Paul Chuckle on cooking for Celebrity MasterChef judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace

A keen cook, Rotherham’s Paul Chuckle discovers how whipping up dinner at home is different to cooking in Celebrity MasterChef. Prudence Wade reports.

It might be a long way from ChuckleVision but Paul Chuckle knows his late brother Barry would be pleased to see him on our screens again – this time donning an apron for Celebrity MasterChef.

“He would have said, ‘Good lad. Get on there’,” Chuckle reflects. “He wanted me to stay in the business – which I’ve done. I’ve done pantomimes every year since he died except, of course, when there were no pantomimes because of Covid.”

And taking on the MasterChef challenge wasn’t a big ask for the 74-year-old.

Paul Chuckle, pictured centre with Danny Jones, Nancy Dell’Olio, Faye Winter and Kae Kurd is on Celebrity MasterChef. Picture: PA/BBC/SHINE TV

“I’ve been a fan since it started,” he says. “I’ve always liked cooking, it’s a very relaxing thing to do, and since the inception of Celebrity MasterChef, I’ve always said to my manager, ‘Can’t you get me on that? I’d love to do that’.”

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“The first day, it’s a bit like sitting an exam at school,” Chuckle remembers. “You’re not allowed to lift the paper to see what your questions are until they say, ‘Go!’ and the time starts.

“You lift the cloche off, and I’ve got mushrooms under there, just a load of mushrooms.

Paul Chuckle has spoken about cooking in the Celebrity MasterChef kitchen. Photo: PA/BBC/SHINE TV

“I thought, what am I going to do with that – mushrooms on toast?”

Rotherham-born Chuckle recounts how he fetched all of his other ingredients to make a dish, but even then things weren’t coming together.

“I still didn’t know what I was going to do with the mushrooms,” he says, describing the whole process as “a bit nerve-wracking”.

It was the time pressure that Chuckle says he really found difficult. “Cooking at home you’ve got all afternoon to cook, you’re not under time pressure, whereas there you’ve got an hour to prepare and cook and serve a dish.

“That is when the pressure comes in – they’ll say, ‘You’ve had 15 minutes’ – hey? I’ve only just peeled my potatoes!”

Luckily, Chuckle found camaraderie with his fellow contestants: McFly’s Danny Jones, Love Island’s Faye Winter, comedian Kae Kurd and media personality Nancy Dell’Olio.

He particularly got on with Jones, describing them as “two naughty school kids at the back of the room”.

And that’s hardly the last school-related analogy Chuckle uses to describe his time on MasterChef, saying: “The worst bit is when you walk forward and give them your food, and you have to stand there on the spot while they talk to you and ask you what you’ve done… It’s a bit like standing in front of the school teacher with you homework and being judged by them.”

Ultimately, Chuckle calls judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode “really lovely guys”. And he does say he learned a lot from MasterChef, even if he thinks “comedy is easier”.

A keen cook at home, Chuckle rates his skills pretty highly – and hasn’t had many disasters in the kitchen (other than “setting fire to a chip pan once”).

But he says: “Even after all the years I’ve been cooking, I learned loads of stuff” – particularly in The Street Food Challenge.

“The hardest part of that first week was when they gave us some Korean street food, and we had to guess what all the ingredients were in it, and write them all down,” he explains.

“That I’ll tell you is very, very difficult – to have a taste of it and think, obviously there’s chilli in there. There’s obviously garlic in there, but what else is in it? We had to guess and write it all down.

“That wasn’t the end of it, when you’ve done that and they laugh at you, they say right, with those ingredients, you’ve now got to make some Korean street food with it.”

This was very much out of Chuckle’s comfort zone. “I do like to make sticky wings and stuff like that, sweet and sour. But I don’t go further, like Korean street food.”

His verdict? “After that, I don’t think I’d go for it again,” Chuckle says with a laugh.

He had a bit more success with the third challenge, where the celebs were tasked with whipping up their most impressive dinner party dish – not that Chuckle would ever eat the meal he served to the judges.

“It was based on salmon, and I don’t eat fish. I hate fish.”

When he had dinner parties, he says: “I always used to cook chicken, beef, lamb or whatever. And they [his guests] used to say, winding me up, because they all know I don’t like fish, ‘When are you going to cook us something with fish then?’

“So, one dinner party, I thought right, I’ll do something with salmon. I’m not eating it myself, I’ll make something else for myself, but I’ll do them salmon.

“I did a dish with salmon, and they said it was absolutely fabulous, the best salmon dish they’ve ever had. So when it come round to doing a dinner party dish, I thought, I’ll do that.

“Again, I didn’t taste it, I don’t know what it tasted like. It supposedly tasted really good.”

Would Chuckle recommend this approach to food at home? “It’s not a clever way of cooking, because you should always taste to see if you’ve seasoned enough,” he admits.

But it’s all part of Chuckle’s competitive nature. “I’ve always been the type to think coming second is not good enough. You’ve got to give it everything you’ve got. You want to win with anything: football, cricket, cooking on MasterChef – you just want to do well.”

In the world of celebrity chefs, Chuckle says: “I think I’m a James Martin, because I do like to cook with a lot of butter and cream, which James does.”

And he’s hoping his stint on MasterChef will get him an invite to appear on one of his favourite shows: James Martin’s Saturday Morning.

That’s not the only show Chuckle likes watching; as it turns out he would be game to do a lot more reality TV if asked.

“I’d obviously do the jungle if they wanted me to go to Australia” – even though he admits: “I hate the thought of eating all that stuff they have to eat. But it has to be done if you want to do a programme like that. Celebrity Big Brother – now I could do that. I’d love to do that.”

He’s also game for Celebrity Gogglebox (and he’s already got the family link – his great niece and nephew, Pete and Sophie Sandiford, appear on the regular show).

The Chuckle brothers did get to do a spot of reality TV together before Barry died in 2018. “We did the first ever Celebrity Coach Trip,” Chuckle says. “We won that – me and Barry won the first ever one. That was really good fun.”

Celebrity MasterChef returns to BBC One on Wednesday, August 10.