Celebrity MasterChef’s Tina Hobley: ‘I’ve only ever cooked cheese on toast!’

Former Holby City star Tina Hobley tells What’s on TV magazine why her kids think it’s hilarious she’s in Celebrity Masterchef (BBC1, Wednesday, July 2)…

Why are you putting yourself through Celebrity Masterchef?
“I don’t know! It’s silly because I’ve never cooked anything other than cheese on toast in my life! I was a shove-a-pizza-in-the-oven person. But I thought it would be a bit of a laugh and my family found it hilarious because this is the one show they thought I’d never do. My kids laughed at me and thought it would be funny to see Mummy in an apron – they’d never seen me in an apron!

“I do love watching the show. Our Saturday mornings are filled with watching cookery shows about everything. But I am not a baking mummy. In fact, my daughter stood up in assembly and said I was not a baking mummy. I still don’t want to be a baking mummy, but I want to regain some slight power in the kitchen.”

So your husband does the cooking?
“Yes, he’s the masterchef in our house and does everything, so I just stopped doing anything basically because everyone prefers his food. But what comes with that is that you lose your confidence, even with a basic omelette. My children would say ‘It’s all right, we’ll wait for Daddy to get up because we prefer his omelettes!’ But my husband said doing Masterchef would be a really good idea to get me to fall in love with the kitchen.”

Are your children fussy eaters?
“I’ve got one child who eats absolutely everything. The middle one tries to eat everything and the baby – if it’s green or not plain pasta he won’t touch it. We have three or four menus a day going on, it’s ridiculous. I know it’s my fault and it’s really bad, but feeding small children, I don’t care who you are, is not the most enjoyable experience!”

Was the Masterchef experience terrifying?
“Yes, I felt sick and nearly cried the first day. The studio stuff, I found very difficult, but I found the tasks brilliant. That’s where I felt I excelled because I love working in a team and I had brilliant teammates. I had a laugh basically. Everyone was just amazed how I fell into it and really took it on 100 per cent. But I was very honest with myself in that if I got so far, I’d be very grateful, and I felt like I’d achieved quite a lot because I was coming from stage zero. I was very open about how I was not a cook.”

Can you tell us anything about the tasks you had to do?
“The first task was fish and chips, which sounds quite straightforward and I thought ‘I can do this hands down’, but when you open your box, it doesn’t look like fish and chips. You’re trying to find a plain piece of cod and obviously it’s not there. I was looking for a normal potato and I picked up horseradish. I’d never seen horseradish like that before… I’d only ever seen it in a jar. I was about to cut it and put it in a deep fat fryer and fry it! It was really funny.”

How did you find working in a restaurant kitchen?
“I went to Pont Street in Mayfair and I had to cook for 40 people for lunch. I kept putting my head round the door going, ‘are they really eating it?’ I cooked nearly 40 halibut and I’d never cooked halibut in my life. I’m quite good at short-term memory so once I’m shown something and I’ve got to do it immediately, then I’m actually quite good at it, but you ask me about it in three weeks’ time I’ll never remember how to do it!

“I couldn’t believe how much butter and salt these chefs use, that’s what shocked me. They use loads of salt and loads of butter, so even if you think you’re ordering a healthy piece of fish in a restaurant, you’re not! I loved it though – it was the biggest adrenalin rush I’ve ever had, working in a professional kitchen under that pressure.”

What are judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode really like?
“John and Gregg were so professional. They’re friendly, but what you see on the show is exactly how they are, strict! I always thought they put an act on for the camera, but they don’t, not a bit. They don’t drop their act at all, which makes the whole thing so real and so terrifying. They’re not lenient on you at all, so when they do say something nice, you nearly fall over, as I did once. You nearly die because you’re hanging on any scrap of confidence, every word they say.”

What did you enjoy most about the experience?
“I hate to say it because it sounds really clichéd, but there was such camaraderie between the contestants [the others are Christopher Biggins, Kiki Dee, Charley Boorman and Jason Connery]. There was a certain team feeling, we were all supportive and helped each other. I’d met Charley and Biggins before and we’re all having dinner next Monday, we’re really close now! I’d call Biggins every night – we’d have this 9 o’clock chat about food so we were really a team. I got paired a lot with Biggins so we had such a laugh.”

Has being on MasterChef changed your cooking and the way you feel about it?
“Oh yes, I’ve realised it’s actually quite relaxing having a glass of wine and peeling some sweet potato while your partner is upstairs doing bathtime and bedtime! So now the tables have turned in our house – I’m fighting to cook! Before I didn’t enjoy it at all, but now I understand my husband’s love of the kitchen. I’m still not quite as patient as he is. I’ll always find ways of cheating to get things done quickly. But I was just walking past a kitchen shop and I was salivating over a mandolin cutter, which is very unlike me because I’m normally salivating over a pair of shoes! So it’s given me newfound confidence in the kitchen and I hope it stays with me because I thoroughly enjoyed my whole experience. Also, when I go to a restaurant, I look at the menu in a different way. I now know how much hard work goes into every dish and the pressure is intense. I don’t know how they do it, day in and day out.”

*Celebrity Masterchef is on BBC1 on Wednesday and Thursday at 9pm,  and Friday at either 7.30pm or 8.30pm, depending on World Cup football