Muddy meets Greg Emmerson
This time last year Greg Emmerson was working in IT and about to step foot into the Masterchef kitchen after nine years of applying. Fast-forward 12 months and he’s on first name terms with Gregg and John, cooking for A-List clients and about to open his first restaurant, Table 22, in leafy Wickham.
Things have been a bit of a whirlwind for Greg and Muddy caught up to find out exactly what’s been going on.
So Greg, how much has your life changed since Masterchef?
It’s completely changed. From the moment it came on TV, everything changed for me. It’s the strange stuff you’re not really prepared for is people recognising you in the street. You forget how much power TV has over people’s lives. People feel like they know you and come up and hug you and ask for recipe ideas. Or they follow you around the supermarket saying “Oooh, what are you going to cook with that?” or “I’ve got a leg of lamb, what shall I do with it?”
The main element for me, it opened a lot of doors in the food and beverage industry. I’ve done all sorts of things like pop-up dining, private events… it’s all been very surreal.
And what are Gregg and John like in real life? Any goss?
They are complete polar opposites of each other. John takes a lot more work to get used to, whereas Gregg you warm to instantly. They’ve just got a different outlook from each other. I got on really well with both, but I definitely warmed more towards Gregg – plus he’s got a great name!
Who’s the most famous person you’ve cooked for so far?
They’re so famous, I can’t even name them! (Editors note: Boo!)
Do you have any guilty pleasure foods?
My go-to is KFC! I love fried chicken and wherever I’ve gone in the world everybody does their own variety of fried chicken. I’m not ashamed to put my hand in the air and say it’s great. I love it.
My wife doesn’t let me go near it too often though, the last one I had was about 6 months ago. The problem is my willpower is 0-100% and if I get on the biscuits or KFC, I’ll keep going!
Are there any foods you can’t stand?
There’s nothing I don’t eat! When I was really young, my dad was a bookmaker so we used to travel across the various racetracks in the south circuit. A lot of the people were these East End characters, so it was all jellied eels and offal. It didn’t seem strange to me and I thought they were all so tasty and great. It really set the benchmark for me and, had I waited till I was in my 20s to try some of these things, I probably wouldn’t have gone near them.
We’re currently in autumn, heading into winter, what are your top comfort foods at this time of year?
I love casseroles and stew. It’s a covert way to drink red wine without actually having a glass! With some rustic bread…. it really doesn’t get any better than that.
You’re just about to open your new restaurant, Table 22, how did that come about?
It was a complete fluke. One of my suppliers from my IT life was having dinner in Portsmouth with Andy Goodson (Editor’s note: Greg’s business partner) and his daughter, when the topic of Masterchef came up. I then got a text from my supplier… about three days before the end of Masterchef… about wanting to introduce me to this guy as they were looking to get into the restaurant trade. We met up and we were totally on the same page.
We hunted around for ages for the right location and when The Old House Hotel in Wickham came up, it was perfect. It’s a beautiful building and just needed a bit of a makeover to make it a bit more modern and contemporary. Things definitely happened at the right time and for the right reason.
What’s going to make it different?
We’re going to try and make it more accessible. It’s the kind of building that could be quite intimidating from the outside and make people think “That’s not where I belong”, but we want people from all walks of life to be able to come in and have a brilliant experience.
I also want it to be really creative and I’m going to be bringing in different elements such as yakitori and other international influences into the menu. We’re also not going to try and chase any accolades – if we get them it’ll be brilliant but it’s not our main focus.
What are some places around Hampshire that you really like?
One area that I’ve driven through is Hambledon. It’s just jaw-droppingly beautiful. I also love The Square Cow pub in Wickham. It reminds me of those old pubs where it has all these wooden beams. They’ve got this tiny door leading out to the garden which is a bit of an ego boost for me!
Make sure you sign up to the Muddy Hants Newsletter to see when Table 22 and The Old House Hotel open their doors very soon!