Masterchef judge Gregg Wallace embarks on new TV venture as travel presenter

He's usually seen judging wannabe cooks alongside John Torode on Masterchef.

But fans will see Gregg Wallace embark on a different telly venture this week ­— as a travel presenter.

The 55-year-old is fronting a new series for Channel 5, Gregg Wallace’s Fun Weekend, the first time he’s done anything away from the BBC in his 20-year career.

“It’s also the first thing I’ve done on my own,” Gregg tells the Daily Star. “Every time I ate something I was looking to see where John was.

“I was all right looking at buildings and paintings, but I missed him when it came to the food.

“I found it very different but ­doing the show was an easy decision to make, and I learned a lot.”

While the coronavirus pandemic means travelling is now off the menu for a while, Gregg’s show provides the perfect opportunity to see some of Europe’s best cities from the comfort of your sofa.

The first episode finds him heading to Rome, where he eats traditional Italian comfort food, finds out the secrets of the city’s
famous gelato, and embarks on a scooter tour with his guide Sandro.

Other episodes will see him visit Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona to showcase the cities’ culinary and ­cultural highlights and little-known gems — but the Italian capital was his favourite of the four.

“It’s a city I’ve been to many times, but Rome is my favourite,” says Gregg.

“Not many people know this about me, but I’m a real history buff and the city has so much, from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. Then you have fabulous food, fashion and amazing culture.

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“If I wasn’t a proud Englishman I’d be an Italian, probably.”

Gregg has been married to fourth wife Anne-Marie Sterpini, who has Italian parents, since 2016.

And the TV presenter says his­ ­favourite ever holiday meal was in Portofino on the Italian Riviera with Anne-Marie, also known as Anna.

“It wasn’t long after I first met Anna, we’d only been dating a few months,” says Gregg.

“The best meal was when we had lunch right on the bay. It was just ­perfect. I was falling in love with this beautiful woman and we had giant goblets of white wine and pieces of toast with butter and anchovies from a tin. It was simple but stunningly beautiful.”

Gregg admits that filming away from his wife can be tough. “I find it a little bit sad going places ­without Anna,” he says.

“Whenever I see anything great and experience anything wonderful, I want to share it with her.”

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The pair had their first child ­together, Sid Massimo, last year and Gregg says the first thing he did was pass on his love of history to his son.

“When he was given to me, the first thing I did was tell him about the Viking ­invasions in Britain,” says Gregg.

“It was the first thing he heard. Anna really laughed about it.”

Gregg’s own love of history came from his grandfather, who lived upstairs while Gregg was growing up in Peckham, south-east London.

“At the weekends, he would tell me stories about Romans, knights and ­soldiers, and that’s where it comes from,” says Gregg.

“I remember very clearly that I was about six years old, and would be asking him constant questions.

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“I now have an enormous passion for history.

“If I could go back to any era, I’d love to see Ancient Rome or be at the Battle of Waterloo.

“I’d also like to glimpse Victorian London and go out for the evening in a top hat and tails.

“But the reality is I’m a ­working-class boy so I’d probably be up a chimney!”

One highlight of Gregg’s ­travels was when he had a gladiator lesson in Rome. In the past few years, he has lost three stone through
overhauling his diet and having daily gym workouts, and he admits that he would have struggled to do the class otherwise.

“The guy I had to fight was so fit and strong and wouldn’t smile at me until we had finished, as he wanted to stay in character,” says Gregg.

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“It was nerve-wracking and physically really tiring.

“If I wasn’t in the gym every day there’s no way I could have done that scene.”

Once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, Gregg hopes he will be commissioned for a second series.

“I’m hoping to go to Eastern Europe next time and explore more there. I’ve never been to Poland or the Czech Republic,” he adds.

“I’d also love my own history show too, of course!”

● Gregg Wallace’s Fun Weekend starts with his trip to Rome on Friday at 9pm on Channel 5.

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