From digger driver to daytime star: TV chef Dean Edwards reveals what a lack of confidence cost him

With his family-friendly recipes and self-effacing personality, television chef Dean Edwards has won an army of fans since making his debut on This Morning in 2009. 

He’s been resident chef on ITV’s Lorraine for ten years, and has bestselling recipe books to his name. So it’s a surprise to learn that his early TV career nearly hit the buffers due to his own self-doubt.

Dean, now 43, was working as a digger driver on building sites when in 2006 he was runner-up on MasterChef. TV offers flooded in, but he wasn’t sure he had the courage to leave the security of his nine-to-five job. 

‘I had no aspirations and after MasterChef I just thought I’d go back to my digger,’ says Dean. ‘I missed out on a lot of opportunities due to lack of confidence. I thought, “Why would people want to see me cook?”’

Dean Edwards, 43, did not have the confidence to go for the opportunities he was offered after becoming runner-up on MasterChef in 2006

Dean Edwards, 43, did not have the confidence to go for the opportunities he was offered after becoming runner-up on MasterChef in 2006

The turning point came in 2007 when he was asked to take part in a BBC2 series called Take On The Takeaway, sourcing ingredients for celebrity chefs to cook with. 

‘It meant I got to work with all my favourite chefs – Ken Hom, Jean-Christophe Novelli, Gary Rhodes and Angela Hartnett – so I decided to go for it.

‘After that I met an editor at ITV who decided to take a punt on a complete unknown – and incredibly, I became one of the regular chefs on This Morning. But when I was filming, I was so worried about getting caught out if Phil [Schofield] or Holly [Willoughby] asked me a question and I had to admit, “Oh, I don’t really know.” I was always on edge and on the defensive.

‘I’d flood my brain with so much information I wasn’t getting any pleasure from the cooking. Then one night I made a decision to change my mindset and enjoy myself. I woke up the next day thinking, “Right, let’s do this.” It was like flicking on a light switch.’

Dean and his daughter Indie make an easy blackberry tart on ITV's Lorraine (pictured, together)

Dean and his daughter Indie make an easy blackberry tart on ITV’s Lorraine (pictured, together)

Since then Dean’s career has gone from strength to strength, with his fourth cookbook about to hit the shops.

Cook Slow: Light & Healthy has 90 easy recipes that can be rustled up in slow cookers or conventional ovens. Some of these are being featured on pages 66-69 of today’s Weekend.

Cook Slow: Light & Healthy by Dean Edwards is published by Hamlyn on 3 September, £16.99

Cook Slow: Light & Healthy by Dean Edwards is published by Hamlyn on 3 September, £16.99

It’s a follow-up to his bestselling 2018 book, Cook Slow, which introduced a generation of readers to the idea of using slow cookers. ‘Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine how successful that book would be,’ says Dean, who has a daughter, Indiana, ten, with his ex-wife Lou. ‘People have realised slow cookers really make your life easier, and anything cooked for longer seems to taste better.’

It’s not just families who can benefit, says Dean, who is having to re-schedule his wedding – postponed due to Covid-19 – to his 33-year-old estate agent fiancée Liz. ‘I hear people say, “I live on my own, so I’m not going to bother cooking.” But with a slow cooker you can cook once, making however many portions you like, then freeze it in batches. This is cooking for everyone – from students to retirees.’

Although Dean has always loved cooking, he could never have foreseen he’d reach the MasterChef finals. ‘I’d always thought of MasterChef as elitist until it was relaunched in 2005, and I saw normal people cooking, so I decided to enter,’ he recalls. ‘But I’d exhausted my repertoire by the quarter finals. When it came to the finals, I had to make three dishes I’d never cooked before! It’s probably why I didn’t win.

‘But I’ve no regrets. The show transformed my life and, in the end, my self-confidence.’ 

  • Cook Slow: Light & Healthy by Dean Edwards is published by Hamlyn on 3 September