Hell’s Kitchen: Paul Young

Paul Young

Aged 51

Food Heaven: Authentic Mexican food

Food Hell: Losing a finger to a sharp knife

Eighties pop icon Paul Young won fans around the world with his soulful pop music and is most famous for his number one singles ‘Every Time You Go Away’ and ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’.

A self-confessed foodie Paul dreams one day of opening his own restaurant, and hopes Hell’s Kitchen will teach him the skills to do this.

“I dream of having a little restaurant of my own one day,” says Paul. “I’m not fooling myself that I’m going to be in the kitchen 24 hours a day, but to be able to have somewhere and know what it’s like in the kitchen because I’ve been there. This is a chance for me to get to know the brass tacks of cooking and the way a restaurant is run.”

Already an accomplished cook, Paul thinks he’s good enough to win.

“I love cooking and I think I stand a pretty good chance of winning. What I have to look at in this is there might be people out there who have a bigger fan base than me. If I lose to someone who I can look up to and go boy they’re good, but if it happened purely through popularity votes that would be so frustrating.”

Paul’s love of cooking started when he learnt simple Indian recipes off one of his band mates, and ever since has developed a love of world cuisine.

“There’s a liver malay curry that is the best way of having liver I think. I got into Italian when I started having a lot of success in Italy, and I think it’s the top of the food chain for me – it’s the best food in the world bar none as far as I’m concerned. Then when I was touring and going to New Orleans, Cajun food became a speciality.

“Then I started getting into Mexican music, art, books and food and soon realised that what most people think is Mexican food is actually Tex-Mex and there’s no comparison at all. I’d like people to know that Mexican food is actually all about fresh ingredients, really nice fresh fish and the ingredients to make a sauce over the top. You can’t get any better than that really.”

Paul’s decision to take part in Hell’s Kitchen is driven by his desire to learn more about food and to be tested to the max.

“I’ve only ever cooked at home and I started it to de-stress, to get away from music and do something else. Now it’s going to turn into a major stress! So far I’ve only cooked for pleasure. This is going to be the other side of the coin I’d say. When I’m cooking for friends I could say ‘I’ve messed up, come round half an hour later’ which is not going to happen on this.

In his heyday Paul met Marco a few times on the social circuit in London, and can’t wait to be alongside him in the kitchen, learning from the master.

“I’m looking forward to working with Marco because I came up musically at the time when food took a leap in the UK and people started getting interested in and excited about food, and Marco was one of the top guys,” says Paul.

“He was one of the first English guys who truly had a passion about it to the point that his reputation goes way before him. We talk about angry chefs now, but I think he was the original as far as England goes. I think he really loves what he does and I’m interested to see what I can learn from him.”

For someone who is such an accomplished cook already, Paul is adamant he still has a fair way to go to compete with the best.

“I can learn things from a book, but I’ve yet to learn to taste as I go along and know whether that’s got enough salt instead of doing it half a teaspoon of this, half a teaspoon of that. I’m hoping that because I’m going to be doing it every day I’ll get better.

Despite his overwhelming enthusiasm about getting started, Paul admits that he’s not used to working under such pressure.

“I don’t thrive well under pressure which is something else I’m going to have to get used to. I try and keep calm about most things because if I get flustered it actually gets worse. If I get stressed I’ll probably go a little bit quieter, I’ll try and work faster but then the people are going to end up drinking my blood as opposed to eating a meal. That’s why I don’t want to get stressed because I’ll end up chopping my fingers off and serving them up by mistake!”

Known for being an eighties heart throb, Paul is quite keen to let the public see the other side of his personality once he’s in the kitchen.

“I’ve got a mischievous streak which luckily has never got me in too much trouble. I’m sometimes seen as a bit of a goody two shoes because I never really got in any trouble in my music career. Things got a bit out of hand when I was in the soul band and we used to break things so we’d carry a tool box so we could nail everything back together without getting charged for it!”

But he’s wary that his other celebrities may not be taking part for the right reasons.

“I’m patient in the fact that if somebody is dragging their heels a little bit, I think I’m a good enough team player that I can come in and help. If I feel that they’re not interested and they’re just there for the exposure that will p**s me off.”

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