MASTERCHEF judge Gregg Wallace, who is famous for his sweet tooth, could not have picked a better spot for lunch when he visited Larne last week.
The former greengrocer who, with chef John Torode, is presently presenting the latest TV culinary challenge on BBC, was in town to film an episode of the equally popular genealogy series, Who Do You Think You Are?
During a production break at Larne library, Gregg joined the film crew for lunch round the corner at Caffe Spice, where he enjoyed a bowl of soup and a sandwich.
Now anyone who has watched Gregg on Masterchef knows that his favourite course is dessert and luckily for him, Caffe Spice chef Mark Saunderson is a specialist.
And so it was that Gregg was invited to sample not one, but two, delicious sweets. What would he make of Mark’s passion fruit posset with which chocolate cream and blood orange and prosecco jelly? And the chocolate tart with pear sorbet and pear caramel sauce?
Faced with desserts as tasty and as complicated as any devised by a Masterchef contestant, celebrity foodie Gregg was in his element.
“He said he thoroughly enjoyed them,” said Mark, whose favourite genre is pastry.
The chef, who has four years’ experience, admitted: “I was a bit gobsmacked.”
Well, it’s not every day that an acknowledged expert well used to dining in Michelin-starred restaurants drops in.
No pressure then, Mark?
“We had no idea he was coming, or there might have been,” he said.
“Apparently, the film crew had been in the town a couple of weeks before and when they asked where they should go for lunch, we were recommended,” Mark explained.
It seems they did not hesitate to go back, nor indeed to take with them the Masterchef judge, whose link with Larne will become clear when the Who Do You Think You Area programme is broadcast later this year. Wall To Wall, who make the series for the BBC, were saying nothing but we understand from a well-informed local source that Mr Wallace’s great-grandfather may have been a native of these parts.
Gregg’s timing could hardly have been better because Mark has recently returned from Dublin, where he attended a course run by a top London chef.
“The course was taken by Sarah Hartnett, who is the pastry chef at the Sheraton Park Lane,” said Mark. “Last year I was on a course taken by another award-winning pastry chef – Graham Hornigold from the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park,” he added.
No doubt they would both be very proud of their protege in Larne.