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Celebrity MasterChef's John Barnes: 'My wife knows I’m a better cook'

John Barnes in Masterchef 2020
(Image credit: BBC/Shine TV)

Former England footballing ace John Barnes, gets ready to show off his cooking skills as a new series of Celebrity MasterChef kicks off....

Footy legend John Barnes will be unleashing his inner chef in the Celebrity MasterChef 2020 (opens in new tab) kitchen as 20 famous faces take to the hobs in the hope of impressing straight-talking  judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace with their culinary skills.

Here John, who will be competing in the opening heats against comedian Judi Love, Rak-Su singer Myles Stephenson (opens in new tab), Death In Paradise actor Shyko Amos and Apprentice star and entrepreneur Thomas Skinner, reveals his foodie influences, what he really thinks about judges Gregg and John and why he’s got something in common with Monica from Friends!....

Shyko Amos in Masterchef 2020

John Barnes will be competing against Death in Paradise actor Shyko Amos as the series gets underway (Image credit: BBC/Shine TV)

John Barnes speaks to us about the new series of Masterchef

What made you want to take part in Masterchef?

John Barnes: "I love cooking, I’ve always enjoyed watching the show and so when the opportunity came up I thought it was time to put my money where my mouth is. I was actually looking forward to doing a bit of showing off but it’s the same as when people watch football on the pitch and think ‘Oh I could do that!’ The reality is, it’s a lot harder when you’re being judged by experts and discovering the truth about your skills."

What are your food influences?

JB: "Coming from Jamaica I love spicy food. Jamaican food is a real mash-up of Indian and Chinese and our national dish is curried goat. Jamaican cooking is full of garlic, chilli, cumin and peppers. I’m like Monica in Friends, you can never have too much garlic! I remember that scene when Phoebe says to Monica, ‘That garlic isn’t going to over-use itself’. I’m Monica!"

Who does most of the cooking at home?

JB: "Definitely me. There’s no rivalry in our kitchen at all. My wife knows I’m a better cook than her. Or maybe she’s just fooled me over the years to let me think that I’m better so I get on and do it while she relaxes with a glass of wine."

Celebrity Masterchef S13

John is hoping to impress judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode with his cooking (Image credit: BBC/Shine TV Ltd)

What is your earliest food memory?

JB: "Eating lots of it. Jamaicans like to cook a LOT of food. Even now when my mum comes to stay with us she gets stuck in straight away with the cooking. She’s 75 and decided when she was 72 to become a barrister, she’s qualified now and practicing law every day in court. The first thing she does after a ten-hour flight to visit us is still head to Tesco to get ingredients to cook. It’s a Jamaican thing. Our whole lives revolve round food."

MORE: Everything you need to know about Rowan Atkinson (opens in new tab)

Do you enjoy catering for big family gatherings?

JB:"Absolutely, I’ve got seven kids and some of them have left and got married and now have their own kids. We love getting together. Barbecues are perfect especially as I’m such a big meat-eater so I’ll chuck on lots of rib-eye steaks but I inevitably cook way too much."

Thomas Skinner in Masterchef 2020

Entrepreneur and former Apprentice candidate Thomas Skinner is in John's heat (Image credit: BBC/Shine TV)

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

JB:"I’d make a small pasta dish for a starter maybe with prawns, I’d serve stir fry or curry as the main course, and anything to do with bananas and toffee for a desert, so maybe a banoffee pie, dulce de leche or toffee ice-cream. I haven’t really got a sweet tooth which is just as well. With the amount I eat it would be pretty catastrophic."

Which of your footballing mates have you cooked for?

JB: "None of them as far as I can remember! (laughing) It’s really all about cooking for family and myself. If my footballing mates said, ‘Let us come round and you can cook for us’, I’d probably say no!"

Had you met any of your fellow celebrity competitors before? And who surprised you in the kitchen?

JB: "I’d only seen them on TV before. Myles from Rak-Su is from Watford, who I used to played football for, my kids love Death in Paradise so I’ve watched Shyko on that. I thought Judi would be a good cook. It might be a stereotypical view, but Caribbean mums tend to be great cooks and Thomas is such a cheeky chappy and seemed to be the most nervous. For me it was Myles who was the most surprising. He was the youngest, he’s a single man living on his own and he’s clearly very into his cooking."

John Torode and Gregg Wallace Masterchef 2020

Which celeb will John and Gregg be awarding the coveted 2020 Masterchef trophy to? (Image credit: BBC/Shine TV)

How did you feel about your culinary creations being judged?

JB: "Well I’ve done TV shows before where I’ve been judged, like Strictly Come Dancing, so I’m used to it. Everyone is actually very supportive behind the scenes giving you tips, wanting you to do well. Some of John’s comments on TV can seem a bit harsh or cruel but I know it’s just constructive criticism and he’s not really like that. Him and Gregg can’t say ‘Oh, that’s nice’, ‘Well done’ all the time. That would make a pretty boring show."

You’ve done two series of Harry’s Heroes with Harry Redknapp getting ex footballers back into shape. How has your diet changed as you’ve got older?

JB: "It’s a lot healthier now. In my younger days I’d be eating a lot of McDonald’s and KFC but of course I’d be burning it all off training and on the pitch. You can’t do that when you’re older. Cooking for myself means I can keep an eye on what I’m putting in, I can control the oils, the saturated fats but my problem has always been the amounts I cook and eating too much. Plus I always end up finishing up what the kids don’t eat!"

Did you have any secret weapons to impress Gregg and John?

JB: "No. I’m pretty basic. My ideal scenario would be cooking stir-fry and curry every round but of course that’s not going to work. My cooking is never short on flavour but my presentation and organisation isn’t always the best. That’s true of my life too not just cooking! With football, you’re only as good as your last game and with Masterchef you’re only as good as your last dish."

Celebrity MasterChef starts on Wednesday July 1, 9pm on BBC1 and runs for 15 episodes. Times vary

Tess Lamacraft
Tess Lamacraft

Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and 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.