Emma Willis: ‘I’m annoyed that I didn’t relish my Hollywood handshake’ | Food TV

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I’d never seen a “Hollywood handshake” before I got one [on The Great Celebrity Bake Off]. So when he shook my hand, I was like: “Aww, thanks Paul.” Then we were filming afterwards and I realised: “Err, it’s a thing?” Now I’m annoyed because I probably didn’t relish it enough. But it was a very firm, warm, slightly moist hand.

You basically eat biscuits and Deliveroo when you work on a TV show. For example, Cooking With the Stars or The Voice involve long, consecutive days, 8am till maybe 11pm. And your dressing room is filled with sweet treats that you love and you feel shit after eating them every single day for 10 days. Then you order from Deliveroo and eat it in your dressing room, on your own during a break. Sorry to shatter the illusion.

When I moved to London to work as a model, I was 17 and couldn’t cook. I’d obviously watched my mum at home so I kind of knew in principle, but I was 17 and I couldn’t be arsed, quite frankly. And I remember the girl I lived with asked me: “Do you not eat salad?” I used to eat toasted sandwiches or I’d buy frozen chicken burgers and put them in a bun. That would be my dinner. I genuinely don’t know how I survived.

If my kids ask, “Please can we bake?”, I think, “I don’t want to, because I’ll be left doing it and you’ll piss off and come back to lick the bowl at the end.” Then my mum brain kicks in and I think: “Oh, this is what you’re meant to do with your kids.” So I do it.

I don’t eat fish, cooked or raw. I blame my mum, because when we were little, she would get roe slices and fry them in a pan and make us eat it. When I was a kid, it was as disgusting as brussels sprouts. Now I can’t do anything with a shell or that’s looking at me.

We went for lunch in Cornwall last summer with Jack Stein [guest chef on Cooking With the Stars and son of Rick Stein]. He said: “Shall I order for us all?” And I was like: “Umm, err, I should probably tell you, I don’t eat fish.” And it was at the Seafood Restaurant. He didn’t know until we got there. But he thinks it’s highly amusing, he just laughs at me.

I’ve picked up certain things from [presenting] Cooking With the Stars. I’ve realised I overcook vegetables. And, the other day, someone on the show cooked asparagus in the microwave. They cooked it perfectly: it was the chef’s little tip. So there was this big debate about what you can cook in the microwave. Why shouldn’t you? It’s not a dirty word. We’ve all got them in our kitchens, don’t pretend you haven’t.

Bake Off painted a very good picture of my skill level. I always think I’m average at whatever I try to do. What I think I’m good at is taking direction. If you tell me what to do, I can do it. It may not be brilliant, but I can get by. And that’s what I did on Bake Off: I scraped through. Also I eat a lot of cake. When we had to make madeleines, and some people were like, “What the fuck are they?” I thought: “Oh, I know what one of those is. They’re wonderful!”

My favourite things

Food
Indian food. My go-to order is chicken pathia with saag paneer, cauliflower bhaji, rice, and papadoms with all the dips.

Drink
I very rarely drink alcohol, but if I do I’ll go for a pornstar martini. It doesn’t really taste like alcohol, does it? And M&S does a great one in a can called a passion fruit martini and it’s bloody lovely. So I’ll get a few tins in and pour it in a posh glass so it looks real.

Place to eat
The Deli in my hometown, Sutton Coldfield. It does a very small menu and it changes the theme every week. It’s not expensive, the atmosphere is lovely and you can take the kids and stay there all night.

Dish to make
I like to make a really good salad. Because salads can be quite boring, can’t they? But I’m getting much more adventurous with my dressings, and if you’ve got a good salad you can add anything to it.

Cooking With The Stars is on ITV, Tuesdays at 8pm

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