Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 612

11 AUGUST 202 2 2 NEWS&VIEWS Famous faces feel the heat in quest for kitchen glory As Celebrity MasterChef returns to our screens, contestants Clarke Peters and Lesley Joseph tell Katherine Hassell how they prepared to face the challenge Actor Clarke Peters is probably best known as unflappable detective Lester Freamon in television series TheWire. He also sang backing vocals on iconic hits such as Joan Armatrading’s Love and A ection, Steve Harley &Cockney Rebel’s MakeMe Smile andHeatwave’s Boogie Nights. Now, he hopes to prove he’s also hot stu in the kitchen, on BBCOne’s CelebrityMasterChef. What possessed him? “Amoment of madness!” Clarke gu aws in a video call from his home in Portugal. “A bit of it was people saying: ‘You’re not such a bad cook.’ The other reason was because I’ve been vegetarian for 40 years. I thought this would be a good platform to extol those virtues. It was Blackwood and former footballer Jimmy Bullard. As well as making a dinner party dish to dazzle in an hour, he had to create ameal using banana flowers in the Under the Cloche challenge. “Man, when they came out with that... I’d never done anything with them, but once I figured out what to do, I was away.” As his rival Lesley says: “Preparation is key to everything.” The actor diligently practised before filming and she admits: “It took over my life. I had a friend who’d been ill, so I took something round nearly every day. That mademe feel very good. I make the best pavlova and tarte tatin and amean fish pie.” Judges critiquing her dishes was less enjoyable. “To be criticised was hard,” she admits. “As an actor, we take criticismall the time, but that’s our job. Cooking’s di erent.” Lesley, 76, is no stranger to culinary catastrophe. Tasked with throwing a dinner party on Celebrity Come DineWithMe, her lamb was seriously undercooked. “It was a disaster,” she admits. “Though I did win the second time I did the show.” Clarke hoped that rehearsing would avoid calamities, too. “I wanted to practisemaking my roux. I spent more time with that than anything else. You’ll enjoy the end result!” he laughs. “I came away from the showwith amuch better knowledge of how to deal with sauces. Just a vegetable gravy over rice can be really nice if the consistency’s right.” And Clarke’s food adventures continue. After helping with the local carob harvest, he’s just made his first carob syrup. “It was fairly successful,” he grins. “Now, I’m thinking it might be interesting to imbue the carob with some cinnamon.” He adds: “I’mnot competitive. That’s probably bad to say going into Celebrity MasterChef. I should’ve said I’m in it to win it, but I compete withmyself to see if I can make something better. Cooking is alchemy.” CelebrityMasterChef, BBCOne and iPlayer stressful, but a lot of fun.” The 70-year-old is an inventive cook. “I’ve had to learn to be, as a vegetarian,” he says. “I experiment.” “My wife enjoys a salad I make. I take cooked basmati rice and all the seeds I can find – sesame, sunflower, pumpkin. I’ll roast some quinoa, dice an avocado andmix it with soy sauce. If I don’t have avocado, I’ll throw in raisins. I may not be a Cordon Bleu chef, but for what I do, I amamaster chef.” Whether judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace will crown him the winner is another matter, as there’s sti competition from 19 other celebrities in the six-week series. They include boxing champ Chris Eubank, Call theMidwife’s Cli Parisi, choirmaster GarethMalone, Strictly’s Katya Jones, presenter Lisa Snowden, McFly singer Danny Jones and actor AdamPearson. Clarke certainly needed to use his imagination in his heat, alongside the Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph, presenter Kirsty Gallacher, actor Richard STARS OF SCREEN Celebrity MasterChef judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace ( left); contestants Clarke Peters (below), Lesley Joseph and Chris Eubank (bottom) ‘I’ve been vegetarian for 40 years. I thought this would be a good platform to extol those virtues’ Cover photography: Rich Jones Photography/ Getty Images, Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images