Marriage doesn’t get tougher than this! MasterChef’s Gregg Wallace and his wife of 15 months reveal why she's had to leave him
10:05 GMT, 14 April 2012
She says he’s needy, he says she’s taken over his life. He says let’s work at it, she says it’s over – but she won’t move out for three years. Gregg Wallace and his wife Heidi on their whirlwind marriage.
Greg met Heidi, who is 17 years his junior, in 2009 while she was working as a biology teacher in Penrith and asked him a question about celery on the social network Twitter
Gregg Wallace is all over the place at the moment. In one breath he says he’s desperate to make his marriage to Heidi, his wife of little more than a year, work. The next, he doesn’t seem to think there’s a hope in hell. ‘I love my wife. I want to go to marriage counselling. I want to work on it. I’m gutted with what’s happened,’ he says. Fast forward ten minutes. ‘I’m just not sure about anything. We’re very different people,’ he says.
‘I want to be out on the town. I crave company. I want to take my sexy, elegant wife to smart restaurants dressed up in her heels on my arm. She likes the local Italian. I spent a lot of time doing things to please Heidi and it was bothering me. She wanted me to stop the socialising and stop the drinking. If we were in a Chinese restaurant and there were prawn crackers, she’d move them to the other side of the table so I wouldn’t eat them.’
He looks aghast. MasterChef co-host Gregg, of course, loves his food. He enjoys a drink, too. Which is why we’re sitting in a room above his Bermondsey restaurant tucking into a plate of lamb chops and a glass of red. Two months ago, Gregg moved out of the family home in Whitstable, Kent, where Heidi looks after his two children Tom, 18, and Libby, 15, from an earlier marriage, following what seems like the sort of silly argument most of us would have forgotten the next day. Let’s just say Gregg and Heidi, who began living with each other four months after meeting, aren’t like most of us.
Warning signs: Gregg and Heidi in the Caribbean in January
‘If Heidi was sitting here I probably wouldn’t have ordered the lamb, and that gets wearing,’ he says. ‘You start to kick back against it. When I was in town on my own on a Tuesday and Thursday I’d have dinners with my old mates and I’d smash through a couple of bottles of wine. It would be, “Woo-hoo! I’m being naughty!”, which is a bit silly for a 47-year-old man.’ It is, but then this whole affair is rather, as Gregg says, ‘weird’.
The couple met in 2009 when Heidi, who is 17 years his junior and was working as a biology teacher in Penrith, asked him a question about celery on the social network Twitter. They married in a lavish ceremony last year. Today, three times married Gregg spends the week in his flat in London while she continues to work as his PA and look after his children at the family home. On Friday, when Gregg returns to Kent, Heidi moves into a rented house round the corner with her two dogs, a greyhound and a whippet. ‘It is weird isn’t it’ he says. ‘I find it all weird. I mean, she came up to the flat in London last week to change my sheets. I honestly can’t get to the bottom of it.
‘I know people think one of us must have had an affair, but that’s not the case. The weekend before we separated we’d been in Rome, holding hands, singing songs; we were very loving. On the Tuesday, I phoned her up and she was shuffling paper in the office. I said, “Would you mind not doing that, I want to talk to you.” She got angry and put the phone down. When she called back I didn’t pick it up, so when I got home this thing was still bubbling away.
We won’t be getting back together. But I hope he meets someone who loves him for all he is. I can’t…
‘She said, “I’m not happy and I’m not making you happy. Are you going to go or am I Because I can’t stand this.” It was like she’d just chucked a bucket of cold water over everything. I said, “I’ll go back to London.” Then she phoned and said, “Look, I’m going to rent a house because I need to have my own refuge.” I said, “Heidi, what are you doing Don’t do this to us, please.” She replied, “Get it into your head this is over. You’re a difficult person. I need space and time.”’
