"Because I'm a grime MC and not a chef, they have low expectations."
Well-known in the grime scene, Big Zuu will be making his television debut this week with his own 10-part series on Dave, Big Zuu's Big Eats, which combines comedy and cooking as he travels the country with his own food truck to cook for touring comedians.
Big Zuu kicks off the series by meeting Jimmy Carr in Croydon and is tasked with making him his ultimate meal, taking into account his occasional vegan lifestyle as well as his love of dirty fast food.
Across the series he'll be cooking dream post-gig meals for Rosie Jones, Guz Khan, Phil Wang, Desiree Burch, Jamali Maddix, Josh Widdicombe, London Hughes, Ed Gamble and Lou Sanders.
Ahead of the launch, I caught up with Big Zuu to talk about how the show came about, who was hardest to please and what he hopes people will take away from watching it.
First things first, introduce yourself, because music is your first love right?
Yeah. I've been making music since I was 16/17. At first, it was just about having fun with my friends, then I started taking it a bit more seriously when I was 18/19, got into radio sets doing grime and then things started picking up even more.
Whilst I was pushing music and doing shows, I became a DJ at a radio station so I started to get into presenting and stuff. When I was doing that I started making these cooking videos which eventually got me to being a DJ at BBC 1Xtra and now I'm here with my own TV programme!
Things have developed from just having fun and that's the best thing. The root of everything was to have fun. Nothing came from a business standpoint. It was just about me having fun doing what I was doing.
When Boomerang hit me up and wanted to produce a TV show with me, it made the most sense for me to do a funny food programme. That's why I feel like the format is so natural.
How did the TV show come about then?
At first, me and Boomerang, who are part of Twofour, sat down and spoke about my old content that I'd put out - they were referencing things me and my friends made when we were just having a laugh! Seeing it get used in meetings and as inspiration for a television programme was sick because we never really felt that was where it would get to.
It's crazy! It was a bit weird at first because I've never been in the TV world and it was probably a year-and-a-half after we had our first conversation that things really started rolling and we started filming. It's a long process which I had to get used to, but the way they developed the idea into what is now Big Zuu's Big Eats, I think it came together really nicely.
How does it feel having your own TV show?
It's very different. The only thing I can compare it to is when you finish a project in music and you're waiting for people to hear it. But this is on a different scale. Not that I don't put effort into my music, but there are so many people behind this one thing that we've done.
I love watching MasterChef and Great British Menu, so having a food programme myself is surreal.
Explain the premise of the show...
Basically we travel across the UK and meet comedians whilst they're on tour wherever they are. The first episode is with Jimmy Carr and he's in Croydon, so we have a little explore of Croydon first, have a little look, see what's happening - then we meet the comedian, in this case Jimmy.
I talk to him about what kind of food he likes, we have a little conversation about touring and comedy, I tell him a little bit about myself and then based on what he says I go source a three-course meal for him.
Jimmy told me he wants to be Vegan but he also likes a bit of dirty food like some chicken or kebab, so I go and source the ingredients, he does his show - which I don't think people are going to believe, but it is actually when they're on tour - we go to the food van, cook the food, have a little test run of the food and then when he finishes his show I sit down with him and give him dinner! He gets a from scratch three-course meal.
What's the reaction from the comedians when they eat your food?
What I've learnt from doing this process is that a lot of comedians don't eat before they perform because they have to talk for so long - if you eat a lot of food before you go and speak on stage, you get a bit of indigestion, little burps and stuff which nobody wants to hear, so a lot of them are really hungry!
If their show finishes at 10 or 11pm, there's never normally a nice place for them to go and eat. They normally have to get a takeaway or late-night food from the hotel, so when they come off stage to a three-course meal, cooked for them, inspired by the food that they love - nine times out of ten they're going to be happy.
We're cooking food that reminds them of their childhood, their favourite flavours, whilst also adding my own little spin to it. Because I'm a grime MC and not a chef, they have low expectations. They don't think it's going to be Gordon Ramsay levels, you know what I mean?
