We grilled Gregg Wallace on his first impressions of the cooks in Celebrity MasterChef – and he didn’t hold back!

The new series of Celebrity MasterChef sees a host of world-class celebrities out of their comfort zones. First to tie on the MasterChef aprons this week are reporter Julia Somerville, snooker legend Stephen Hendry, presenter Angellica Bell, comedian Jim Moir and tennis champion Henri Leconte.

We asked the master of MasterChef, Gregg Wallace, who he thinks will follow in the footsteps of last year’s champion, Alexis Conran…

“All of the celebrities seem very surprised when they have to come on and just cook. They must think we’re lying and they’ll get unseen help off-camera,” laughed Gregg, who has been hosting and judging the show with co-star John Torode since 2006.

“I’ve been doing MasterChef for a long time now and Celebrity MasterChef is a favourite. It’s all about progression – some contestants may be in this competition for a while and they can develop into fantastic cooks. John and I don’t take the mickey out of them for ratings, we try to help and support them. MasterChef is honest and real, we don’t need to create drama.

“All we really want in the early rounds is for them to cook simple, homely food. But often they’ll get on MasterChef and start to question themselves and go a little bit weird and wild, cooking things they’d never cook at home!”

Gregg reveals his first impressions of the celebrity cooks in heat one…

Stephen Hendry, 48, world snooker champion

Stephen Hendry feels the heat…

Gregg said: “I straightaway jumped to the conclusion Stephen must be a really good cook – he was a brilliant, determined snooker player at a very young age and wouldn’t attempt MasterChef unless he was very good. Stephen’s also the cook for his family at home, which always makes an enormous difference.”

Jim Moir, 58, TV comedian Vic Reeves

Will Jim be serving the dove from above?

Gregg said: “Jim lives near me and we’ve bumped into each other at restaurants, so I’d a fair idea he’s a bit of a foodie. What I can tell you is, Jim understands flavour, but has the finesse of a beach-front donkey! However, you can teach presentation, not palate. Jim conjures up good flavours.”

Angellica Bell, 41. Presenter and celebrity TV regular

Will Angellica taste the same level of success as her husband?

Gregg said: “Angellica puts herself under incredible pressure. Her husband, Michael Underwood, got to the final three in Celebrity MasterChef in 2012 and she says she can’t face not getting as far as he did. I think it affects her performance.”

Julia Somerville, 70, newsreader and reporter

Will Julia Somerville manage to crack her nerves?

Gregg said: “Julia is a great person. She was a lot more nervous than I expected her to be given she does live TV. It took her a while to find her feet, which just shows that some people cope better on MasterChef than others.”

Henri Laconte, 54, French tennis champion

Henri Leconte is hoping to be finished Celebrity Masterchef by ten-ish…

Gregg said: “Now, Henri is a cook! It’s in his veins. However, Henri’s a little too flamboyant and not the best timekeeper. If you’re given 20 mins there’s no point doing a dish that takes 30, Henri! Our Henri is a great deal of fun, but he needs a bit of focus.”

Later in the series…
Heat two is a hotbed of British stars with Olympic swimming champion Rebecca Adlington, presenter Debbie McGee, Outnumbered star Tyger Drew-Honey, S Club 7’s Rachel Stevens and Radio 1 DJ Dev Griffin.

Heat three is an equally a good mix, with presenter Ulrika Jonsson, radio and TV journalist Aasmah Mir, children’s presenter Barney Harwood, opera singer Lesley Garrett and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ star Nick Moran all getting to grips with the MasterChef utensils.

Heat four sees Googlebox’s Reverend Kate Bottley, singer and actress Patti Boulaye, former Hollyoaks and Coronation Street actor Brian Bovell, comedian Abdullah Afzal and Union-J singer Jaymi Hensley air their culinary abilities.

Gregg can’t believe some of the dishes he has to sample

Celebrity MasterChef premieres on BBC1 on Wednesday, August 16 at 8pm.