Celebrity MasterChef‘s latest series enters its final round of heats tonight, featuring one of Croydon’s most recognisable figures: actor, presenter and disability rights campaigner Adam Pearson.
Inside Croydon last encountered Pearson in person in the Royal Standard, the pub under the Flyover, where he helpfully handed us a menu from their recently re-opened kitchen. We wondered whether he had been doing a spot of moonlighting to get in some practice ahead of his appearance on one of weekday telly’s most-watched programmes.
“If you ever see me in the kitchen at the Royal Standard – very much the wrong side of the bar – it means a lot of things have gone very, very wrong in a very specific order,” Pearson said in an exclusive interview.
“I wouldn’t want to do that to my friends who drink there or to the staff.”
Pearson is one of 20 contestants in the latest series, alongside the likes of former world champion boxer Chris Eubank, Birds of a Feather‘s Lesley Joseph and comedian Richard Blackwood, who are trying to create some delicious dishes and impress the judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode.
Pearson has a disfigurement as a result of Neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes excess body tissue to grow on nerve endings, causing non-cancerous tumours (called fibromas) to occur.
Pearson worked as a researcher for the BBC and Channel 4 before becoming a strand presenter on the first series of Channel 4’s Beauty & The Beast: The Ugly Face Of Prejudice. He has fronted a variety of documentaries including Eugenics: Science’s Greatest Scandal (BBC Four), the critically-acclaimed Horizon: My Amazing Twin (BBC2), and The Ugly Face Of Disability Hate Crime (BBC Three), as well as being a reporter on The One Show (BBC1).
In 2013, he appeared in the BAFTA award-nominated film, Under The Skin, directed by Jonathan Glazer.
Pearson is an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, Changing Faces and Us In A Bus. He has won a RADAR Award and a Diana Award for his campaigning work.
But appearing on the celebrity cooking show, now in its 17th season, and being watched by more than 5million viewers, can be a bit of a stretch even for the most accomplished home cooks.
“I do very little cooking at home,” Pearson admitted.
“I’m semi-competent when it comes to my culinary prowess, though with all that being said, a combination of a very house-proud Mummy P coupled with a dangerous short attention span means I find cooking to be a mildly stressful endeavour.
“Once I got the call from my agent confirming the booking it became this massive scramble to learn and upskill as much as possible in as little time.”
The programme’s two presenter-judges, Torode and Wallace, come with a well-deserved reputation for being tough to please. Although with the show in celebrity mode, the chef and the south London greengrocer go out of their way to help the contestants as much as they dare in the against-the-clock cookery challenges.
“John and Gregg were both lovely,” Pearson said.
“Of course, there’s a high level of both intensity and pressure that comes with being in the MasterChef kitchen. It’s exactly how it is on the TV – apron on, clock starts and you either fly or die under the weight of your own culinary brilliance.
“If anything, having John and Gregg there calms you down!”
Pearson revealed a particular quirk of the MasterChef kitchen which caused him extra anxiety as a novice cook.
“Induction hobs and ovens are the most annoying invention since the Tamagotchi,” Pearson said.
“I’m used to gas, I’d practised on gas, the numbers on an induction set up are utterly meaningless to me – the instructions could have been in Latin and I’d have still had the same level of bemusement.
“Also the whole ‘cooking’ thing was a bit of a struggle.”
Which is a bit of a problem for a contestant on a high-profile cooking show…
The publicists working for the broadcasters went to great lengths to avoid giving away any spoilers, even the slightest hint of how Pearson might have got on in the recording of tonight’s heats, where he appears alongside actor Ryan Thomas, presenter Lisa Snowdon, drag act Kitty Scott-Claus and dancer Katya Jones.
They even refused to share any of Pearson’s recipes used in the show, or to say whether Call The Midwife‘s Cliff Parisi, who got through to the semi-finals in an earlier round after appearing to serve up proper London pie and mash, used eel juice in preparing his green liquor.
But they did allow us to ask what was Pearson’s toughest moment on the show.
“All of it,” he said, without hesitation.
“Don’t mishear me, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, learned a lot and met some cracking people (Ryan Thomas baybay!).
“It’s an intense competition and truly based in skill… as someone who loves to eat but has a complicated relationship with cooking, I was stunned at how intense it was, but also how much I got into it.”
- Adam Pearson appears in Celebrity MasterChef on BBC1 tonight at 9pm
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