We’ve seen Fred Sirieix organise meet-cutes for lucky lovers on First Dates for over a decade, but now the maitre d’ is heading on some dates of his own with the biggest names in food – and This Morning ’s Dermot O’Leary.
The 51-year-old is back for another series of Remarkable Places To Eat – a show where he’s taken to top-rated restaurants across the world by chefs and culinary experts. It started life on BBC Two, but the travel show has migrated to More4 for its upcoming series and in the first episode, Fred is shown the sites of Italy’s Puglia by his pal Dermot.
“Dermot has been going to Puglia for the last 10 years. He’s bought a house there and he loves it there. He goes to the market to buy his fish, he knows the local community and he’s made Puglia his own,” Fred says.
Although the TV personality adds that the daytime frontman was rather nervous to show Fred around his home-from-home.
“It’s taken him a little bit out of his comfort zone,” he reveals. “When we finished, he said, ‘Oh, I’m glad you liked it, because I was a bit worried.’ I said, ‘Were you really?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I was’ and he was.
“I just couldn’t believe that he was a bit stressed to take me around because he’s such a pro on television and all that. But obviously this is very different.”
Despite Dermot’s nerves, Fred says that the former X Factor host knew his stuff.
“I was very impressed with his knowledge of food, his knowledge of the region, the people and the restaurants,” he says. “He knows what he’s talking about.”
When Fred isn’t eating his way around Italy this series, he’s touring Majorca, Devon and France with his fine-dining friends. Although it was his South Wales experience – tasting salt marsh lamb and laverbread with Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers – that surprised him the most.
“I don’t know Wales particularly well but I’ve really discovered it. She took me to some incredible places – I didn’t know that the Gower existed! It is just absolutely stunning,” he says.
He was so blown away by the Welsh peninsula that he had to FaceTime his two children: 18-year-old professional diver Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix and 14-year-old Lucien. “I said, ‘Look where I am, this is a place called the Gower. I’ve never been, we’ve never been, we’ve got to come.’ I was so excited about it.”
But it was his visit to Burgundy with chef Michael Caines that proved to be his “most emotional trip” yet. “With Michael, we have a shared love for France, for food, for excellence, because we started our quest for excellence at the same time.”
Fred left France aged 19 for London, where we worked at Chelsea’s coveted restaurant La Tante Claire. It was around the same time in 1992 that Michael moved from the UK to study under chef Bernard Loiseau.
“That was quite something to be with him and to share that with somebody else who’s done the same thing that I did but the opposite way,” Fred says about their sampling of Burgundy’s patisserie, Michelin-starred meals and country cooking.
“We spent five days together, every single day from morning to night. We got a lot of time to get to know each other and appreciate each other and have fun. I’ve done lots of beautiful trips like this with a lot of people but that was very special.”
With filming for Remarkable Places To Eat out of the way, it’s time for Fred to return to the much-loved dating show First Dates, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
“I think this is the best series we’ve done,” he reveals. “The most loved-up, the most exciting. It’s just been incredible.”
Moving the show to a new restaurant in Bath proved to be an “incredible” decision, Fred adds.
“We’ve had an unbelievable cast of daters. Being in Bath, in this beautiful restaurant where we were, it was incredible so I can’t wait for people to see it.”
The restaurant host has even reunited with some of the show’s most successful couples – including series 10’s Elan and Cindy. Since appearing on the show in 2018, the daters have married and are now expecting their first baby.
“Yesterday we saw Elan and Cindy. She’s pregnant, she’s going to give birth in November this year. She looks beautiful, they were so happy, so loved up. It was beautiful, really nice to see them.”
With First Dates finding love for so many people, how would Fred feel if his kids wanted to take part at some point? “No problem, it’s my kids! Take your kids to work,” he says.
“Well, eventually it will happen, won’t it? It’d be fine. I’m sure I will cope!”
Remarkable Places to Eat airs Monday 7th August at 9pm on More4.
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