Cooking up a new storm as Celebrity MasterChef returns to BBC One

Zoe Lyons, Gemma Collins, Monty Panesar, Chizzy Akudolu and Stef Reid.
Zoe Lyons, Gemma Collins, Monty Panesar, Chizzy Akudolu and Stef Reid.
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Twenty famous faces, plenty of kitchen mishaps and triumphs, plus the formidable presenting duo of Gregg Wallace and John Torode: Celebrity MasterChef is back.

The 13th series of the BBC One cooking competition, sees singer/songwriter Carol Decker, 60, show us her culinary skills in the opening episode.

“I was shocked at how nervous I was,” says the T’Pau vocalist, most famous for Eighties hit China In Your Hand.

“I’ve done a lot of different things in my career. I’ve acted, I’ve been on the West End stage, I’ve hosted radio shows, I’ve presented TV shows - there’s not much I haven’t had a go at. But,

I was absolutely bricking it.”

Here, Merseyside-born Decker tells us more about her experience filming Celebrity MasterChef.

Carol Decker.

Carol Decker.

High pressure:

Decker competes against actor Keith Allen, TV presenter Michelle Ackerley, former international rugby player and TV presenter Martin Bayfield and recording artist and model Josh Cuthbert.

Stars taking part in the heats that follow include The Saturdays singer Frankie Bridge, reality star Spencer Matthews, cricketer Monty Panesar and country artist Stella Parton (yes, that’s Dolly’s sister).

As for the challenges the cooks can expect, it’s no mean feat.

There’s a test of imagination, where they have to pick ingredients from the Mystery Box - Decker had items such as pork mince, prawns, fennel, cabbage and pears, as well as a basic larder - to create a stand-out dish.

Next, they get to work in a real restaurant kitchen, where, likely for the first time in their lives, they cook for paying customers. Sounds daunting, right?

Finally, they have to prepare a two-course menu of their own design in just one hour, which Gregg and John will judge. And, at the end of this test, one celeb goes home, while the others progress onto the next stages.

New challenge:

Taking part in Celebrity MasterChef was definitely a chance for Decker - whose new single, called Run, is released this month - to step out of her comfort zone.

“I’m married to an amazing chef so I never have to cook, and my cooking’s got worse and worse and worse with each passing year,” admits the star, whose husband is restauranteur Richard Coates.

“But what I really liked was being put under a little bit of pressure to do something I hadn’t done before.”

It’s an experience she doesn’t regret for many reasons, “learning to get on with different kinds of people,” for example, and also her kids’ reaction to her doing something different.

“They were super excited because it’s a really big show, and they understand the profile it brings, and the attention,” says the mother-of-two (daughter Scarlett is 20, while son Dylan just turned 16).

“I think they’re bored to death of hearing me sing China In Your Hand.”

Asked if her kids like cooking, she exclaims with a laugh: “No, not at all! Scarlett - typical student - eats pasta every day. And Dylan has now learnt to do a beef flavoured pot noodle, which he’s super excited about.

“Considering their father is classically trained in French cooking, I think we disappoint him greatly, because the three of us would just eat chip butties all the time!”

Girl power:

Discussing the toughest moments during filming Celeb MasterChef, Decker says she felt “a great sense of responsibility” when cooking for diners at Leicester Square Kitchen (the London restaurant showcases contemporary Mexican and Peruvian small plates).

But, she points out, she refuses to be intimidated by working in a male-dominated environment.

“I’m very conscious not to look like the little woman that can’t cope,” she remarks.

“Having been in the music business for over 30 years, and it always having been largely male-orientated, I’m used to not giving them any excuse to say, ‘She’s just a girl’. But I definitely felt pressure in that kitchen brigade not to burn everything, and get everything out on time.”

Does she think attitudes have changed in the music industry when it comes to female artists?

“I think so. I don’t know if that’s just because I’m a grown up now. I’m prepared to stand my ground over things, so I find I get a reasonable amount of respect back.”

She continues: “I wouldn’t like to make a sweeping generalisation... I would say it’s not exactly even handed, there’s probably still more men in the industry than women, but I don’t find I’m talked down to.”

In the spotlight

Decker’s career has spanned decades - after forming T’Pau with then boyfriend Ronnie Rogers, she secured her first record deal aged 28.

While being a popstar may be very different now, thanks to things like social media, it doesn’t sound like Decker plans on retiring from performing any time soon.

“We’re called ‘veterans’ now - it sounds like we went off to war,” she quips when asked about being an older woman in the music industry.

“All the festivals I’ve done this summer I’m with Tony Hadley, Go West, Kim Wilde, Clare Grogan - we’ve all been doing it for 30 years plus.

“So I don’t feel I’ve got to compete with Taylor Swift or something. We’re in different worlds.”

And she still gets the same buzz from being on stage that she did back when she was touring the world.

“It takes my breath away, especially when I get to China In Your Hand [it went to number one in the Eighties] - I barely have to sing the chorus and after the lead break, everyone puts their arms up and they do this Eighties wave from side to side,” she notes.

“You’ve got 20,000 people doing that. It’s still a privilege.”

Celebrity MasterChef 2018 starts on BBC One on Thursday.