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'We're living in a crisis where nobody knows how to cook', says Gregg Wallace

Gregg Wallace is a man on a mission as the UK suffers through its cost-of-living crisis, something which he strongly feels is made worse by the nation’s lack of cooking skills.

The MasterChef host, who also presented Eat Well for Less until last year, considers the lack of knowledge ‘a crisis’ in itself, which can also be linked to rising obesity rates.

It doesn’t help either at a time when costs are rising across the board in supermarkets as well as restaurants and takeaways, although Gregg maintains that processed and ready prepared foods will ‘always be more expensive than standard, basic ingredients’.

‘I think we have a bit of a crisis in the country where the people don’t know how to cook,’ Gregg told Metro.co.uk. ‘I hear all the time from people “I don’t have time to cook” and that translates to me as “I don’t know how”. I think we’ve got a real problem with that and it’s nothing to do with lazy parents or even lazy grandparents – we’re generations too late. We’ve actually de-skilled a nation, and that has been concerning me for quite a while.’

‘We’re all aware of rising costs, heating and food and fuel, and so we’re all feeling the pinch, to a certain extent. But I didn’t realize what an incredible effect it can have on families that are already on the tightest of budgets,’ he added.

Gregg recently spent time with the White family, comprised of mum Daisy and her children Molly, Sapphire and Rhys, who has a life-limiting condition.

‘If you have a very ill young child or a disabled child, every cost that you can imagine triples or quadruples. That is the cost of transport, clothes, toys, educational toys – which are necessary – and food, because many of them have diets that are unusual,’ explained Gregg.

The former greengrocer admitted that this, as well as some disabled children’s conditions meaning parents simply cannot go to work are ‘issues that I was completely and utterly unaware of’.

However, Gregg, who was recently awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to food and charity, shared that he was ‘amazed’ by Daisy’s skills as a chef despite the financial limitations she faces.

Remembering her lasagne with a homemade bechamel sauce, he shared: ‘She had the knowledge of a professional chef because she wanted to be able to feed her children properly and had no way of buying ready prepared ingredients.’

When it comes to the recent backlash against Ashfield MP Lee Anderson’s claim that it was possible to cook ‘nutritious meals’ for around 30p a day, Gregg ‘doesn’t think that’s possible’ – but he puts someone like Daisy forward as the voice we should be listening to in the country’s current situation.

‘I just think to myself: “People in need of help, who would they trust? Would that be an MP? Or would that be a lady with a young family who’s actually doing it now?”’

‘I think there is a hero that people would actually listen to,’ he continued. ‘And if we were going to give advice, it could be from somebody like her who’s actually living it on a day-by-day basis and hasn’t come up with this idea with a spreadsheet and calculator.’

Food expert Gregg has partnered up with McCain and the Family Fund charity, which supports disabled children, to raise awareness after a poll conducted by the charity showed that 90% of families with disabled children are struggling to pay their bills, and over three quarters of parents are paying more for food and groceries to meet the needs of their child, compared to families without disabled children.

Gregg’s three-year-old son Sid has recently been diagnosed as autistic, with the 57-year-old revealing that this is one of the things that inspired him to get involved with the campaign.

‘It was it was my experience with his learning difficulties and also my experience as a single parent that made me really interested – and, of course, my background in food. I thought I might be able to add something here, I might be able to help, but actually there was very little I could offer in terms of help and experience. What I did instead was find myself on an incredible learning curve.’

When it comes to the help Gregg thinks should be offered though, to everyone in the country, he is very clear: compulsory cooking lessons in schools, for an hour a week, ‘from the age of five until leaving age’.

Saying that the people are now constantly told that cooking ‘is a difficult thing’, resulting in ready-chopped vegetables on offer in the supermarket for those who are ‘time poor’ to adverts offering ‘meal solutions’, Gregg continued: ‘Your food bills will go down if you know how to cook and you take time to plan. If you know exactly what you’re going to cook, from Monday to Sunday, you will only buy what you are going to cook. Your food waste will go down, your shopping bills will go down. But we need working class heroes like Daisy to show the nation how to cook because somehow, some way, we’ve got to get cookery skills back into the homes of Britain. Nobody knows how to cook!

‘If you now look at the rising cost of food, [if you want to] be able to solve all of those things – health and education and being able to plan and being able to save money on your shopping – you’ve got to bring cookery back. If we don’t bring cookery back, the health of the nation is going to get worse and worse and worse.

‘It only takes one generation to not know how to cook and they will not pass on those skills. They can’t pass on the skills. It’s a problem. It’s a major issue.’

He added: ‘If you cook, there’s no way you’d want takeaways every night, you know they’re unhealthy. If you knew how to cook, then you know how quick it is to grill a pork chop, you know how easy it is to put a fillet of fish with some olive oil in the oven.

‘But it’s nobody’s ever told you that, you’ll always think that cookery is difficult.’

A film with Gregg Wallace in partnership with McCain and Family Fund is out now and available to watch on mccainfamilyfund.co.uk . Support families raising a disabled child by heading to mccainfamilyfund.co.uk to learn more and donate.

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