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There was an appetite for food on the telly. It was nothing to do with me!

There was an appetite for food on the telly. It was nothing to do with me!

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ever seen. I nearly died. I was ill every five minutes. Of the 360 sailors on

board, 120 of them never got out of their bunks for all that time! Then the

editor of This Morning, Richard and Judy’s show, saw it and thought it

would be fun to do something similar. So she got the two of us and

Marguerite Patten to do a celebration meal for their 999th show. We were

good and it was great and they wanted more. I never looked for this. I was

just happy to be doing it.

I had done some teaching but gave it up because I missed

the restaurant

TV wasn’t so far removed from what I’d been doing. First, it was

a subject I knew a lot about and enjoyed but, second, I’d always wanted to

be a teacher and in 1973 I did 15 months teaching mature students at

a technical college. The communication of the skill was really good but

I missed the roar of the crowd, the smell of the greasepaint of a real restaurant. So I went back to cooking and for seven or eight years I did This

Morning on Mondays and Fridays, and then other opportunities just opened

up. Probably a quarter of my time is given to TV and 75 per cent to

working within the restaurant businesses and charities.

I enjoy the camera and the atmosphere. It’s about communicating an enthusiasm rather than teaching. The time is too short to teach. It’s my intention

that people go and cook the dish. If anyone goes away saying, ‘That looked

fantastic, I can almost smell it. I’m sure I could do that’, then I’ve achieved.

The greatest accolade anyone can offer is when someone says, ‘You know,

I’ve tried your Yorkshire Pudding recipe and it works every time!’

I talk to Aunty Betty

I had no training whatsoever in presentation. I was taught by people around

me. They said: (a) you need to talk to your Aunty Betty at home. You know

that she’s behind that camera and you’re telling your Aunty Betty whom

you love and adore, ‘… this is how you do it’; and (b) when you’re doing

public demonstrations, look for a friendly face, which is, again, your Aunty

Betty. Eventually you’ll build up confidence to speak to unfriendly faces.

I’ve also learned to do the opening lines near the back end when you’ve

warmed up, got more confidence and you’re being yourself.





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I’m not a presenter; I’m just me being me

Most of the TV I’ve done has been live, ad lib TV. One lady said to me

recently, ‘You know the thing I like about you is, whenever I meet you,

you’re just the same as you are on the telly.’ For me, I don’t see it as

presenting in a different medium. It’s just me being me and doing what I

do. Not every chef can do it. There is no such thing as a TV chef in my

opinion although we are developing them. I don’t like to advocate that.

People say to me, ‘I want my son to be a TV chef.’ That’s nonsense! First

be a chef. Learn your subject matter and if you have the personality and

presentation skills the next step might be that. I am actually a professional

chef who cooks on TV occasionally. There’s a spectrum of those that can

entertain and those that can cook and in the middle there are very few who

can do both well. Glyn Christian, a friend of mine, presented well but

I don’t think he could cook to save his life. Anton Mosiman, who’s a great

cook, has very few presentation skills, he’s so bland.

I don’t use scripts

Directors do give you scripts sometimes. But I can’t learn scripts. I’ve

never been an actor or a thespian. I’m a cook who can talk a bit and the

minute you try to give me lines it sounds false. They say, ‘It doesn’t sound

quite right.’ And I say, ‘Of course it doesn’t. These are your words not

mine! Tell me what you want me to say and I will say it as I would say it.’

My attitude towards the TV crew is, if someone is paid to direct, someone

else to produce and I’m paid to present then that’s what I should stick to.

I’ll offer advice if I’m asked otherwise I’ll keep out of it.

I get very nervous

I get very nervous and like to go to the loo and then I pace up and

down. On Ready, Steady, Cook with Fern [Britton] I used to have a corridor where she and I used to just walk up and down, talking. When we did

it live in Birmingham they had classical music so we used to sing at the

tops of our voices whilst marching backwards and forwards waiting

for someone to say, ‘You’re on now.’ Once you’re on, most of the fears





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The cooking can go wrong but I can live with it

We do what we call choreography. We ‘dance’ through a recipe. Even the

taped shows are recorded as live. So we have a run through with a home

economics person helping, saying, ‘Next it’s this and then we move to

this …’ I move from left to right, therefore camera right to left, and my

cameraman can feel when I’m going to stop whisking and start speaking.

We don’t do it like Delia, who, I believe, does every dish six times and

records it, so that when they do the cutting and editing there are no blips

anywhere. I can live with blips because if it starts to go wrong you say,

‘Ah, that’s not what I wanted. Now let me show you how I’m going to get

out of this.’ Then you get back on track again.

I don’t diet; I breathe in!

I don’t worry about my appearance for TV although I do check my

weight occasionally and people in the office will say to me, ‘Turner, you

must do something about your tummy!’ Well, I can’t really, so I breathe in!

What you see is what you get. The great thing about being a cook is, of

course, that you should never trust a thin cook. Therefore, I’m my own best


There’s a new breed of TV chef … but I wouldn’t

employ one

There are competitions all the time to find TV chefs. So for young people

their ambition is to be discovered. When they’ve finished a working day,

what do they do? They sign autographs! When I’ve finished, I come back

to the restaurant and work there. These kids are keen and know a bit about

cooking but if you asked me whether I’d employ them in my restaurant,

‘No.’ It’s a double-edged sword in many ways, because although TV

cooking has taught young people that the food industry could be a business to be in, unfortunately it’s also taught them they could be stars. I want

to bang the drum of the professional chef who knows his stuff inside out.

If he discovers he’s got communication skills, he can tell people what he

knows. But if you’ve only been in the industry for two or three years you

can’t know that much.





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TV? I prefer restaurants

I’m not famous. People recognize my voice rather than my face. I’m quite

lucky because Jamie’s [Jamie Oliver] a scruffbag, Worrall Thompson’s

short and fat, Rhodes has got spiky hair and Ainsley’s tall, black and bald.

I’m an average-sized fellow. I’ve not got those special things that people

recognize instantly. I enjoy TV and love it to death. It’s probably saved my

life financially. But given the choice, I prefer restaurants.

My advice is be the tops in your trade

Know your subject matter; you need to be able to speak with authority. Be

the tops. Then take a sideways jump and you may go far. Television is

fashion and fashion by definition could be here today and gone tomorrow.

I work in an industry that will always be here. Everyone will eat every day,

please God, and as long as that continues we’ll always have a future.

TV chefs are on the way out … maybe!

Television is a nice little bubble to get involved in but it can burst just as

easily as it starts. I think the TV chef thing has reached a plateau. It’s not

going to grow much more. But then I’m the one who predicted that Ready,

Steady, Cook could only last about twenty shows because there’s only so

much you can do with a breast of chicken and we’re still recording 2000

shows on.


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