TV & Movies

Emma Willis says new show Cooking With The Stars features ‘so much blood’ after injuries

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From The Voice UK, to The Circle, to her gorgeous fashion collection at Next – everything Emma Willis does leaves us wanting more. Well, we’re in luck as the 45-year-old gets ready to front Cooking With The Stars. The show sees eight famous faces and their chef mentors battle it out under intense time pressure as they attempt to produce restaurant-quality meals.

Emma explains, “Some of the celebrities had never cooked anything before and some of them had cooked a bit, so it was interesting to watch how competitive people got.”

When it comes to cooking for the family, Emma reveals she and husband Matt Willis, 38, “share” the responsibility. Saying that, the star isn’t immune to the occasional kitchen mishap and admits she may have had to retrieve dinner from the floor a few times!

Emma and Matt live in their Hertfordshire home with kids Isabelle, 12, Ace, nine, and Trixie, five. After Emma’s recent jaunt to Warwick Castle with family friends Tom and Giovanna Fletcher, we’re keen to learn more about her celebrity circle – especially since a couple of them will be appearing in the show.

Here, Emma reveals how her pals AJ Odudu, Harry Judd and Denise Van Outen fared on Cooking With The Stars and we find out more about her new bond with co-host, comedian Tom Allen…

Hi Emma! Can you tell us about the show?

We have eight celebrities who are paired with eight chefs and those celebrities compete against each other each week cooking a different themed cuisine. It’s really tense, it’s really emotional and it’s quite funny.

We hear it’s a bit gruesome…

It is! There was quite a bit of blood. There was a running joke on set that the medic had more airtime than Tom Allen and I think it’s the one thing none of us had really thought about. We knew there would be competitiveness and giggles, terrible food and good food, but we didn’t anticipate the blood.

You’re no stranger to the McFly boys. How did Harry Judd do in the competition?

Harry had an accident with a knife! He picked some herbs with one hand, had his knife pointing the wrong way in the other and, as he went to chop, his hand went straight down on to the blade. I was like, “Oh my God.” But he would not stop! No one did. Everyone just carried on and Harry went on mixing with one hand while his other one was being bandaged.

So Denise Van Outen’s fear of knives is justified?!

Denise was hilarious. Where Harry kind of went rogue with his knives, Denise was the polar opposite. She couldn’t use a sharp knife, so she had a little baby blunt knife that she literally used to cut everything.

Why did she go on the show?

Denise’s partner [Eddie Boxshall] does all the cooking in her house, but she really wanted to learn how to cook for her daughter, Betsy. Johnny Vegas was a bit like that too. His son’s started getting into cooking, so Johnny really wanted to learn how to cook well and pass on his recipes.

That’s lovely. Did it ever get really competitive?

Within a day or two! We bagged eight celebrities who all came in thinking this was an amazing opportunity to learn how to cook and be taught by the best chefs in the country. Then, all of a sudden, everyone was like, “Hang on a minute, I actually want to win this.” But the competitiveness comes across in a really nice way.

So there weren’t any spats?

They all had each other’s back, but when it came down to the cook-off they were like, “I absolutely adore you mate, but I really want to win this so, you know, best of luck.” It was a lovely thing to watch.

Did they get on with their chef mentors?

Thankfully! All the celebrities were doing mit for their mentors and wanted to make them proud. It was honestly one of the best working environments I’ve been in for a really long time. It was so lovely.

What were everyone’s cooking skills like at the start of the show?

I mean, you’re essentially dealing with people who have very little cooking experience. Some of them could probably master toast and that was it. That’s not a joke! But there were a couple of surprises where you thought, “Surely they don’t know what they’re doing,” and they were actually quite good.

AJ Odudu is also a big personality on the show. How did she get on?

She loves cooking, but she’s much more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants type of girl and doesn’t like to follow recipes. AJ had to really rein herself in and do what she was taught by her chef partner, Jack Stein. They were a fantastic duo.

The two of you are close, aren’t you?

She’s a really good friend of mine.

What was it like working with Tom Allen?

Oh my God, I love him so much. I want him to come and live with us. He was brilliant. I didn’t really know him – I obviously knew who he was and I’d watched him but I’d never actually met him. AJ knew him really well though and she said, “You’re going to absolutely love him and you’re going to get on brilliantly.” And she was absolutely right!

Did you form a bond throughout the show?

We literally spent all day every day with each other, even on our breaks. Sometimes at lunch you just go and collect your thoughts and have a moment… or nap! But we were like, “Let’s have lunch together. Let’s have dinner!” I love him. He’s just a brilliant, lovely and funny guy.

How much of the food did you guys get to taste?

Tom and I were the only people who didn’t have a proper plate to eat off. Quite frankly, we looked like stray dogs that had never been fed. We would just go and eat whatever was left in the pans.

How much of a foodie are you and did you pick up any tips?

I found that I’ve been doing a lot wrong over the years. Like, “What do you mean you don’t make carbonara with cream?!” I’m one of those people who tend to add a bit of this and a bit of that, which is great because you’re just trying things. But when I watched the professionals, I realised I’m overdoing everything. They say less is more and they’re right.

What’s your signature dish?

Curry. We ate it a lot growing up so I was kind of raised on it. If I’ve got to cook a meal for a bunch of people, that’s my go-to.

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Have you had any major kitchen disasters?

I’ve dropped food on the floor. That’s always a bugger. Then you ask yourself, “Do I pick it up and not tell anyone? Or do I just put it in the bin and start again?” If it’s a random roast potato I’ll just pick it up and not tell them!

Are there recipes you’ll be trying at home?

They cooked a chicken breast in butter and I mean they almost boiled it in butter. My God, it was good. I didn’t even know you could do that.

We’ve had a year of cooking at home or ordering takeaways. What are you looking forward to about having a bit more freedom?

When the world was normal and I did go for dinner, I only ever went to two restaurants, but there are so many fantastic places out there! Now that I’ve met eight chefs, I can’t wait to go to their restaurants and taste the way their food is genuinely meant to be made.

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