Tupele Dorgu Interview

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“Shellfish. If I have to do anything with lobsters, crabs or mussels, putting them in hot water, or cracking them open, I will freak out. I can’t even look at them.”


Actress Tupele Dorgu, 32, has such a fear of shellfish, she can’t have one anywhere near her.


“It’s like a phobia. My biggest worry on this show if that if I have to do anything with lobsters, crabs or mussels, putting them in hot water or cracking them open, I will freak out. I can’t even look at them, let alone touch them.


“I was in a Barcelona restaurant with my husband Mark on New Year’s Eve, and part of our five-course meal came up served in a lobster shell. He had to scrape it all out for me, and cover up the shell… like you would for a child, while I looked at the wall.


“And last night I was out with a girl who ordered a crab salad which came with the legs. I just put down my knife and fork and had to breathe for a minute. I can’t look at it, I am really squeamish.”


Newly married, the actress who made her name as Kelly in ITV’s Coronation Street, is praying that Marco will bring some magic into meals she cooks for her husband.


“I really feel sorry for my husband. He is a great cook, but because he works late I do most of the meals.  And I always seem to overcook things.  Or the veg will be undercooked, I’ll add too much of something or not make enough. He’s so sweet, he just eats it, and then he goes, ‘Have you put garlic in this? I think it needs it.’


“Sometimes I think I am a bit of a Jamie Oliver…. and then it all goes a bit wrong.”


Tupele hopes that learning the ropes with the other celebrities, will also encourage her to be more adventurous with what she eats, as well as cooks.


“If I don’t like the look of something, I won’t touch it. So I’m hoping doing this, I get beyond chicken and steak.


“It’s an amazing opportunity to be taught and mentored by a top chef. It’s a challenge in many ways. And it’s not just about my cooking skills.  It’s literally about getting food on the plate and feeding people.”


Working with a fellow Northerner like Marco, who can be fiery in the kitchen, doesn’t phase her.


 “I’m excited about working with him. It’s not the same as the other TV shows he has done because on them he is stern and intimidating, and it’s very much working under Marco.  It’s his kitchen and his reputation.


 “In Marco’s Kitchen Burnout, he oversees us more and advises. He doesn’t have an agenda. That will work better for me, because I have never had anyone barking in my ear and shouting. I don’t really respond well to that.”


As Kelly in Coronation Street, she is known for her loud mouth and cheeky behaviour.


“In real life I am quite opinionated and demanding. If I have a thought in my head, I’m off. I hate wasting time. But I don’t feel the need to put myself out there in this show. I don’t need to be heard. I will have a laugh with Marco, I don’t feel scared of that. But I do want to give him respect. Because he is here for us really.”


Working alongside Kelvin MacKenzie and Donna Air in the first heat, she knows the pressure will be intense.


“I am quite good under pressure, but I don’t know how I’ll be with 25 diners! And it’s so different in a really hot kitchen, which I know I won’t be able to stand anyway, maybe cooking food that I am not 100 percent sure of. I can’t even cook in my mum’s kitchen. It takes me twice as long as I don’t know where she keeps anything”


Tupele’s only kitchen experience came in her early twenties when she served in a fast food Mexican restaurant after arriving in London from the North.


“We each had a section and they’d give you pagers, and I used to switch mine off. Someone on a table would say, ‘I’ve been paging you for ages’. And I’d say, ‘Oh sorry it’s broken.’ I never switched it on!”


At home it was her mum who taught her to cook.


“We never bought bread. My dad always made it. And if we had fish and chips, mum bought the fish and the chips were home made. So my motto is, if you can make it, don’t buy it.


“I’m hoping I might learn things like making mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce. Things I wouldn’t normally do. Timings are also an issue with me. I worry that if I mess up a dish and have to start again, it will have a real knock on effect. And trying to recover from that won’t be easy. Although, so long as I don’t get shellfish to cook, I should be okay.”


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