Celebrity MasterChef 2021 is opening its doors for a 16th series and former Hi-de-Hi star Su Pollard, is one of 20 familiar faces hoping to impress judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace with her cooking skills.
Here in an exclusive interview, Su, 71, who’s competing against former EastEnders actor Rita Simons, singer and West End star Duncan James, Happy Mondays dancer Bez, and comedian and social media star, Munya Chawawa, tells us about cooking chaos, dream dinner guests and why she was totally terrified taking part!....
Why did you want to take part in the show?
"They’ve asked me over the years and I’ve always said, ‘No, no, no!’ I’ve never really been that interested in cooking but I suddenly thought, ‘Look, you’ve got to try and learn some new skills.’ When I got the brief of what was expected of me, the terror set in and I thought, ‘Flippin’ ‘eck! Why have I said yes to this?’ I wanted to pull out. I really did. Then I thought, 'Oh come on, don’t be ridiculous. You’ll have a fun time.' And I can honestly say that I did. I had a brilliant time."
Did you know any of your fellow celebrities beforehand?
"I knew Rita and I knew Duncan but I didn’t know Munya. I knew of Bez from the Happy Mondays. When my sister found out I’d be on with Bez she was thrilled to bits, she said, ‘Oh how fabulous, I love him.’ Bez was great."
How did you rate your culinary skills compared with everyone else’s?
"I knew for a fact that Duncan likes cooking. He’s learnt a lot from his mum and he enjoys the whole regime, buying the ingredients, the planning. Duncan’s presentation was great. Bez’s flavours were terrific. They were all doing fabulous stuff and then you look at your own and go, ‘Ooh crikey. This is hopeless! I may as well get my taxi ordered, I’ll be going home in a minute.’ I’d describe my cooking style as ‘chaotic’!"
What was it like facing John and Gregg in the studio?
"They were really extremely kind and helpful. Gregg looks stern, John’s a little bit more smiley. But they’re very good at explaining what they wanted you to do. They said, ‘We know it must be intimidating for you all, but we really want you to do well.’ That helped me to relax a little bit more. I knew before it was going to be scary and I was not disappointed. I was frightened to death but you can’t you can’t back out once you’re in that kitchen."
We see you burst into song a few times in the MasterChef kitchen. Was that the nerves?
"Ha ha! Well, I don’t know why, it was just a bit of fun. But did you know Gregg Wallace can sing! He did a song and I said, ‘Ooh, you and John you could be in panto. The ugly sisters!’ John was holding his hands together and doing an impression of Widow Twankie. I said, ‘You’d both be fabulous. I’ll get my agent onto it!’"
What cooking disasters have you had in the past?
"I once invited four people round for lunch for roast lamb. I knew exactly what to do because my mum, Hilda, had given me all the instructions. We all went off to the pub while it was cooking but when we got back, I thought, ‘That’s funny. I can’t smell anything’. I’d forgotten to turn the oven on. We had to have beans on toast. We drank all the bottles of wine that everyone had brought and by the time the lamb was ready we were all completely gaga."
If you could cook a meal for anyone in the world, alive or dead. Who would it be and what would you serve them?
"I think it would have to be Elizabeth David, the cookery writer. I cut out one of her quotes from a paper which said, ‘Good food is always a trouble and its preparation should be regarded as a labour of love.’ I thought, well that’s absolutely right. I’d make her what I made on MasterChef and with a bit of luck, Elizabeth would say to me, ‘Do you know darling, that was extremely tasty and I thoroughly enjoyed it.’ That would be praise indeed."
What was the food like on the set of Hi-de-Hi? Did you have good catering?
"Oh yes. It was absolutely superb. We had full English every day at about 7am in the morning before we began filming. Then we’d have these great big tables heaving with cheese, salad and things like shepherd's pie and at about 4pm you’d have tea come round on a trolley with sandwiches and smoked salmon. By the time you’d finished filming you could put on about two stone. It was terrific food darling! You could never want for anything."
What else have got you coming up this year?
"I’m supposed to be doing a 40th anniversary Question and Answer type tour for Hi-de-Hi! fans this month (August) which had to be cancelled last year and I’m also doing a one-woman play called Harpy which starts in September. It’s about a lady who’s a hoarder. It’s quite poignant, a bit sad but also fun. I’m also doing ‘An Evening With... type thing, with songs and talking about what I’ve done in life. It’s rather nice to be doing things that you can enjoy doing. That’s all you hope for really isn’t it."
Celebrity MasterChef starts on Monday 9 August at 9pm on BBC1
Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.
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