|Life on a Plate: The Autobiography by Gregg Wallace|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The life story of the greengrocer-turned-Masterchef presenter sings when he talks about the greengrocery business and I would have liked more of the book to be about those aspects of his life.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: October 2012|
I remember the early days of Masterchef when members of the public practiced certain dishes until they couldn't get them wrong and then presented them to be judged. Once it got past the point where you could be reasonably certain that there wouldn't be a major disaster with no food on the table it all got rather boring and finally faded. It had a reincarnation though, largely fronted by chef John Torode and greengrocer Gregg Wallace. Gone are the days when people said Greengrocer? as though they were referring to some lower life form and it's generally acknowledged that Wallace is a good anchor (and better as he's grown in confidence) and that he has a great palate. But where did he come from?
Well, the simple answer to that is South East London, which was essentially his father's home, whilst his mother came from more up-market Wimbledon. It's difficult to see the nature of the attraction between his parents but the mainstay of Wallace's early life is that his grandparents lived upstairs and they were the ones who gave the love, affection and support. Apart from that his home life was far from ideal and - as he would later find out - not traditionally constructed. His early working life consisted of a series of dead-end jobs, with occasional successes being quickly squandered.
His entry into the world of fruit and veg came relatively late and was somewhat unexpected. He was the child whose veg had to be hidden on his plate to trick him into eating them. Nor was he used to good food - potatoes were Smash, meals came from Vesta and the place you were most likely to find something to eat was the freezer. If it was not for what was to happen later it would be a mundane story enlivened only by a little criminality. It's honest and forthcoming but - unfortunately - not unusual. Then Wallace went into the fruit and veg business on his own behalf. At this point the book sings.
It's an elegantly written statement of how to build up a business and how not to run it. Anyone thinking of getting into this - or any other - business should read it. Wallace is a brilliant salesman but he's not a great businessman, by any stretch of the imagination. He's open too about the failure of his marriages - he seems to be a serial marrier, but not for the best of reasons - and his most enduring relationship, to his credit, seems to be with his children. His media work came about accidentally and would now seem to be his main source of income - I'd really like to have read more about this side of his life.
You can hear Wallace speaking as you read the book and you come away with a very clear picture of the man rather than - as with many autobiographies - the image that the writer wants to portray. Wallace is obviously a grafter and he's good entertainment on television: it's probably not a good idea to be in business with him! I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For some of the puddings which Wallace loves, have a look at Gregg's Favourite Puddings. For more about the London food scene try Relish: My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith and A Recipe for Life by Antonio Caluccio.
You can read more book reviews or buy Life on a Plate: The Autobiography by Gregg Wallace at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Life on a Plate: The Autobiography by Gregg Wallace at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.