And it means that when we do well, they genuinely can't believe and say "Did you make it?!"
Who's been the hardest to please?
My good friend London Hughes. I don't think she knew she was on a television programme! (Laughs) She was amazing to work with but in terms of the food, it's very hard to keep things hot - it's television. So sometimes it's hard to get the food truck outside the venue and other complications, but we definitely made it work for most of the episodes.
One of our main priorities was to keep the food hot and give them a really nice dinner. The last thing you want is to piss someone off after a long night of performing.
I didn't want to be the reason why they were pissed off for their show tomorrow! I was happy that these comedians, who are big names, gave us their time so it was important to make sure I repaid them with some good food.
Who were you the most starstruck by?
Jimmy Carr definitely threw me off a little bit! (Laughs) In music I've met a lot of people that I look up to and worked with them, so I was nervous but I knew I could take it in my stride because he's such a professional that I didn't want him to think "Who's this knit-wearing boy with a TV programme Dave have given him?" - I didn't want them to look at Dave and think "What are you guys doing?!" (Laughs)
Who surprised you the most?
Rosie Jones. 100 per cent. I didn't know what to expect. I knew that she was very very funny. I knew that she was going to have me on edge and say some crazy stuff - but when I sat down with her, some of the jokes she said and the connection that we built was unexpected.
I can't wait to work with her again. That's definitely one thing that I'm looking forward to.
And you've got your two mates Tubsey and Hyder with you...
Yeah. We went to secondary school with each other and it's surreal having a television programme with these two guys. I never thought they would be on TV. Let's just put it like that.
How did they get involved?
When we were doing the pilot we were thinking about who I could get on to be with me and I just suggested getting my two mates to come along with me. We're going to have natural chemistry. And we all love cooking with each other because we all did Food Tech in school so we already had that rapport in the kitchen.
I did think - how would it come together on the screen? - But it definitely comes together nicely. They were involved in the pilot and it definitely worked out.
How would you describe your cooking style?
The best thing about my cooking is that I don't have to outsource crazy ingredients from Artisan shops - it's simple. It's cooking for people who enjoy cooking but still need to take that extra step to become a bit more advanced in taste. It's for people who want to start cooking outside of their comfort zone but don't want to go and buy some truffle oil to do so.
...even though I did use truffles in one of the dishes! (Laughs)
What would you want someone to cook for you?
For me, I'm obsessed with Roast Beef now and Roast Lamb. I like a traditional roast with potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, gravy, carrots - I just love the whole sharing aspect, coming together, having a crazy massive place that you add to even when you're not finished. I just love that. A good ol' roast!
How do you want people to feel when they watch the show?
People are used to conventional food programmes and I know a lot of people love watching them, especially before they eat - it's a nice way to get your belly ready for food. But for me, I just want people to watch this show and have that warm feeling. The connection between me and the comedians is something you don't really see all the time.
These comedians are so used to being on job and consistently having to be funny, whereas in this programme, they really get a chance to be laidback and I take the reins.
Also, I want people to realise that they can do whatever they want to do. I'm a grime MC by trade, but I love cooking. By me being able to express my love for cooking through a television programme, I hope it lets people know that - you know what, he's not a chef but he's having funny. And maybe that might inspire them to do stuff that's not in their comfort zone. I hope to prove that you can take your passions anywhere!
This show proves that TV is ready to branch out into different areas. With the introduction of streaming platforms, getting young people to sit in front of their telly is hard nowadays - so if Dave are able to tap into that young fan base by working with people who are in that scene, it makes the most sense.
Have you thought about the future of this series?
Yeah of course! I would love to cook for Ricky Gervais in terms of comedians. He's absolutely at the top end of comedy and I feel like putting us together will be amazing.
But if the show were to see me cook for other people who aren't comedians, I'd love to cook for footballers. I love football. So if I could sit down with the Liverpool team and cook some Egyptian food for Mo Salah, I definitely won't say no!
Big Zuu's Big Eats starts Friday at 10pm on Dave and continues weekly