MORE than a decade after he gave up his job as a digger driver to become a full-time chef Dean Edwards is still making the most of every day - and occasionally having to pinch himself.
Dean has been one of the regular chefs on ITV’s the Lorraine show for the past seven years and when he is not making regular television appearances he travels across the country from his Bristol home to appear at food shows and festivals.
It is a far cry from his life 12 years ago when he was working full-time as a digger driver and indulging his passion for food and cooking in his spare time.
Dean says: “It sounds like a cliche but I do still pinch myself because to be still cooking on a regular basis and doing something I love so much is just a real privilege.”
Life changed forever after Dean, dad to seven-year-old daughter Indy, took part in Master Chef Goes Large in 2006 and eventually came second.
It led to a string of television appearances, two cookery books and within a couple of years, his regular slot with daytime queen Lorraine Kelly.
“It was actually Indy’s mum who put me forward, and she has never let me forget it,” he laughs.
“I had always loved cooking and eating, I grew up with food being a very important part of life.
“Family parties were not so much about drinking and dancing but about what dishes everyone was going to cook and my Nan was a really keen cook and really influenced my love of being in the kitchen.
“But I surprised even myself in coming second in Masterchef, I still can’t really believe how well it went so to still be doing something I love so much, and to have written two cookery books, well I still just have to pinch myself sometimes.
“And I still love Masterchef, all of it from the professionals to celebrities. I am always hooked from the first episode,” he adds.
Life is busy for Dean who travels from his home in Bristol to film with Lorraine as well as giving demonstrations at food events.
He says the question of whether Lorraine is really as lovely as she appears on screen is one that comes up time and again - but he has no hesitation in giving his answer.
“I have absolute delight in saying every time that she is absolutely lovely and just as nice as she seems.
“Not only that but she is a consummate professional, someone who has been in the business for thirty years, so I have learned so much from her and her incredible longevity.
“It is a real pleasure cooking for her.
“She really loves her food and will try anything.
“She tucks into everything I serve up - stews, curries and pies and sometimes it is really early in the morning for eating that kind of thing, even for me.
“She’s not much of a cook herself, but I don’t think she would mind me saying that,” he laughs.
The team and Lorraine even surprised Dean recently with balloons and gifts as he marked his 40th birthday.
“Working with Lorraine is easy, she makes me feel comfortable and the whole team are lovely.
“It has also given me, and my daughter, opportunities others might not have.
“A few months back there were some Olympic medallists on the show and it happened to be a school holiday so I took Indy with me and we had our pictures taken with the athletes and with the gold medals.
“I don’t think Indy realises how lucky she is because she is so young so I did say to her ‘it’s not all little girls that get to hold gold medals’ “These are money can’t buy experiences and I never take it for granted and I wouldn’t want her to either.”
This summer Dean will be heading to the first ever Essex Fine Food Show, set to take place at the Chelmsford City Racecourse and featuring more than 100 artisan food producers.
“I just love going to events like this because it is my chance to get to meet people, the people who are cooking my recipes and who are watching me on television.
“I think people think I only do the Lorraine show so getting out and about to these events is something I love.
“Not only do I get to visit amazing places across the country but I also get to try out all the food and drink myself.
“Whenever I can I will take a look around because if I wasn’t lucky enough to be demonstrating and appearing at food shows, I would be going along to them myself to find out about different ingredients and products,” he says.
And he says it also serves as reminder of all the fantastic produce we have in this country.
“I love trying the food produced in that area, obviously I already know some of them such as Maldon Salt which I use in my cooking all the time.”
Dean will give a series of talks and live demonstrations on Saturday May 13 while his Lorraine show colleague John Whaite will appear on the second day, Sunday May 14.
“I like to be able to cook everything fresh and while people are watching so I give a lot of thought to the recipes I will feature.
“And as you can tell, I really like to chat, my friends say I could bore a glass eyeball, so I really love it when people ask me questions.
“People can be a bit shy during the demos though.
“I think they are worried their question will seem silly, which I don’t think they should, and don’t want to ask in front of other people so they will often come up after and I will always stay and chat. I love it.
“And my friends tend to avoid talking to me about food, funnily enough, because they say I go on and on once I start, so I welcome the chance to do it at these wonderful shows.”
Tickets for the Essex Fine Food Show at Chelmsford City Racecourse, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May are available now. Book early to be in with a chance to see Dean on the Saturday and John Whaite on the Sunday. Their demonstrations are at 11am, 1pm and 3pm with 300 spaces available at each one.
n Go to 2017essex finefoodshow.apteventspro.co.uk/ for tickets.