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'The weight lost by people who've read my books is truly humbling'

Tom Kerridge's Fresh Start sees eight families turn to the TV chef for much-needed help in the kitchen. Georgia Humphreys reports

Tom Kerridge knows exactly what it's like to have a total life overhaul. The Salisbury-born, Michelin-starred chef, who's also known for TV shows such as Great British Menu, The Food Detectives and Tom Kerridge: Lose Weight For Good, has shed 12 stone over the last five years.

His latest BBC Two project, Tom Kerridge's Fresh Start, features eight families and their children, who admit they're in serious need of help in the kitchen.

Whether they're using time as an excuse, have lost confidence with cooking, or simply don't understand ingredients, they all want to step away from the ready meals and takeaways.

They need healthier habits in general, especially because some of the parents in the show have health issues, such as Crohn's disease, high cholesterol and gestational diabetes.

Kerridge, who opened a new restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel in London this year, teaches them recipes using fresh ingredients which they can batch-cook.

They're also encouraged to make food together as a family and play around with new flavours - and they're motivated to get exercising more, too.

The improvements in the quality of life of the different contributors is really quite incredible. We sat down with Kerridge (45) to find out more.

On the success of the new show

I thought it would be quite difficult, because there's not an end-goal. It's not about losing weight, it's about trying to embrace and change your lifestyle. But many of the families got encouraged by the results that they saw really quickly, because the results are quantifiable in terms of happiness.

The learning curves that children went on was the biggest thing that I learnt from the show. They're like sponges. They were so enthusiastic about doing it. Whether they ate the end result or not, they wanted to get involved. That was really exciting.

On teaching children about cooking

It's not just about whether it's low-calorie, low-fat food. It's about, if you're making lovely little cupcakes with your kids, actually they're learning how to turn an oven on, how to mix ingredients, and the enjoyment of spending time together as a family. It becomes an activity.

On his own family's eating habits

We have the same problems as everybody else. I'm a two-Michelin-starred chef with a three-year-old son (called Acey) who doesn't like eating vegetables. You encourage it, you put it in front of them. They'll try it, they won't try it. He's very good with fruit, which is great, and he will have a go at stuff, but it's the same as everybody.

On his childhood

Most evenings was convenience food. I'm a child of the Eighties, where everybody had crispy pancakes, potato waffles. My mum was bringing two teenage boys up as a single parent and she had two jobs, so quite often it would be those sorts of things that I would cook for my brother.

But at the weekends my mum would make a real point of doing Sunday lunch, even if it wasn't with a joint of meat, because she couldn't afford it. She used to get sausage meat from one of the supermarkets and unwrap it and bake that. But with that, you'd have the cabbage, the carrots, the roast potatoes, whatever. It was absolutely delicious.

On his huge weight loss

The losing weight is something that happens alongside making the fresh start. It was a journey of wanting to change. For me, it was approaching my 40th birthday. You start looking at what you've achieved, what you've done, where you're at and where you're going to be for the next 40 years, hopefully.

On the importance of research

For me, it probably took about 12 weeks, maybe longer, before I made the decision, before I actually made the change. It was January, so it was a New Year's kind of thing.

You can't just walk into changing your life. You can't just wake up one morning and go, 'This is what I'm going to do'. Particularly for food, which is quite habitual. It's working out a route that you are going to go down.

A very simple example of this is recipes, an understanding of what you're going to cook. You have to plan going out and buying it.

On the benefits of cooking

We all enjoy a busy day at work, where you've achieved something. If you engage with sport, you enjoy putting the effort in to get something back at the end. It's the same with cooking. If you cook an amazing recipe that, at the end of it, you sit down and go, 'My God, this tastes lovely', that feeling that you've created it is special. And that, from a mental health point of view, is great and encouraging and brilliant.

On being a celebrity

I'm a normal bloke that has lost a lot of weight, that is still on that daily battle every day, dealing with: 'When can I get to the gym? What should I eat?' When you walk into a high street sandwich shop, the reality is that you want the cheese and ham toastie thing, but I have to pluck up all the might and willpower to go, 'No, I'll have the salad box, with the bottle of water'. I have the same battles as everybody else. I find myself in a position to be able to talk about it with a voice that reaches people and I hope it reaches people.

On the reaction from fans

I get loads of people telling me they love my recipes. But the majority of people over the last 18 months say how much weight they've lost, how amazing it's been, how inspiring it's been and how encouraging it's been that somebody has related to them. It's not like I'm 11 stone and I run marathons, I'm 6ft 3in and I'm still a massive bloke, so I think there's the realisation that I'm not different to anybody else. I can't imagine the amount of weight that's been lost from people reading my books. It's truly humbling."

Tom Kerridge's Fresh Start, BBC Two, Wednesday, 8pm

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