Heidi has a point. Gregg concedes he’s not the easiest of men. He’d been separated from his second wife, Denise, for eight years when he met Heidi, and admits he’s just not very good on his own. ‘I don’t want lots of someones. I want to be with that special someone. In my romantic Shangri-La, I’m loved for me. They accept my faults and think, “He works too hard, he can be difficult, but he’s great.”’
Truth be told, I’m pretty sure he’ll be sharing his bed with someone else before you can say ‘lights out’ if he and Heidi don’t resolve their differences soon. Gregg craves reassurance and love. He suffered a particularly dysfunctional childhood that saw him drop out of school at 14 when his parents divorced after years of nasty rows and he discovered his real father was his mother’s lover, not his dad at all. ‘I was angry with my parents, I was going through absolute hell. It felt like suddenly no one seemed to care.
‘I’m needy, I need approval in everything I do. If you tickled my tummy and gave me a Good Boy Choc Drop I’d be happy for rest of the day,’ he says cheerfully. ‘I’m happy to tell the whole world everything about me because I want people to like me. Shall I tell you about the clothes’ he asks. The clothes I don’t know how anybody gets dressed in the morning if they haven’t got a plan of how they’re going to do it,’ he says. ‘I couldn’t just stare at the wardrobe and make my mind up. I have to have a system.’ And so he begins to explain how he organises his ten suits, eight jackets and 32 shirts. Clean clothes are hung on the left-hand side of the wardrobe while he takes what he’s wearing from the right. ‘Always the right,’ he says.
Whirlwind: Gregg and Heidi began living with each other four months after meeting
Greg had been separated from his second wife, Denise (pictured), for eight years when he met Heidi
He also runs his entire day from a to-do list which Heidi writes up for him. Gregg has said he’s so busy he has trouble remembering things if he doesn’t write them down. ‘It starts off every morning with “yoghurt”, then “leg band” [he has a leg injury], then it’ll be “teeth”, then it’ll say “tablets” because I’ve got to take my cholesterol tablets and vitamin C, then “check BBC News”. Those are all the things I must do before I leave the flat. Then it’ll say “Twitter” because I want to tweet twice a day, then it’ll say “H” for Heidi because of all the things I need to discuss with her.’
Heidi Hang on, your estranged wife is running your diary ‘She runs the finances, the children and my diary. She also helped me with my diet and fitness, which means she was all over every aspect of my life.’ Last year Gregg was singing Heidi’s praises, telling how she had helped him lose two stone in preparation for MasterChef. But now it seems she may have pushed it too far. ‘I think in the end I didn’t like it – and didn’t want it. I didn’t want that much influence on my life. Also, she doesn’t agree at all with my goals. I just try and accumulate, which she thinks is pointless because her life is academia. She’s pushing the kids through education because that’s what she knows and I’m thinking, “I’d rather have a couple of little entrepreneurs on my hands.”’
Crikey. I’m beginning to wonder why they got together at all. Silly me. ‘When she first tweeted she was very funny and obviously bright, then I looked at her picture and thought, “Oh my word”,’ he says. ‘So I started being a little bit more forward and we eventually swapped numbers. I fell in love with Heidi from that first phone call on a Sunday. We were speaking for up to four hours a day about everything – life, loves, work, kids, the whole lot. I was drinking in those days, so I’d come back from the pub and play her soppy music down the phone.
I know people think one of us must have
had an affair, but that’s not the case. The weekend before we separated
we’d been in Rome… we were very loving.
‘When we met on the Friday and I picked her up from the station I thought, “Oh wow! Oh wow!” We were kissing in the taxi. We went to Scott’s and had Dover sole and chips with a bottle of burgundy at the bar, then went to Le Gavroche for dessert. She had the passion fruit souffl, some dessert wine and a plum liquor. Then she stayed at my flat in London for the whole weekend. I found her stunningly beautiful – elegant, feminine and very bright. I was just completely swept away by her. I thought she felt the same way about me.
