Katherine MacAlister talks to Gregg Wallace about the highs and lows of his career.

DO YOU know what I get asked more than anything else? Why do I have to wear a hairnet in the factory when I don’t have any hair,” Gregg Wallace tells me roaring with laughter.

The famous foodie TV presenter, best known for his 13-year stint on MasterChef, is talking about the second string to his bow Inside The Factory, the third being Eat More For Less.

And yet despite his burgeoning workload, we are here to discuss his new ‘Evening With’ style stage show, coming to The Theatre in Chipping Norton tomorrow night.

And yet surely he’s got enough on his plate at present? Why pack more into a workload which would have most TV presenters gurning in jealousy?

“I just can’t help myself,” he grins. “There are so many things I like to do and I don’t have an off switch.

I’m just interested in lots of different things and really enjoy the creative side. It’s quite addictive.”

And then he pauses: “Or maybe it’s because I didn’t have a particularly good start in life.”

But doesn’t Gregg come from wholesome greengrocer’s stock? “No, I got kicked out of school and home aged 15 with no qualifications and had to fend for myself.”

And with that bombshell, all my preconceptions about Gregg Wallace disappeared, replaced by a million other questions – what did he do? Where did he live? How did he cope? How did he start his business and make something of himself with nothing? Why does he have such a positive outlook after such a poor start in life? And does he talk about all this in his show?

“No, most people just want to know how I got on TV and to be honest I don’t usually get this deep,” he shrugs.

“But my parents were splitting up at the time and I didn’t deal with it very well. Until then I’d been a model grammar school boy but then I became unmanageable. And once I’d

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been kicked out I had to sofa surf and find a career fast. But it wasn’t easy.”

So what did he do? “I looked in the Evening Standard and applied for a job delivering fruit and veg. I soon realised that alone wasn’t going to buy me the house and car, or the security I needed, so I started hanging out in restaurant kitchens talking to the chefs to find out what they needed. I fell in love with the camaraderie and the atmosphere, and started going to France to buy the produce for them myself, and it all went from there. By the age of 24 I had my own company,” he says matter-of-factly, as if anyone could do the same.

“And then I had the money to start eating out in these fancy restaurants three to four nights a week, and it was easier to meet women that way. I loved it.”

But doesn’t he think that’s remarkable in itself, to go from homeless to company director so quickly? “It does seem incredibly brave now,” Gregg admits, “but at the time it was an absolute necessity. It was the only way to salvage the situation. No one had taught me how to go about earning money,” the South-Londoner tells me.

“But now that I’m bringing my own children up it has finally dawned on me how young 15/16 was to be fending for myself.”

Not that he has let his traumatic early years determine the rest of his life, instead turning it into a triumph.

And what of his Masterchef reign with legendary chef John Torode of over a decade? “It’s amazing how far you can get with a smile, but I absolutely love it. I really do. I always liken it to backgammon - the pieces are always the same but you always play a different game every time. But I think it's secret is its honesty.

“In fact, a woman at my last show said she could always tell whether I liked the dishes on Masterchef by how long I kept my fork in my mouth. And I had to watch the programmes back to see if that was the case. And she was right,” he laughs.

As gregarious in real life as his is on TV, Gregg’s private life has been as colourful, with four marriages under his belt. Too enthusiastic maybe? “That’s what people think isn’t it, that I just rushed into it?

“But I haven’t changed. I was married to my first wife for 14 years and courted my second for two. But I really have won the lottery this time. My wife Anne Marie loves me for exactly who I am. It was just a case of finding the right woman.”

Gregg Wallace is at The Theatre Chipping Norton on Friday September 20.

01608 642350 or chippingnortontheatre.com