things like price and flavours and presentation,” explains Matt, adding that it can be “tricky” judging food prepared by kids.
“You have to be encouraging,” he adds. “You’ve got to walk carefully, I suppose. Because the last thing you want to do is put kids off, because the whole point is to get them interested and get them into food.
“But I was a little bit blown away actually by how good the kids were and how into it they were. These days kids get slated for not paying any attention or wanting to learn stuff and they were brilliant. They were loving it.”
Excitement and interest in food is something that he’s also imparted to his children, son Henry and daughter Jess.
“My daughter in particular loves cooking,” he explains. “Especially breakfast. They’re keen to always try new things and they both come down and destroy the kitchen by making smoothies in the morning and then I come down and clean up. That’s generally how it goes!”
Matt hosts First Class Chefs – Family Style on the Disney Channel from 15 May