Sheree Murphy proved herself to be pretty nifty in the kitchen on Celebrity Masterchef last year.
But she’s relieved to be presenting, not competing in, BBC1’S latest cookery contest, Yes Chef – especially as its judge is one of the world’s culinary greats, three-starred Michelin chef Pierre Koffmann.
‘It’s a dream come true, I keep pinching myself,’ smiles the bubbly, self-confessed foodie. In the daytime series, which continues this week, 16 of Britain’s best professional chefs mentor amateur home cooks, who then go head to head in a Friday final judged by Pierre.
‘People have been trying to get Pierre on TV for a very long time, so it’s an honour that he chose to do Yes Chef,’ adds Sheree, 41. ‘It’s so funny; all week we have top chefs with their own restaurants and tons of awards putting home cooks through their paces, and then Pierre rocks up on a Friday and all the chefs turn into starstruck schoolkids!
‘Pierre has a huge presence. One chef went, “It’s like God entering the room!” They just want to impress him. He’s The Boss, The Master!’
So how does Frenchman Pierre, who won his Michelin stars at his London restaurant La Tante Claire, feel to be so revered by modern greats such as Nathan Outlaw, Michael O’hare and Paul Ainsworth?
‘Ha, what can I say? I’m a nice person, always have been,’ winks Pierre, 68, ‘even though I was called “The Bear” in the kitchen when I was younger!’
‘They meant, “Teddy bear”,’ teases Sheree.
‘Seriously, 20 years ago when chefs started doing TV I thought it wouldn’t last,’ says Pierre, who is currently head chef of Koffmann’s at the Berkeley Hotel in London.
‘Why would anyone want to watch when they couldn’t taste the food? I thought it was stupid but I was completely wrong! People enjoy watching food shows. You can’t change your life – what’s done is done – but if I’d met Sheree and the rest of the Yes Chef team earlier, I’d have done more TV in my life.’
Praise indeed. Here, Sheree talks banter, Bake Off… and kissing Neighbours star Paul Robinson! Were you looking to host a cookery show?
No. It all came about because I did Celebrity Masterchef last summer [Sheree made the semifinals]. I said I loved cookery shows, so the call came asking me to do Yes Chef and I jumped at it. To work with Pierre and Britain’s finest chefs is amazing. I felt a bit intimidated before we met, but they’re all so down-to-earth. And fun! We laugh a lot on this show. for those who haven’t yet seen Yes Chef, what do the contestants have to do?
Each day the professional chefs put four home cooks through challenges such as filleting a fish or making the perfect tartare sauce, before choosing the best amateur to become their partner. They then compete in the ultimate pro-am showdown in Friday’s final.
Host Sheree Murphy and world-renowned French chef Pierre Koffmann on their ultimate culinary battle
It is, and it’s interesting to see the dynamics change on Fridays, because of the respect everyone has for Pierre. What’s lovely about him is that he’s caring – he gives the home cooks tips and suggestions. The amateurs are in heaven – to learn from the best is amazing. do you cook with your kids [Sheree has four children with her Australian exfootballer husband, Harry Kewell – taylor, 15, Ruby, 13, Matilda, eight, and dolly, four]? Oh yes, and we also sit down as a family to watch Masterchef and Bake Off – we’re all mad on baking.
So do you fancy your chances on Celebrity Bake Off one day?
Of course – now I’m a dab hand in the kitchen again! do you prefer presenting to acting? I love both. I was in Neighbours while we lived in Australia; kissing Paul Robinson, whom I’d grown up watching, was surreal. I’ve done a hat-trick of soaps now – Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Neighbours – just Eastenders and Corrie to go! I kind of fell into presenting and I’m super-happy to be doing Yes Chef. And my kids finally think I’m cool!
Presenter Sheree has all the right ingredients – and Michelin chef Pierre is the cream on top
Lining up on Celebrity Masterchef