Gizzi Erskine is best known for presenting the TV cookery show Cook Yourself Thin on Channel 4. She has also appeared regularly on GMTV and This Morning with her zesty cooking style. Gizzi talks to MSN about TV show Cookery School with fiery Michelin-starred chef Richard Corrigan, those dreaded culinary disasters and dealing with hot tempers in the heat of the kitchen.
This year we saw you in a new cookery show, Cookery School, tell us a bit about it.
It's me and Richard Corrigan, running a cookery school for students of varying levels. We're teaching people who have lost the ability to cook.
They might be able to whip up a wicked Jamie Oliver salad, but they couldn't whip up a white sauce or make a good gravy. Because Richard Corrigan is a Michelin-starred chef, the food is seriously extreme! It's extreme cooking at its best.
Were there any culinary disasters during filming?
Oh my God - too many! Somebody while opening an oyster, literally ended up in hospital. That was pretty disastrous! And then you know, soufflés that aren't rising - all the typical culinary nightmares, which I think is brilliant to see, and also to see how to resolve them.
My job was to mentor them through the disasters. Richard's quite terrifying! He comes in as a scary Michelin-starred chef, and you know it! I'm there to say to them: "Look if you [mess] up, this is how you mend it."
Recipe books don't always tell you what to do if things go wrong...
Well this is it. Troubleshooting is the big thing that's missed out in cookery nowadays. I believe the real reason people aren't cooking from scratch is because nobody has taught them. Our grans would know how to get themselves out of a hole, whereas I don't think our generation do. I think it's such a shame.
What's it been like working with Richard Corrigan?
It's hilarious! Absolute fits and giggles the whole time. He's so naughty and he's so passionate about what he does. He can get pretty scary at times, but he's a big pussycat under it all!
Parma ham and breaded veal with spaghetti
You talk to him about food, and he knows the history of everything and he knows the origins of everything. It's like he has the Larousse Gastronomique imprinted on his brain. Which is basically my ambition!
What's it actually like filming a TV cookery show? It certainly looks pretty stressful for participants sometimes...
It's hectic and you're dealing with different personalities. When we were filming Cookery School, we had a guy who messed up quite badly with his final recipe. He was a really capable cook, but you're dealing with people that are like coiled springs. This guy flipped out and was actually really petulant, and like a bit of a brat, despite being in his fifties!
You're dealing with a lot of that. You've got people that are really passionate about food, but are having to deal with time constraints. It comes with its stresses for sure, but you know what, it's fantastic! I think when you're into food, you're quite an energetic person. I couldn't do a day that wasn't a bit bonkers!
What do you tend to cook for yourself at home?
I cook a lot of Asian food, so I do lots of stir-fries, Vietnamese-style. I eat a lot of chilli! I definitely like heat!
How would you get kids to eat their vegetables?
Being clever and getting veggies in, in ways you wouldn't expect to. So, try adding some pureed butternut squash into mashed potato. If you're making spaghetti bolognaise, grate in some courgettes.
Do you have any time-saving cookery tips?
Absolutely. Making vats of food. Make a vat of curry or a vat of stew. Another tip would be to look at Asian cooking. Everything is done fast and furiously. Five minutes of preparation, chopping everything, means you can cook a dish in about three minutes. There are a lot of things that you can cook speedily, like stir-fries, noodle soups and salads.
Which other chefs have you loved working with?
I tell you who else was amazing that I worked with - Heston. He was flippin' brilliant. I worked with him when I was food styling. He was just such a gentleman and so generous.
Cookery School is available on 4oD now. Gizzi's recipe book, Gizzi's Kitchen Magic, is out now, published by Virgin Books.