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Gino hugged me for not letti ing on I had d eaten a tooothpick he'd left in the chicken; EXCLUSIVE: CLEM MIE MOODIE JOINS LET'S DO LUNCH.

CHOWING down on a dish made specially for me by one of our biggest celebrity chefs, I gush: "Mmmm, so lovely and tender!" All the while, that is, desperately trying not to choke on what appears to be a wooden toothpick embedded in my cheek.

Yep, welcome to the unpredictable world of cookery TV.

As a fan of all things gastronomic - I plan my days around food - naturally I was delighted when Gino D'Acampo and Melanie Sykes invited me on to their hit daytime show Let's Do Lunch.

Appearing as one of the daily "celebrity" guests (the underwhelmed studio audience hid their disappointment well), I feel pretty confident as I stroll on to the set. I mean, I got an A* in my Home Economics GCSE, what could possibly go wrong? A lot, it transpires... only just starting with that toothpick.

The premise is to offer viewers quick, easy and affordable dishes to try at home and Gino swiftly whips up a rosemary and mushroom-stuffed chicken breast.

"Is this something you might attempt yourself after work?", Mel asks me once I've been tasked with slicing two garlic cloves.

Replying that the use of a toothpick to secure the rolled-up stuffed chicken intimidates me slightly, I notice Gino breathing over my shoulder and looking despairingly at my chopping board.

"I told you, sliced!" he bellows in his treacle-thick Italian accent. "This garlic is chopped! Chopped, not sliced! Oh well, never mind, chopped it is... " As the audience chortle, things go from bad to worse.

Minutes later, once the chicken has been cooked and plated, Mel hands me some cutlery and tells me to tuck in.

Careful not to eat like the eponymous hero in porcine movie classic Babe, I delicately take a bite.

Immediately, something doesn't feel - or sound - quite right. I can hear crunching. Definite crunching.

Ton a bone, I nonetheless feign wonder at this culinary delight, complimenting Gino on his wonderfully tender chicken.

Finally, we pause for an ad break.

Gradually it transpires I have just eaten half a toothpick.

With Mel doubled over laughing, the popular cook gives me a massive hug, thanking me for "keeping quiet" and "being such a pro".

Mortifying as toothpick-gate may have been, it is exactly this kind of unplanned drama which makes Let's Do Lunch such a hit with viewers.

Now in its third series, previous celebrity guests include Alan Carr, Emma Bunton, Jason Manford and Alex Jones.

Nominated for this year's TV Quick Awards, the duo's unlikely chemistry - she struggles with his Naples accent, he appears constantly baffled by her broad Lancs one - is what makes the show unique.

"We love it when things go slightly wrong," Gino explains. "It's not meant to be a really serious cookery show, it's meant to be fun. And it's live, so obviously things happen that are out of our control.

"Don't worry about your mistakes - there's a lot going on in the studio and my accent was probably to blame.

"My wife tells me this all the time... it's always my fault!" While the laid-back, chatty atmosphere may make the show seem casually thrown together, it is anything but.

When my appearance was initially confirmed, a researcher rang me at an assigned time, grilling me for 45 minutes about my showbiz tales and anecdotes.

From here, scriptwriters will meet with presenters Mel, 42, and will G ope the win the d gino, 36, and prepare the topics that l drive each hour-long episode. ino is a serious chef - next week he is ning his own pasta bar in London - and I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! nner is hands-on with all the recipes in studio kitchen.

A team of home economists may prepare shed versions of all the meals - the amous "prepared earlier" dishes - but are briefed by Gino beforehand. ut back to me. Walking on set, it is ential I look the part. Or, at least, I don't k too wan and rough beside Amazonian Mel. Then again, at 5ft 2in in my finis infa all a Bu esse look stockinged feet, anyone is Amazonian beside me.

Make-up artist Abbi Rose Crook plasters me in slap and 30 minutes later I look considerably better than when I first entered ITV's South Bank studios.

After I have been shown to my dressing room, executive producer Sharon Powers offers me a few words of advice: "Just be yourself, be chatty and chip in where you feel necessary," she says.

"But when I say chatty, I don't mean waffle on for hours. Having said that, both Mel and Gino have ear pieces and are being told what to do, so they'll quickly shut you up if you're going on too long."

Vaguely reassured, I am then led to the green room ahead of my live link - a oneminute piece to camera in which I am formally introduced to the 82-strong studio audience and asked a few questions about my cooking credentials.

Rather than speaking into the camera as I've been directed, I find myself staring gormlessly into the big TV screen beside me, seeing my own rabbitin-the-headlighty face reflected back at me in high definition. Awful.

However, toothpicks aside, once I'm actually up and running, I realise that I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

Chatting away to Mel as Gino chops, slices, dices and shreds various ingredients, we swap fitness tips (Mel's a honed gym bunny) and discuss her recent wedding to toyboy roofer Jack Cockings, 27.

"I was so relaxed on the day itself, I was doing my tax returns in the morning," she laughs.

Indeed, the former Big Breakfast and Today With Des And Mel star is looking lean, relaxed and tanned, the result of a two-week honeymoon in Mexico.

"It was wonderful," she adds. "Just perfect."

Which is quite unlike the next dish I am tasked with - a rib-eye steak with blue cheese butter, watercress salad and beer battered onion rings.

Explaining why you should never season a steak prior to cooking it - "the salt dries out the meat" - Gino gets on with the beef and leaves me in charge of the onion rings and salad.

A big mistake. While the rings all go to plan and I manage to successfully whisk a cold beer into a bowl of seasoned flour, disaster once again strikes on the greenery front.

"No, no, NOOOO!" Gino screeches, a look of sheer horror passing across his chiselled little face. "I told you to put the thyme on the steak, not in the watercress. The watercress is now ruined. Unusable."

With that he picks up the bowl, and hurls it into a nearby dustbin. As the audience again howl at my latest culinary calamity, I hear him mutter what sounds distinctly like an Italian swear word. Oh.

Nonetheless the finished meal he brandishes does taste delicious - no need to fake it this time - and the steak is meltin-the-mouth tender.

Before I'm able to polish it all off, Mel and Gino are wrapping things up, and it's time to get out of the kitchen.

So how did I do? "Apart from the mistake with the thyme, and the garlic... oh, and the chicken, you were, well, fine," muses Gino.

"No, that was absolutely hilarious!" grins Mel. "I just wish you'd stitched up Gino and spat out the toothpick. You totally took that one for the team."

And on the subject of teams, Gino and Mel make a pretty formidable one.

Just don't let either near your teeth.

3 LET'S Do Lunch returns to UTV today at 12.30pm.

gormlessly beside I take a bite and something doesn't feel right - a crunch, a definite crunch clemmie tucks in variousNo, no, NO! Thyme on the steak, not in the watercress. Unusable..! flustered gino


J chow bella With Mel & Gino

CLOSE 3shaves Grating duty

VOILA J Our 3am star with finished dish

NOT nbeaten Clemmie whisks as Gino pummels

blending Jin Getting made-up
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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