Gregg Wallace made two conditions when his young, cute, sexy girlfriend Anna told him she didn’t want to be “messed around” but wanted a marriage and kids.
“I said, ‘At my age I wouldn’t choose to have children, but I’m in love with you and if you want to, I’ll be happy to do it with you,’ recalls Gregg, who is now 57. ‘But I had two conditions.
“I said, ‘I’m not happy to trade my young, cute, sexy girlfriend for an exhausted mother, but if that’s what you want, I want to get help.’ The other condition was, “I want to go on holiday with you for fourteen days every year without a baby.”
“Normally your children are grown at my age and you get your wife back. I will be in my seventies by the time our son Sid is 20. I have to smile now, the two conditions I had.’
It could be. Today, Anna, 35, has a ring on her finger (they got married in 2016) and Sid is two and a half, but she and Gregg have only had a 10-day holiday in Ireland since he was born.
Gregg Wallace, 57, who lives in Kent, with wife Anna, 35, and mother-in-law Rina, and father-in-law Massimo, 64, returns to the screens with a new series MasterChef: The Professionals
Gregg is the kind of obsessively organized type who can’t go on vacation without, he says, planning in advance “which days to sunbathe, which days to go out and see things.” Are we having a drunk lunch or a drunk dinner?’
But when he imposed those conditions on his young, cute, sexy wife-to-be, he hadn’t considered the things life has to offer. Anna had suffered from undiagnosed endometriosis since she was 16 – a painful condition in which tissue similar to the tissue that makes up the uterus grows outside.
Her pregnancy exacerbated the condition, so when Sid was nine months old, she had to have a hysterectomy and remove part of her bowel, during three surgeries.
“When she went in for the first surgery, I was sitting in a hotel room by the phone waiting for it to end so I could call the hospital,” said Gregg, who was filming MasterChef at the time.
“That was scary, very scary. She was in the operating room for three hours. She lost a lot of blood and was in pain that left her in intensive care for three days.
‘We had a hard time, well, Anna had a hard time. Of course, because the surgeries were so big, the intimacy kept between us for a while, but there was always love and affection.”
You probably need to know Gregg, who returns to BBC1 on Monday with a new series MasterChef: The Professionals, to understand what this says about his deep feelings for his wife.
He’s a perfectionist (“I’m CDO – it’s like OCD, but I need things in the right order,” he jokes. “I like structure. I like regular patterns. I like symmetry. I like tight surfaces. I like order”) but was never really some kind of in-sickness-and-health-till-death-our-do-part.
Gregg (pictured) was warned by his psychiatrist that he would never find happiness if he kept picking women the way he chose cars
He’s had more wives and girlfriends than most of us have eaten at fancy restaurants, though his first marriage to Christine 30 years ago barely lasted long enough to get stuck in the entree, ending after six weeks.
He was then married to confectioner Denise for five years, with whom he had children Tom and Libby, now 27 and 24.
Woman number three was Heidi, now 39, whom he met via Twitter. When they broke up in 2012, just 14 months after their marriage, he began dating leggy, beautiful women who made him feel, he said, “riding my Jag with the roof down” when he dined with them. walked in. His psychiatrist told him he would never find happiness if he continued to pick women the way he chose cars.
“The reason I had so many girlfriends was that I was always looking for someone,” he says.
‘I think it’s an absolute game of chance. What are the chances that you will find someone who not only makes you attracted and makes you feel comfortable and happy, but who is actually looking for what you have to offer? What is the probability of that happening? I really hit the jackpot this time.
I found a woman who doesn’t want me to change
“But I do worry that I won’t be there forever to take care of Sid and his mother. That’s my big fear. There’s a huge age difference and it’s clear that I won’t be there for Anna’s later life.’
Last month, except for Anna, Gregg was filming MasterChef when Sid had a troubling rash. His mother-in-law Rina, 61, and father-in-law Massimo, 64, who share their family home in Kent, were also gone at the time. “It was scary,” Gregg says.
“This rash spread very quickly around Sid’s body. Anna has an appointment for him to see the doctor. He was allergic to something.
