'John and I were at loggerheads over who should win this year!' says Celebrity MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace

Gregg Wallace and fellow Celebrity MasterChef judge John Torode will decide which of this year's finalists take home this year's title this week. We caught up with him to find out which contestants have left him starstruck over the years and how John Torode had to give him a pep talk before his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing last year!

Are we going to be seeing some surprises in this year’s final?

"Yeah definitely. If you'd told me who would be in the final after the first round, I would never have believed you. I didn't see it coming! It's probably not who you might have expected. I really enjoy the later stages because that's when the contestants start to drop the cloak of celebrity and get really competitive."

What will the finalists be getting up to?

"I can't say too much but there's a really tough task where they have to recreate one of John's complex pasta dishes and there were lots of nerves when they faced the restaurant critics! "

Have you enjoyed working on this year’s series?

"It's been great! I can't remember enjoying a show as much as this because we've had some great characters! Keith Chegwin had me in stitches and so did Syd Little – I met him once on a cruise ship and never dreamed he'd end up on MasterChef. Rylan has also been brilliant, I didn't know him before but the man's hysterical!"

Who have been your favourite contestants in years gone by?

"I love rugby so it was great when Phil Vickery and Matt Dawson were on. I couldn't believe it when we got Midge Ure as well because he's a legend. Another personal hero of mine was Paul Young, because I was a big Q Tips fan and he was lead singer. I used to sing their songs in the kitchen when he was cooking! It was brilliant when Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley was on as well. During lunch one day he called a girlfriend of mine and sang 'True' to her down the phone. It was amazing!"

If one of your heroes is on the show, do you find yourself talking to them all the time while they’re trying to cook?

"Yeah I do, I'm like a little girl meeting the Spice Girls!"

Is it difficult when someone you like has to leave?

"Me and John are both astute and perfectly fair judges, but you can't help warming to some people more than others and I get really disappointed when they mess up and have to go. Bordering on angry even! I'm like 'what's the matter with you! You could have won it!'"

Do you and John often disagree on who should go?

"Yes, all the time! In fact we were at loggerheads over the decision in the final. We weren't seeing eye-to-eye for a long time – it's definitely the closest final yet!"

The MasterChef fans are so passionate, do they often stop you when you're out and about to talk about the series?

"They certainly do. The viewers are so into the show, which is amazing. At the moment I get sent pictures of people's dinner about 30 times a day as well, so if you are thinking of sending me a picture of your dinner that you're very proud of, just consider that it might be the 31st I've seen that day!"

If you could have any celebrity on the show who would it be?

"Terry Wogan. He used to take the mickey out of John and I when we first started so that would be great to return the favour. I've heard that he's a real foodie so maybe we wouldn't get the chance!"

You appeared on Strictly Come Dancing last year, do you think there’s any chance John could follow in your footsteps?

"No, John would never do anything like that! I think he'd be better than I was though as he's a calmer character and wouldn't get freaked out like I did. I was on the phone to him just before the second show because I was so nervous. I said 'John, I'm not very good at this and I'm really scared' but he talked me through it. We've known each other for nearly 30 years and he's a good friend. He told me to keep calm, try to enjoy it and that it wasn't my real job so I shouldn't worry about it too much. He said: 'You're not a dancer you're a judge on MasterChef. I'm not judging you, I'm your friend, I'm proud of you!'"

Do you think you could go on another reality series? How about I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!?

"It depends how much they pay! I'd be fine with the food though when you consider some of the stuff I've had to eat from some of the contestants on MasterChef!"

Celebrity MasterChef finals week begins on Thursday July 23 at 9pm on BBC1.

Sean Marland
Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV, TV & Satellite Week and whattowatch.com

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.