Hungry For It | Interview with Big Zuu

Can you tell us about how you got involved – what was it about this show that got your attention?

It was the concept – that we were going to be doing something completely different – a new style of cooking show that’s for young people. I feel like shows that are competition based are not focused on young people, so it was really cool do to something that would resonate with my community and influence young people to cook more.

What can viewers expect from the show?

Ten young cooks in a cooking competition that puts them through their paces. What the process teaches them is about being innovative with your food, the pressures of working in a real kitchen and the business side of food – we’re giving them the skills needed  in so many different sections of the food industry.

What challenges can we expect to see in the show?

Crazy food challenges where we ask them to create food in very different ways. We’re not just making them debone a chicken, we’re making them do things that are very relevant and part of the times.

We’re in a pop up kitchen and restaurant kitchen based in Peckham in South London. Normally, when you see a cooking show and you see them in a restaurant service or doing anything within a kitchen, they are cooking for Michelin star critics – we’re cooking for normal people who are from where we’re from and it’s very representative of the times we are in.

At the end, there’s a process of elimination which requires them to cook on the spot which is really interesting as well.  

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What was it like working alongside Chef Kay Kay and Stacey?

We’re all from very different backgrounds but we clicked straight away and there’s a lot of love. I was really happy to work with them. Stacey Dooley is a legend in the telly game and she’s an incredible lady. And Chef Kay comes from an incredible food background so her skills are really important and then I feel like I added my little edge, my little je ne sais quois. We’re a great combination of people.

When it comes to judging, would you say you’re more of the good cop?

I guess so. I think we all have our moments. I do try and be nice to the cooks when I can but I don’t let them off the hook. I think because I’m a little bit younger, I feel for them a little bit more sometimes. Chef Kay is LA through and through, where they don’t beat around the bush like we do in England.

Was there anything that really surprised you in the process?

How many words there are for taste!

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to a budding cook?  

Find the cuisine you love and start simple. Every cuisine has easy food and every cuisine has really tough food. If you love Mexican food, start with some fajitas! Some of the skills you learn at the beginning will help you at the end – learn those initial skills and they will help you cook great food. You need to go through the early stages first to then elevate to the better food… a good base is going to make you have a great foundation.

What’s your favourite dish to cook at the moment?

Recently, I’ve been making a lot of soups. I love a soup – soup is really easy – you roast your veg, you make your base and give it a blitz. I bought a hand blender, I never thought I’d buy one but here we are!

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If you had to choose one last meal, what would you go for?

Fufu and Okra Soup. It’s a Sierra-Leonean dish, the fufu is made from fermented cassava and the Okra soup is a stew with Okra.  

There’s brilliant brands and guest judges across the series – is there one week that stands out to you?

The Nando’s week is crazy – the prize for winning that task is monumental, it’s life changing. In other food competitions, if you don’t win, you go home empty handed. Whereas in this show, even if you don’t win but do well in challenges across the show, you can still win something that will affect your food career forever.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.