Gregg Wallace bounced back onto screens again this week for another series of Masterchef: The Professionals, on BBC2. The former greengrocer spoke to Kate Whiting.
It’s hard to imagine Gregg Wallace ever feeling down about anything.
A man with one of the broadest smiles on TV, who describes desserts as “like a cuddle on a spoon,” his career seems to be going from strength to strength.
The Seasalter-based presenter is currently filming the new series of MasterChef, while MasterChef: The Professionals returned for a fifth series this week.
“I’m a workaholic,” admits the former greengrocer, as sheepishly as you might admit to an alcohol problem.
“I certainly don’t look on this ambition that I’ve got as a gift, I look on it as a curse. My day normally starts at 6am and finishes at 10 or 11pm at night. I fill my life up with work, there’s always a project on the go.”
On the personal front, he admits it’s been a tough year. In March, he split from third wife Heidi after just over a year of marriage.
Their relationship had started out as a fairytale: the young teacher from Cumbria who had contacted him via Twitter had soon been accepted by his teenage children Tom and Libby (from his second marriage) and they were a happy family. But it wasn’t to last.
“I’m really good at work but I’m absolutely hopeless at relationships,” says Gregg, 48, who also hit the headlines when he was fined for driving his Jaguar XK at 82mph in a 50mph limit in Detling.
“I think (being a workaholic) is part of it but I also do believe I’ve been terribly unlucky.”
He turns to his Masterchef co-presenter John Torode for advice – their relationship has spanned 20 years – and he will be reuniting with Torode’s fellow chefs Michel Roux Jr and Monica Galetti on the new series of Masterchef: The Professionals.
When he hasn’t been filming one of the many MasterChef spin-offs this year, Gregg has been busy writing his autobiography, Life On A Plate.
Written in his bubbly, easygoing style, it charts a surprisingly tough childhood. Brought up in a two-up, two-down in Peckham, south London with his parents and grandparents, Gregg reveals he’s never recovered from being wrenched apart from his doting grandad when his mother left to live with a man who he was to discover was his real father.
“When my parents’ marriage broke up and I was my moved away from my grandad, that had a disastrous effect on me,” he says. “It left me with real issues that I’ve never come to terms with.” Having earned himself a place at a prestigious school in London, Gregg started acting up and left at just 14.
The book also charts how, at the age of eight, Wallace was sexually abused by the husband of his childminder. It was Heidi who encouraged him to write about the incident.
However, there are a few rays of light in his life – he’s dating 27-year-old model Cara Franco, who understands his love of family and with whom he spends every weekend. “We’re planning to spend part of Christmas together,” he adds.
Masterchef: The Professionals is on BBC2 from Monday to Thursday. Life On A Plate: The Autobiography by Gregg Wallace, published by Orion Books, priced £18.99.
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