Theo Michaels is a chef, TV presenter and award winning author. After competing on Masterchef 2014 Theo resigned from his corporate job in London to follow his passion for food.

He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Anna and their three children (and dog Bella!) and this month launches his new cooking column with us. Here he chats to our editor Katy Pearson about all things food and family...

Take us back to how your cooking career began – if not for Masterchef do you think you would have gone down this road?

My cooking began at a very young age; being Greek Cypriot our life revolves around the kitchen, but professionally I’d say November 2014 (quite exact I know!) but that was half a year after being on Masterchef and when I did my first popup restaurant which I continued for a couple of years doing an eight course taster menu. Would I be here now without Masterchef? I don’t think so.. Masterchef gave me the platform, confidence and reignited my passion for food, so I’m forever grateful to having that experience. Plus it’s fun going back as a judge!

What are your strongest and earliest food-based memories?

A Fudgi! It’s a traditional Greek dish of lentils that I remember disliking immensely and being forced to eat – yuk! Although now I can’t wait to dive into a bowl... My food memories stem less from particular dishes but more about the feeling it gave; the security and comfort of being with family and all sitting around the dining table; loud, noisy, laughing (occasionally getting told-off, well maybe a little more than occasionally!) My yiayia (grandmother in Greek) used to make Gounelli which is a rabbit stew and I still remember that as a very young child and sneaking a spoonful out of the saucepan when she wasn’t looking! I think I was the only kid in north London at the time drooling over rabbit!

What do you love to cook and why?

I think food is my love language; I love cooking anything for my family. But barbecuing and cooking outside is one of my passions; it’s primal and very social.

Is there anything you hate cooking/won’t cook?

Nothing. I know this sounds a little pretentious but if you’ve got great ingredients then there really isn’t anything I don’t get enjoyment from cooking. Although I will say, if I’m cooking a traditional stifado (a delicious dish of whole baby onions slow cooked with ox cheek laced with aromatic spices and lots of olive oil) preparing the onions is SUCH A CHORE! There’s dozens and dozens; that’s one job I like to pass on to anyone standing close by!

What might people be surprised to know about you?

I once saved someones life from drowning while surfing in Florianopolis in Brazil. Oh, and I lost an old Nissan Micra around Golders Green about 20 years ago that we still haven’t found.

Tell us about Five Dinners and how they is evolving?

FiveDinners is doing great! We’ve been really surprised by how many people have been in touch to say it’s genuinely made a difference to their dinnertimes and helped reduce the stress of deciding what to cook every night. The philosophy of was always to help make peoples live a little easier and we took the decision last year to redevelop some of the site and relaunch for free, yup, for free. The reason is we know people save a lot of cash when they meal plan using so we decided that with the cost of living crisis hitting so many people we would give the service away for free (for the time being!) so families and people can enjoy curated dinnertimes and our meal plans without any extra expense. We might go back to charging when things change but for now we hope it helps.

What do you think we should be cooking more of this year?

Leftovers! The easy answer is to say vegetables, but actually I don’t subscribe to that. I think it’s more about eating everything and reducing waste; so rather than buy just chicken breasts; buy the whole chicken and use the leftovers and carcass. If you cook broccoli, cook the florets and chop up the stalk and cook that as well. Ultimately it’s about reducing waste (which saves your money and our planet) and respecting the food we eat; much of this is the philosophy behind Rustica and goes into more detail on it.

What one dish do you think everyone should everyone master and why?

An omelette – if you can cook a good omelette you’ll never go hungry; its versatile enough to fill with anything you want making it great at any time of day; and you gotta respect that humble egg; what an incredibly beautiful and clever ingredient used for so many things. Oh and a good simple pasta dish using fresh tomatoes; again, its one of the cheapest meals to make and can be the most satisfying.

You recently opened a coffee shop? Tell us about that…

We opened Lazy Bear coffee shop in Southdown, Harpenden middle of last year and we love it. We have great staff, Anna spent ages sourcing artwork and making the place look brilliant and we do awesome coffee. I don’t want to brag, but it’s really good. Our coffee is locally roasted (in Hertford) to our exact specification making it exclusive to us. It’s a delicious single origin Brazilian bean that creates a smooth, caramel coffee with a little kick, but not too acidic or citrusy. We’ve also recently opened a hotdesking room (upstairs) so people can hide away and get some serious work done. And besides a bunch of cakes and pastries; my mum makes us her famous carrot cake (best in the world!) and we do tasted toasted focaccias and our legendary bacon baps (we get all our bacon from the butchers next door!)