Dinner ahoy! Celebrity MasterChef star Dick Strawbridge and son took a gastro boat trip round the coast – but it wasn’t plain sailing
Former Army colonel and Celebrity MasterChef finalist Dick Strawbridge is back on the food trail with a new 20-part daytime series for ITV1 called The Hungry Sailors.
It’s a simple enough set-up: Dick and his son James set sail in a 44ft fishing boat on a trek that takes them from their Cornish hometown of Fowey to London, mooring their vessel every few miles to explore the local food. They then go back to their boat and whip up some of the ingredients they’ve gathered into a tasty meal. Not so easy when the waves are, on occasion, lifting the front of the boat 10 metres out of the water – and then splashing it back down again.
Along the way, Dick, 52, and James, 27, meet farmers, fishermen, market gardeners – even, on one occasion, a former Formula 1 racing champion who now farms buffalo near Basingstoke. The show is part food programme, part travelogue.
Comedy duo: 'We have this unusual dynamic where were both right all of the time, James Strawbridge says of his father, Dick, and that in a cramped kitchen can be quite amusing
Father and son make a curious double act.
Dick, who left the Army in order to avoid being shunted into a desk job at the Ministry of Defence, is been-there, done-that, stuck in his ways. James is mustard-keen, eager to try something new. ‘James and I argue,’ says Dick in a revealing moment in the first episode. ‘Because he is never right.’ James sighs when I remind him of this. ‘Dad has two favourite catchphrases, “Work harder” and “This is not a democracy”.
He’s an ex-colonel, so he tends to like bossing people around. But I’m fairly headstrong as well.
So we have this unusual dynamic where we’re both right all of the time,’ he says, ‘and that in a cramped kitchen can be quite amusing.’
It’s a playful rivalry. In the programme, father and son are constantly in fits of giggles at each other’s antics. Being limited to the kitchen facilities on a small boat, the pair turn to amusing Heath Robinson contraptions to help them on their way: an adapted bicycle pump is used to put the skins onto sausages and they spit-roast a lamb using a bicycle, a broom handle and some tin foil.
CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF PAST WINNERS
MATT DAWSON (2006)
The former England rugby star beat athlete Roger Black and comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli in the final.
NADIA SAWALHA (2007)
EastEnders actress Nadia took the honours from Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood and pop star Midge Ure.
LIZ MCCLARNON (2008)
The ex-Atomic Kitten defeated TV presenter Andi Peters and Holby City actor Mark Moraghan.
JAYNE MIDDLEMISS (2009)
The TV presenter beat athlete Iwan Thomas and former Coronation Street actress Wendi Peters.
LISA FAULKNER (2010)
Dick Strawbridge and Christine Hamilton lost out in the final to the Holby City and Spooks star.
PHIL VICKERY (2011)
The second former England rugby star to win, Phil beat Kirsty Wark and actor Nick Pickard.
Even the on-board cooker has to be adapted: it has been placed on a gimbal – an ingenious pivoted device that ensures that no matter how much the boat rocks up and down, the stove remains perfectly still in relation to the horizon, so the saucepans don’t go flying everywhere.
And what of the people they meet There are coffee blenders, crab catchers, garlic growers and all manner of livestock experts – which brings us back to our Formula 1 farmer near Basingstoke. He’s called Jody Scheckter and he owns Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire.
In 1979, up against the likes of Niki Lauda and James Hunt, he was the best driver in the world. Now he farms organic buffalo, beef, pork, lamb and chicken – and his meat is prized by Heston Blumenthal and Raymond Blanc.
But his business venture is no rich man’s plaything. Scheckter couldn’t take organic farming more seriously – he planted a bespoke ‘mixed salad’ of 31 different grasses for his flocks to feed on so the animals are raised healthily and taste their best.
Some habits die hard, however. Dick and James were given a whistlestop tour of Scheckter’s farm, as James recalls. ‘I was in the back seat of his Mercedes and Jody was in the front with my dad.
He was whizzing around with a very relaxed driving style and at speeds which left both me and Dad looking at each other with shock.’ I suppose we can’t expect Formula 1 drivers to pootle around like old ladies. And this was private land, after all.
‘I think he’s definitely taken the habits he picked up from his driving career into farming. Everything is done at 100mph, even keeping an eye on the efficiency of his slaughterhouse,’ says James.
Scheckter has certainly had an interesting career change. As has Dick. After packing up his Army job, he put his engineering skills to use presenting Channel 4’s Scrapheap Challenge, and moved on to work on BBC2’s Coast series. Then came Celebrity MasterChef. But cooking, he is keen to point out, is more than a passing fad. ‘I’ve done a lot of cooking. After I finished MasterChef I got a job as a sous chef to keep my skills up.’
It all sounds very laudable. But it’s not dodging bullets, is it What do his former Army colleagues make of his new life Dick laughs. He didn’t help his cause when he turned up to a 100th anniversary celebration of the Army Rugby Union after hot-footing it from an appearance on Richard And Judy. Somehow, in his rush, he’d forgotten to remove the make-up he’d been caked in for his moment in front of the cameras. ‘I get the mickey taken out of me something chronic,’ he says. ‘They call me a Telly Tart.’
A telly tart Now what’s the recipe for that
The Hungry Sailors, weekdays from 16 January at 4pm on ITV1. Visit www.itv.com/food for recipes.