Gregg adores his in-laws, who asked Anna to meet him when she first stayed with him. Pictured: Gregg with Anna and their son
The doctor said, ‘If he gets a fever, it could be something else. Do not wait. Call an ambulance.” But it was okay, because by lunchtime the rash was gone and Sid didn’t have a fever, so the relief . . . the relief.”
Gregg adores his son, as do his grown children, whom he raised when his marriage to their mother ended. They were both at Sid’s birth.
Gregg met Anna on Twitter when she sent a tweet asking if a recipe he cooked with duck and rhubarb actually worked. He looked at her picture and thought, ‘Oh my word, you’re a beautiful girl,’ so took her out to dinner.
“She asked him to meet her parents when she first stayed with him. “I said, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ She said, “Well no, actually they really want to meet you.” I was only Anna’s fourth boyfriend and this is her first time out of the house.’
He took them to the fancy restaurant Le Caprice where Rina, ‘who’s a bigger chatterbox than I am, barely said a word. She just stared at me because I was the TV guy and she’s a MasterChef fan.’
OUR SID IS MY TRIBUTE TO MY HERO GRANDAD
Gregg’s happy family life is all the more special because his childhood was terribly dysfunctional. When he was 14 and his parents divorced after years of drunken fights and affairs, he discovered that his real father was actually his mother’s lover.
He says he loved his mother “to the last detail”, but she was never a real mother and at 15 he was living alone, because he stopped going to school. The greatest support he had was from his grandfather Sid. “He was a big family man with a big heart,” Gregg says.
When it came to naming their son after him, Anna wasn’t sure, as she didn’t like the name, but she knew it was important to Gregg. “Then Sid was born and I said, ‘Does he look like a Sid?’ and she said, “Yes, he does.”‘
He adores them both. “It’s a lovely, happy home environment with Anna’s parents there, my daughter Libby and Anna. It’s fantastic. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Massimo and Rina are golden people.
‘The sun shines in their hearts. They are the prettiest, the warmest – just so Italian. Everything is family. Everything is food. I go home and there is good food and bottles of wine or a glass of grappa. You sit around the table and you chat.’
Gregg is already working in a hotel room when we meet on Zoom. He is in the process of filming MasterChef: The Professionals, which moved from its BBC2 slot to BBC1 last year in the midst of the pandemic.
Host Gregg and judge Marcus Wareing were “torn to pieces.” “We thought it might have been moved because there was a shortage of programs being made,” Gregg says. “But it did really well, so it’s staying there.
‘MasterChef: The Professionals is the most special show. It doesn’t have the same laughter and sense of fun as the original MasterChef or Celebrity MasterChef, but look at the quality of the dishes. I look at the food and think, “This is just extraordinary.”‘
Gregg, who has lost 4th place since those “wretched” women-like-he-picks cars, continues to have a passion for food. He missed restaurants terribly in lockdown.
“I had a massive panic attack. There was a rash all over my legs. I’ve never not worked. But once I stopped panicking, I had a great time at home.
‘I have shopped. I made lunch for the family every day. I bathed with Sid every night. I walked with Anna every day. I was there with Sid when I wouldn’t have been there.
“We crawled through the bedrooms or wherever he wanted to go. I had so much fun. It wasn’t just the baby. I’ve never had so much time with family. I’ve never had a day off.’
He pauses for a moment. laughs. “Although I haven’t really set myself free.” Instead, he developed Show Me Fit, his new diet and fitness plan, with the motto “Being good most of the time is good enough,” which strangely fits everything that has Gregg’s name attached to it.
Anna helped with the recipes and his daughter Libby helped him film hundreds of recipe and training videos. ‘Of course I wanted to go back to work. I wish there was some sort of normality, but I loved, loved, loved being home.
“This is the first time I’ve found someone who really thinks who I am is nice and good and doesn’t want to change anything. It’s the first time ever – and believe me, I’ve searched. I’ve searched a lot.’
We know, Gregg, we know.
MasterChef: The Professionals airs Monday at 7:35pm on BBC1.