‘She used to drive six or seven hours from Cumbria to Kent every Friday evening for the weekend and we used to meet every Wednesday night in Crewe – 160 would get a deluxe room with a red bedspread and a balcony with a view over McDonald’s. In the end I couldn’t see a Virgin train without my heart beating a little faster.’ Within four months Heidi had handed in her notice and moved into Gregg’s home. And to quench his insecurities, she gave him her passport to prove she wasn’t about to run off. ‘She sacked the nanny, took over the kids and was soon running the home. She just zoomed into it like a thing possessed.
‘Relinquishing control scared me, but it was amazing to have someone so capable and so incredibly bright running it. But she needed her own thing. I was jealous, which she found hard. She’d go and see her friends and I’d want her to text the whole time, but I was working on that. She started modelling again, which I was happy for her to do. But she says if she wasn’t looking after me I’d self-destruct, and she wants to help the children.’
Gregg is besotted with his kids. He says his ‘proudest boast’ is raising them. ‘I must have her around the children,’ he says. ‘They love her and she loves them. It’s the first stability they’ve had in their lives in a long time. I can’t disrupt them.’ He pauses. ‘I really don’t know what’s going to happen. It was probably wrong to meet someone and move in together so quickly. It’s OK to have dinner with someone. It’s OK to have romantic moments. What’s wrong is building your hopes and dreams around someone you haven’t really known that long. I do find this all very confusing. Let’s see what happens with the marriage counselling.’ Let’s.
Greg and Heidi married in a lavish ceremony at Coworth Park in Berkshire last year
Heidi can’t help herself crying lately. She’s trying to be strong, but is utterly worn out. ‘However much I gave, it never seemed quite enough. I just grew more and more tired. To be honest I’m exhausted,’ she says. So is there any chance of a reconciliation with Gregg ‘No,’ she confirms. ‘We are two very different people. If Gregg’s honest he wasn’t happy with a lot of things either, though it was me who made the final decision. Sometimes he’s a difficult man, he can be quite moody. He’s very driven and works incredibly hard, which makes him stressed. He’s also quite needy. I was finding it more difficult to deal with.’
In fact, Heidi says she can trace their differences as far back as last August, when they fought like cat and dog during a holiday in Siena. ‘We had arguments about nothing in particular and we’d both end up in a right state,’ she says. ‘It was over nothing important but we couldn’t seem to get on with each other. It was his constant neediness. I grew more and more tired. It was always about what Gregg needed. I know I could have tried harder but I made the decision to move out.’
Which is all rather sad after just 15 months of marriage. ‘I was very happy on my wedding day,’ she says. ‘And when we get on we do get on like a house on fire. That’s the reason I married him. Just before we separated we went to Rome. He was in a great mood that weekend and I was in a great mood. We were lucky to have a nice holiday, but that wasn’t how it was most of the time. It was too little too late. We’d started to bicker and as soon as we became unstable Gregg needed more reassurance from me. He needs to feel safe and comfortable and, by helping him to feel that, I became involved in every aspect of his life, which he found restricting.
‘With the diet and the gym I asked if he wanted to stop, but he begged me not to give up on him. I so desperately wanted everything to be OK, I bent over backwards to make sure everyone else was OK and had nothing left for me.’ Nothing to do with the age gap ‘No,’ she says. Another man ‘No. This has all been quite traumatic. There are no sparks with anybody else at the moment. I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s going on with my life.’
She says she’s agreed to marriage counselling so they can ‘find a way to work together without anger. One of the first things that made me love Gregg was seeing him with his kids and what a brilliant dad he is. He’s warm, kind and funny with the children, I’m just not sure he can be those things with me. But I love working for Gregg. I really hope we can figure out how to work together. I don’t intend to move out until Libby goes to university – she’ll be here for another three years. I’m definitely going to do the marriage counselling because I’d like to continue to look after the kids. They mean the world to me.’
But not Gregg Again, there are tears. ‘We each desperately wanted to be the person the other one wanted us to be. We should have both stuck up for ourselves a bit more. I wish him all the best and all the luck in the world. I hope he does meet someone who makes him feel happy and loves him for all he is. I can’t do that.’ Which, for Gregg, is a crying shame.