Usually, however, those words emanate from the television while I relax on the sofa in my pyjamas. This time, I’m standing in the actual Masterchef kitchen, wearing an actual Masterchef apron, and Wallace is glaring at me as he utters them. Needless to say, I am shaking like a badly-set blancmange.
To mark the finale of the BBC programme’s twelfth season tonight, I have been invited - along with a host of other journalists - to test my cooking prowess in front of Wallace and his co-host, the Australian chef John Torode. We’re doing the 'Calling card challenge'; the first test on the show, in which contestants are asked to whip up a dish that they feel represents them in just an hour and 15 minutes.
It sounds like it should be easy, but I quickly realise that a lot of the drama on Masterchef - all those smashed plates and sunken souffles - are quite possibly because the judges go out of their way to unnerve the contestants.
In a calculated effort to impress, I have chosen to make a trio of desserts - a blackberry syllabub, buttery caraway biscuits and a spiced hot chocolate (after all, I figure, Wallace has a famously sweet tooth). But when the chef appears at my workstation, he doesn’t seem impressed. “Three desserts?” he scoffs. “Why don’t you just do one good one?”
A few minutes later, as I push berries through a sieve, I have that surreal realization that someone is crooning “She did the monster mash” behind me. It’s Torode.
When I practiced these dishes in my own home, everything went smoothly. But cooking in a completely foreign kitchen, under time pressure, is incredibly disconcerting. I waste valuable time trying to find whisks and getting to grips with the mixer. It’s incredibly easy, too, to be distracted by what people are doing around you: at one point, when a rival starts casually exhibiting their spun sugar skills, I watch for so long I over-whip my cream. And all the while, on the wall behind me, the big merciless Masterchef clock is ticking away. “We’re expecting something decent,” Wallace reminds us gravely from the front. I start to wonder if anyone will notice if I take a calming nip from my bottle of blackberry liqueur.
But my enemy, I realise belatedly is not the judges. It is the oven, which is induction, and which I have never used before. Ten minutes before the bell goes, I discover the hob underneath my hot chocolate isn’t on, meaning none of the flavours have infused. I frantically start throwing bucketloads of spices and cream into the pan in a desperate attempt to rescue it. By the time Wallace shouts “Time up!”, I have successfully poured something resembling hot chocolate into a glass. The rest of the pan’s contents seem to be splashed all over my face.
One by one, we take our dishes up to be assessed. The wait as Wallace and Torode sniff and prod and interrogate the plate is agonising.
Finally, they nod. “I’m not sure how many cooking skills you’ve shown us - the hardest thing you’ve done is make biscuits - but I do find everything you’ve done delicious,” Wallace says. Torode agrees: ”I can’t tell how good a cook you are, but you have a good palate.” They retire to discuss their favourite dishes - and when they come back, Wallace announces that mine has won his vote.
Proud as punch, I (reluctantly) relinquish my Masterchef apron and return to the real world. I don’t think I’ll be auditioning for the show any time soon, but getting the seal of approval from Gregg Wallace certainly isn’t something to turn my cocoa-smeared nose up at. And the best thing about it? I didn’t have to do any washing up.
The MasterChef finale airs at 8:30 pm tonight, BBC One