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'Strictly Come Dancing' dancer Johannes Radebe: 'Why I knew I had to do 'Celebrity MasterChef'!'

Strictly dancer Johannes Radebe on Celebrity MasterChef
Johaannes Radebe on Celebrity MasterChef (Image credit: BBC)

Celebrity MasterChef welcomes a new batch of famous faces to this week's heats including Strictly Come Dancing pro and choreographer, Johannes Radebe. 

Johannes will be going head to head in the MasterChef kitchen with actor Michelle Collins, Love Island star and presenter Kem Cetinay,  gold-wining Paralympian Kadeena Cox and journalist and ex Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler. 

With two places up for grabs in the semi-final who will be able to handle the heat and impress judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode with their culinary skills?

Here in an exclusive interview, South-African born Johannes, 34, tells us why he had big reservations about taking part in Celebrity MasterChef but why he pushed aside his fears and knew he had to do it....

What appealed most about doing Celebrity MasterChef?

Definitely the challenge. When I was asked to take part, just the thought was totally nerve-wracking. I sat down with my agent and said, 'Why do you even think it could be possible?'  he calmed me down and said 'It’s called ‘Celebrity’ MasterChef. You’re not a pro! You’re not expected to know everything.'

I had a lot of prep talk and when I told my mum she was like, 'There is no way you should miss this opportunity!' She’s a huge fan of the show, so I was persuaded. 

Joannes Radebe cooking on Celebrity MasterChef

Johannes gets to work on Celebrity MasterChef (Image credit: BBC)

How did your nerves in the MasterChef kitchen compare with doing a live Strictly?

Honestly, Strictly gives me palpitations especially when it comes to the eliminations, but on MasterChef  I was the rookie for the first time in my life. It’s given me a newfound respect for anyone who does anything like this. You’re walking into the unknown and it’s terrifying. 

Gavin Esler, Michelle Collins, Johannes Radebe, Kadeena Cox and Kem Cetinay on Celebrity MasterChef

Johannes is competing against Gavin Esler, Michelle Collins, Kadeena Cox and Kem Cetinay.  (Image credit: BBC)

Who do you think was the most competitive in your heat?

(Shrieks with laughter) I think we all were! Let me tell you, something happens to you when you’re in that kitchen. After my first challenge, when I heard the words ‘Not bad’ and ‘This is edible’ I was like ‘Oh my God’ and you actually want to faint. 

I’m used to competition shows because of Strictly and with MasterChef I could see the competitiveness in their eyes. 

The first time Kem came out of the kitchen he was silent and I said, 'Are you ok Kem?' and he was like,’No, I just want to know whether I did well or not’ and I was like ‘Uh oh... here’s competition! The competition has started!' 

Michelle Collins cooking on Celebrity MasterChef

Michelle Collins in the Celebrity MasterChef kitchen. (Image credit: BBC)

How would you describe your cooking style and your main influences?

I think I’ve got very eclectic taste and that’s because of dancing and travelling around the world and eating different cuisines. So I’ve eaten a lot of different types of food, but I don’t cook the food, and that’s the difference! 

The biggest influence for me would be the cooking of my mama at home in South Africa. She cooked with what she had, which was not much. Going on Celebrity MasterChef opened my eyes to what different ingredients you can put together.  

What would be on the menu at a typical family gathering in South Africa? 

We’re very big on barbecues. We call them 'braais' and we have a staple thing made of mealie meal which has the texture of polenta we call it 'pap'. So we would make a massive pot of pap which is your carbs, and then we’d have meat on the braai then we have relish or chakalaka - something spicy with vegetables. That’s us. The food is quite British in a lot of ways, what you find here, you can also find in South Africa.

If we came round for dinner, what would you rustle up for us? 

I make a mean Durban curry, it’s packed with flavour. I like my food spicy and a South African milk tart, ’melktert’ for dessert. I make it with pancakes and put the tart inside. It’s one of my favourites. I’ve whipped it up for friends and they’ve loved it. 

Gavin Esler cooking on Celebrity MasterChef

Journalist and former Newsnight presenter, Gavin Esler is competing against Johannes. (Image credit: BBC)

Your Strictly colleague Oti Mabuse did Celebrity MasterChef in 2019. Did she give you any advice? 

Oti said, ‘Good luck and whatever you cook, make sure you can cook it in under an hour.’ I took that for granted. I thought, ‘An hour can’t be bad’ but then when it came to it, it was absolute mayhem.

How would you sum up your experience? 

Celebrity MasterChef has completely changed my relationship with food. All of a sudden I think I’m a chef! I learned that you can really go to town and get very adventurous. Food can be very exciting but honey, I can tell you, I’ve picked up a few calories since! 

Well that’s ok. Strictly will burn off any excess calories.

(Laughing) Oh yes. You are so right, absolutely! 

Celebrity MasterChef continues this week on BBC1