At a plush evening of food and wine at Worcestershire’s Wood Norton Hotel, a harried sous-chef puts the final touches to the evening’s amuse-bouche – almond biscuit with a spiced pear mousse. Next door in the bar, TV’s Gregg Wallace is moving on to his second bottle of white wine.
The tension in the kitchen is palpable. 80 covers, at 75 quid a head. The pressure is on to deliver, and predictably things start to go off the rails – a replacement line cook overcooks the venison, and the evening’s main is thrown into jeopardy. Outside, Gregg‘s patter is becoming more and more slurred, and the diners are getting impatient.
Murmuring starts, as the guests start to wonder whether it was worth parting with the best part of £100 to listen to a tipsy bald bloke give tired anecdotes about when he worked in a market. However, faith is restored when the starter is served – a playful little dish of tuna carpaccio with fennel. Gregg manages to keep it down, and the evening is back on track.
As the crowd compare notes on the previous course, one diner has something other than fine dining on his mind. Lumbering over to Wallace’s young girlfriend, he engages in what the press will later euphemistically call “inappropriate touching”. The evening’s pudding – a tarte tatin – is being prepared in the kitchen, and normally Gregg would be stood over the cook’s shoulder, salivating. But not now.
As memories of his tough greengrocing days in the East End come flooding back, Gregg tackles the man, overturning tables and spattering horrified onlookers with jus. Fuelled by wine, rage, and red meat, he pounds the assailant’s face like yesterday’s beef.
A blizzard of puff pastry flecks begin to swirl around the room, and the diners’ iPhones stop Instagramming their meals and start recording the angered foodie. Even the high-pressured world of the professional kitchen is nothing compared to the sort of raw energy on display in the dining room.
Gregg backs away from his opponent, victorious. A lady’s honour has been defended, a delicious meal has been had by all, and the guests have gone home with a ready-made killer anecdote for whenever Masterchef comes up in conversation. Having emphasised his reputation as the hardest man in TV cooking, Gregg walks into the sunset.
Bar brawls don’t get tougher than this.