Gregg Wallace on Valentine’s Day
Gregg the greengrocer tells Chaat! about his friendship with food, quality time with his children, and the secret to a perfectly romantic evening. The friendly cockney has a whole lot of love.
INTERVIEW: MARIANNE VOYLE / PHOTOGRAPHY: CHARLOTTE KNEE
Tell me about your book, Life on a Plate.
It’s a story of endeavour I think, and the ups and downs of my life, and I think everyone will be surprised about what they are. I started my own fruit and veg business at the age of twenty-four, and went bankrupt about ten years later. I’m a greengrocer; this is what I’ve always called myself. I’ve still got a fruit and veg business and I’ve always supplied to London chefs. Fruit and veg has been a good friend to me over the years, I’ve always made a living from it!
What is your favourite spicy dish?
Chicken vindaloo. Wait, is that the hot one? Do you know what, as I said that all of a sudden I thought of the [English Football] song, and I thought, no I’ve got it wrong! We used to play a game with the kids, and the first one to spot a bead of sweat on the top of dad’s head would get a pound.
Do you cook much spicy food at home?
I did an Asian dish the other night, and I put all the chillies in a bowl and let people pick them out themselves. My son loves spicy food, but my daughter doesn’t like it very spicy so I’ve cut down the amount of ginger of chilli that I use.
Did Masterchef change your perception of Indian cuisine at all?
Yes, we’ve had some really fine Indian cooks. The complex spicing is quite incredible, and it’s about building up layers of flavour. When Westerners try to use that much spice when they aren’t trained properly, the spices end up clashing, but in the hands of a talented cook, it’s phenomenal!
How do you think Indian cuisine has changed in the last few years?
I think we’re seeing a lot more fusion food, Indian European crosses because, of course, a lot of the chefs have an Indian heritage and a British upbringing. We’re seeing a real fusion of spiced up European dishes.
You’ve recently started up your own restaurant called Gregg’s Table, as well as Wallace & Co. What advice would you give to anyone running smaller restaurants?
Don’t run a small restaurant, have a big one! You won’t make any money out of a small restaurant.
Don’t do it unless you simply must have a restaurant. Don’t do it to make money.
Do you have any cooking tips for us?
Yes! You can put in but you can’t take away. Whatever you’re adding to your food, add a little and taste. Then, add a little more and taste. Add taste, add taste, add taste!
So what’s the perfect Valentine’s Day dish?
Something that you can create simply, it doesn’t have to be complicated. The special lady in your life that you’re cooking for will appreciate the fact that you’ve made the effort. What she doesn’t want to see is you stressed in the kitchen…
With more beads of sweat!
Yes! Don’t get in a tizz about it. You need to be relaxed enough to pay attention to your dinner guest.
Finally, what does the future hold for Gregg Wallace?
Ooooh! (Pauses) What I want to do is make enough money so I can work less.
Life on a Plate: The Autobiography by Gregg Wallace is out now (Orion, £18.99.)