Strictly Come Dancing judge and dance pro, Anton Du Beke is one of eight celebrities donning his apron and getting competitive in the kitchen as a new series of Cooking With The Stars returns to ITV.
Hosted by Emma Willis and Tom Allen, the series sees the celebs being mentored by top professional chefs who are on a mission to get their famous students to restaurant-level standards. Among the mentors are chefs, Jean-Christophe Novelli, Clodagh McKenna and Tony Singh.
Each week the celebrities go head to head and the bottom two must then fight for their place in the competition. Who goes through to the following week is decided by the dreaded blind taste test which means a mentor could unwittingly vote for their protégé to leave the competition. Awkward!
Anton, who is being mentored by chef supremo, Rosemary Shrager, will be competing against fellow celebs, Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes, This Morning’s Josie Gibson, Chaser Anne Hegerty, Love Island’s Maura Higgins, TV medic Dr Ranj Singh, comedian Joe Wilkinson and DJ Woody Cook.
What To Watch caught up with Anton during a break in the competition to get the lowdown on his cooking skills, hear why he wanted to do the show and find out who his dream dinner guests would be…
We hear you used to be a baker Anton so did that help you in the competition?
Anton: "Yes that's right. I used to be a baker so I have baking skills but I really don’t cook at all. I’ve always used stuff from a jar. When the producers asked, ‘What’s your signature dish?’ I said, ‘I don’t have one because I don’t cook.’ My wife, Hannah, does it all at home but as I’ve got older it’s something I’ve wanted to do. I love learning, I enjoy competition and to be partnered with a top chef is a brilliant opportunity."
As a Strictly pro you're no stranger to teaching people new skills, what was it like having the shoe on the other foot?
"I've loved it because. I’ve spent most of my life having lessons, either singing lessons or dancing lessons and I love that learning environment in a one-on-one situation so this is right up my street. And of course I’ve taught too and so I also know what I want for my students which means I've tried to be the best student for Rosemary that I could. Very diligent!"
What have been the most challenging dishes to cook in the competition?
"There are different themes each week. We start off with British week, then there was Spanish week, we’ve got Thai week where we’re doing something really spicy and I really don’t like spicy food, it gives me the hump so that’s going to be challenging."
Have you had any cooking injuries?
"I’ve grated my knuckles a couple of times. The knives we use in the show are so sharp, you can cut things from 15 paces away. I tried to practice one of the dishes at home and got stumped at the first hurdle when I realised just how blunt all my knives are, I literally couldn’t cut anything."
Which of your fellow celebrity competitors did you know beforehand?
"Dame Kelly I know, Anne (Hegerty) I’ve met a few times, I knew Dr Ranj from when he was on Strictly, I’ve never met Woody (Cook) before but I know his mum Zoe Ball very well. I’d never met Joe (Wilkinson) or Josie (Gibson), Joe is hilarious and Josie is lovely. Maura (Higgins) is one to watch, she’s a dark horse! It’s a great bunch."
Who is the most competitive of you all?
"It has to be the chefs! Us celebs are just delighted if we can get something on a plate which doesn’t look like we've dropped it from a great height. The chefs on the other hand, oh my goodness, they’re absolute competitive animals, it’s frightening! They’re shouting, Rosemary throws things, Jean-Christophe gets so angry you can’t understand what he’s saying. It’s fantastic."
Who would your dream dinner guests be?
"I’d love to have supper with the Queen. My other dream guests would be Fred Astaire and Brucey (Bruce Forsyth), and my wife too of course!"
What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to food or your favourite comfort food?
"Custard. I love it. I like to put it on a nice pudding an apple crumble, or something traditional like a jam roly-poly or a bread and butter pudding."
Cooking With The Stars begins on ITV on Tuesday, 7 June at 8 pm.
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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