TV chef Tom Kerridge on how shedding 12 stone has inspired him to help others with his new BBC2 series, which starts on Wednesday night at 8pm

Tom Kerridge is used to being stopped in the street and congratulated on his amazing food.

As the owner and dazzling chef of The Hand and Flowers in Marlow – the only UK pub to have been awarded two Michelin stars – it’s pretty normal for proud locals to shake his hand, enthusing about his latest dish.

What he hasn’t been used to, however, is being stopped and asked about his weight.

“But that’s what started happening,” says Tom, 44, who four years ago was pushing 30 stone and has since famously lost 12 stone.

“People would come up to me or contact me through social media saying, ‘How have you lost all that weight and kept it off?’

“It made me realise that people relate to me. Yes, I’m on TV, but I’m not a superstar chef no one dares talks to. I’m a normal bloke from Gloucester who was massively overweight and now isn’t and they want to understand how I did it.

“I thought, if people feel they can ask me the questions, let’s see if I can do something to make a difference to their lives.”

That germ of an idea has transformed into his latest BBC2 show, Tom Kerridge: Lose Weight For Good, which starts on Wednesday at 8pm.

Ideally timed following the excess of Christmas, the six-week series finds 13 volunteers embark on a 12-week programme designed to help them fight the flab with low-calorie dishes that don’t compromise on flavour.

Here Tom Kerridge, who has presented BBC2’s Food and Drink and Bake Off: Crème de la Crème, reveals more…

Diets are nothing new, Tom. Can anyone really lose weight for good?

Tom Kerridge: “Absolutely –look at me! It’s a lifestyle you’ve got to adopt, though, not a diet. It’s not surprising the first three letters of diet are ‘die’ – they’re painful!
Lose that word and tell yourself you’re eating differently. It’s not going to be easy and requires effort and determination. You’ve got to look for ways that make it easier to stick to healthy eating by finding food you enjoy.”

We guess that’s where you come in!

TK: “I’ve come up with hunger-satisfying portions of lower-calorie food that will help people lose weight without feeling as if they’re missing out. So things like sticky pork chops, sweet potato and black bean burritos, baked doughnuts with sweet five-spice dust and, my personal favourite, Southern fried chicken, which is actually baked not fried! Doesn’t sound like ‘diet’ food does it?”

Not at all! Tell us about the volunteers…

TK: “I advertised in my hometown of Marlow and we’ve ended up with 13 incredible people. There’s a vicar who loves throwing dinner parties; a nurse who wants to look good in her wedding dress, and mums who have lost their confidence and comfort eat. They’ve embraced the recipes and, without spoiling things, I’m so proud of them.”

All dieters, outside the pub at the start of 12-week experiment

Tom and his dieters at the start of a 12-week experiment

What prompted you to lose weight, Tom?

TK: “Age. Approaching the big four–O, professionally I was smashing it – two Michelin stars, TV shows, cookbooks – but personally, I was evaluating my life and where I was going if I wanted to make the next 40 years. At 30 stone I realised I had to make changes.”

Guess it’s tough when you’re surrounded by temptation at work…

TK: “As a chef you play hard and party hard. I knew I had to take responsibility for myself so I stopped eating carbs, quit booze and began swimming every day. Over the last four years I’ve lost 12 stone and feel I’m going to be around to see the Little Man [Tom and wife Beth’s two-year-old son, Acey] grow up.”

How does it feel to be an inspiration to people?

TK: “It’s amazing to think my weight-loss recipes might change people’s lives. I know how hard it is to shift weight: now I want to help others do it. If the series inspires viewers I’ll be a happy man.”

INTERVIEW BY REBECCA FLETCHER