Cooking With The Stars is heating up, and professional chef Rosemary Shrager is in her element!
For starters, she’s having a laugh mentoring comedian Johnny Vegas. She’s also enjoying one of her main passions — teaching. It’s an added sweetener that this is a competition jam-packed with celebrity contestants and some of the best chefs in the business!
We had a laughter-filled chat with Rosemary, 70, who gives us a flavour of the next intense heat and lifts the lid on why she’d love a second helping of the series...
What makes Cooking With The Stars different to other cooking competitions?
Rosemary Shrager: "I’ve done many cookery shows and this is the first programme where you really go into things and spend time with them. It’s like Strictly Come Dancing — we’ve got to teach them a few things before they come on the floor. Teaching is a real passion of mine, I adore it. I want to see people improve and feel more confident. Like the dancers, it’s great to watch what they’ve learned."
Did you gel with Johnny Vegas immediately?
RS: "Oh yes! The moment I met Johnny, I loved him. Both of us are off the wall and love to laugh. But he’s also very serious, which I told him he had to be. I get a bit fierce sometimes! We had a couple of weeks together [before the competition started] and basically cooked our little heads off! When you start from scratch, there’s only one way to go…"
What are his cooking strengths and weaknesses?
RS: "His strengths are that he’s artistic and able to work with his hands because he’s a potter. He’s very good at pastries. His knife skills are also very good. Negatives… he wants it so badly that, if something goes wrong, he will cloud over. But I’ve great hopes for him, he’s very talented. And he’s such a kind soul. We’re very close and will stay friends."
How did you approach his training?
RS: "I realised he works in a slightly different way. Normally I'd take someone through a recipe. When I met Johnny I thought, he’s an artist, so I've got to change this. To begin with, it’s got to be visual. When we went onto the recipe, he had to memorise it and feel it. Then we went through it theoretically. It’s interesting because everybody is different. Shirley [Ballas] for instance writes everything down, her notebook is her baby. If she lost it, she’d lose her whole life!"
It’s French cuisine this week, what can you tell us?
RS: [Laughing] "I’m not telling you anything! I can tell you that someone is doing duck a l'orange. It’s a classic, but you try and do that in an hour. It’s always in the sauce! The competition is getting harder but I love seeing the progression of the contestants and how much they’re enjoying it."
That said, does everyone want their celebrity to win?
RS: "Chefs are the most competitive people under the sun. We all want to win! I love winding people up, so I told the other chefs that I’ve got it. It’s good fun!
"The important thing to understand is the pressure. I didn’t quite take this into consideration and sometimes gave Johnny too much to do within the hour. When there’s no cameras he can do it perfectly, but in the moment it becomes a different thing altogether. I've learned what not to do if I was asked to do this again…"
If there's a second series, who would be your dream celeb student?
RS: "I think Les Dennis would absolutely adore it. Shane from Boyzone too. Miriam Margolyes would be so funny, but she doesn’t cook at all. Maybe Prince Edward from the royal family. To get him in the kitchen would be a coup and a lot of fun!"
It sounds like you want to do a second series!
RS: "I would love to. It would be brilliant, but you just never know. You’ve got to help me — put at the bottom “Have Rosemary back in the second series!” Make it the headline!"
Catch the next heat of Cooking With The Stars on Tuesday at 9pm on ITV.
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