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Actor and Celebrity MasterChef winner John Partridge shares why food is an act of self-care

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Actor and Celebrity MasterChef winner John Partridge shares his culinary journey of recovery and grief with Jenny Stallard

Celebrity Masterchef 2018 winner John Partridge. Picture: Louise Hagger/PA Photo
Celebrity Masterchef 2018 winner John Partridge. Picture: Louise Hagger/PA Photo

Paying tribute to your mum when you win a cooking competition would lead most people to believe that the mum in question was something of a tour de force in the kitchen.

But for Celebrity MasterChef 2018 winner, actor John Partridge, it's quite the opposite. And it's something that brings a grin to his face as he talks about his new cookbook, There's No Taste Like Home.

"I'm a mummy's boy, I'm proud of it and mum was a huge part of my life. She was a dreadful cook! She hated cooking – it was the one thing she did not enjoy."

Still, the food he grew up with was a massive influence on his winning MasterChef menu – the book is named after it, in fact – and there's a poignancy to the fact that the win came a year to the day after he lost his mum, Bridie, to Alzheimer's.

"When I think of that food now, marrowfat peas, tinned ham, I just love all of that, and it's become a part of my style of cooking now."

He even had his mum's wooden spoon with him in the studio. "When I touch the handle of the spoon, because it's been used for so long, it feels like the palm of her hand," he says.

Would she be proud of the book? "She'd be embarrassed! She was a very quiet lady, quite shy, very reserved in a way," he recalls. "I miss her terribly."

Cooking hasn't just been a way through grief for Partridge, who first trod the boards in Cats, and became a household name thanks to his role as Christian Clarke in EastEnders. It's helped with addiction recovery – but he wasn't always a keen cook.

John Partridge and his mum Bridie. Picture: John Partridge/PA Photo
John Partridge and his mum Bridie. Picture: John Partridge/PA Photo

After going to the Royal Ballet School at a young age, he ate for fuel. Then, during years of alcohol and drug addiction, food wasn't, well, high on the menu. "I still cooked, but when you're drinking a lot, or doing drugs, food is low down on the list," he says.

"Making yourself something lovely to eat, be it a bowl of soup, beans on toast... it's an act of self-care, and that's something that was really lacking in my life.

"Cleaning up has allowed me to look after myself a bit better. Plus, I'm getting on a bit more, I need to look after myself now!"

There's a real Seventies vibe to the book, with recipes such as cheese and onion tart and Black Forest gateau. There are also influences from abroad, 'hangover' food, and a fabulous section called For Fancy, inspired by his sister.

"My cooking and food story has allowed me to reconnect with myself. That's why I say in the book that cooking the food from my past has helped me to live in the present. It helped me to go back and remember aspects of my life and myself that I had forgotten.

"Some I chose to forget, some I thought weren't important enough to remember. And I'm so grateful that I've been able to have this opportunity to do that.

"I didn't cook fancy dishes on MasterChef. I remember Greg (Wallace, one of the judges) saying, 'You can't cook a hotpot for the final'. He loved it! It may not be what you call fine dining, but it's fine with me. I will be forever grateful to that programme."

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