TV presenter Gregg Wallace knows a thing or two about food and wine, so he’s the perfect host for a cruise through the gastronomic hotspots of Bordeaux
Gregg Wallace has had a stellar career for a man who started off flogging veg from a market stall.
He founded his own grocery business, competed on Strictly Come Dancing and became an internet sensation with the song Buttery Biscuit Base.
But he’s best known, of course, for the BBC’s hit cooking shows MasterChef and MasterChef: The Professionals, which he has co-presented since 2005.
And now Gregg, 54, is gearing up for a new adventure. This August he’ll be joining luxury river line Scenic for a food-and-wine cruise through some of France’s most beautiful countryside, starting in Bordeaux and sailing along the Garonne.
Gregg is no stranger to cruising – he has enjoyed many ocean voyages since his first experience aboard P&O’s Oriana in the Mediterranean – but for someone of his exuberant energy, won’t a river cruise be a bit too quiet?
‘No, I’m quite happy being sedate,’ he chuckles. ‘But I can’t sit on a beach or by a pool for days on end – I like to go off and see things. I also like long lunches, which is why a river cruise suits me perfectly. I’m looking forward to some leisurely travelling through the French countryside while eating very good – and I mean very good – food.’
While Bordeaux is famous the world over for its classic red wines, the accompanying cuisine gets less attention.
But Gregg believes this is a fantastic destination for foodies: ‘There are some fabulous regional dishes, with great seafood, good veg and wonderful meat. This whole area is a favourite for me and my wife Ann-Marie, and we’ve been there a number of times. My personal top choices would have to include beef cooked in red wine; snails; lamb with truffles and, of course, confit duck.’
So which aspect of the trip is Gregg most looking forward to – the food or the wine?
‘Both, really. I enjoy fine wines but it’s the unfussy dishes of Bordeaux, with their emphasis on flavour, that really excite me.’
A well-travelled man, Gregg has tasted his way around the world with MasterChef – but if he had to choose just one nation to visit for its food, where would he go?
‘That’s a tricky one for me – I’d need to choose between two countries, each with an incredible food heritage: Italy and France.
‘They both have world famous dishes… but if I really had to pick just one, maybe I’d say French cuisine is a little smarter, that little bit more chic.’
With the couple’s first child due in May, wife Ann-Marie is unlikely to be joining the trip, but Gregg will be accompanied by culinary wizard Steve Groves.
The winner of Masterchef: The Professionals in 2009, and current Head Chef at Roux Parliament Square, he’ll be on hand to chat about his experiences on the show and his career since, while talking guests through some of the flavours of the region and even cooking a meal on board.
‘I’m really looking forward to travelling with Steve, although I do see him regularly at Roux, a restaurant I’m very fond of,’ says Gregg.
‘Steve was a very worthy MasterChef winner – he has that rare blend of technical knowledge, experience and artistry, and all his dishes are beautiful to look at.’
Gregg will also be available during the cruise to answer questions, and he’ll judge a special plating challenge for guests.
It sounds like the recipe for an amazing culinary adventure – but if you’re still not convinced, let’s give the last word to the man himself: ‘You will sample some incredibly good food, taste fantastic wines, enjoy the cooking of a brilliantly talented MasterChef winner, and share a glass of wine with me.’