Dermot oleary

Dermot O’Leary shares his culinary highs and lows

What food has the X Factor?

Dermot O’Leary shares his culinary highs and lows

The X Factor host and children’s author Dermot, 44, lives in London with his TV producer wife Dee, 38, and their cat, Toto. We chat to him about his foodie life...

Favourite childhood dish?

Fried mackerel. We would regularly go to Wexford in Ireland, where my family is from, and caravan near a long stretch of sandy beach. Mum once bought mackerel from
a local fisherman. When she fried it in the caravan, it stank the place out. I've never been happier. It's still my favourite fish.

Do you ever grow your own food?

Every year I grow potatoes and tomatoes and, for the first time this year, garlic. Potato crops are a big thing in an Irish household.

How do you like to start the day?

Cereal, yogurt with fruit and two cups of coffee. I don’t drink instant and my filter machine isn’t working at the moment, which is breaking my heart!

What’s for lunch?

Sustainable line-caught tuna with Little Gem lettuce, red onion and tomato. The best salad on earth.

Most memorable celebrity meal?

Gary Barlow once cooked me duck with courgetti, then a chocolate tart. He's such a good cook.

Name something you can’t resist?

Crisps. I’m quite old school. I can forego cracked pepper and salt, but if it’s smoky bacon or Frazzles, I'm all over it!

Country with your favourite cuisine? 

I spend a lot of time in Puglia and like the simple flavours of Italy – fish cooked in a little butter, garlic, parsley and lemon. Boom. Done! We have a great larder in the UK, too. Love those first-of-the-season moments like Jersey royals and asparagus.

What can you live without?

I struggle with pitted olives. I keep trying them but nothing changes – too bitter and salty.

If you could teleport around the world, where would you eat?

Breakfast would be The Wolseley in London – half a grapefruit and thick-cut ham and eggs. Gelson’s Markets in LA for incredible fish tacos for lunch. Then Codfather Seafood & Sushi in Cape Town for fish. Simple and incredible.

Worst food experience?

I did a trek across the Kaisut Desert in north Kenya for Comic Relief in 2011. One night they cooked a goat. I remember eating some rough parts – there was definitely a lot of head!

What’s the food like on The X Factor?

We’ve got a snack box on set. It was full of unhealthy treats but now it’s packed with lentil chips and houmous.

What do you like to drink?

I try not to drink for half the week. Minuty Rosé is fantastic, and I love grassy white wines like Albariño. Right now, I’ll take a Beaujolais red. 

Which chef inspires you?

Jamie Oliver is probably the country’s most important chef of the last 30 years. He’s changed the way we look at food. I’ve spent time with him and he’s a lovely man.

What did you eat while writing your debut book? 

Houmous with crudités and pittas. Couldn’t get enough!

Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape, by Dermot O’Leary, £4, is out now.