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BBC/Jack Barnes

Hungry For It's Big Zuu: 'People stop me in the street to ask about my Bafta speech'

The rapper and chef talks all about his viral Bafta speech, the importance of heritage in cooking and his new BBC Three show Hungry For It.

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Rapper, chef and Bafta-winning TV personality Big Zuu is a judge and mentor on the new BBC cooking competition show Hungry For It. He's incredibly passionate about cooking and about getting more young people into the kitchen to try making things for themselves.

"We're in a different age [and] inspiring young people to cook is really important," Big Zuu, whose real name is Zuhair Hassan, says.

"The next generation are fuelled by their delivery apps and they're not always inspired to get in the kitchen.

"We're in a cost-of-living crisis and cooking for yourself saves you money and is better nutritionally. I feel like it's important to create avenues to inspire the younger generation to get into cooking, especially through the public broadcaster that is the BBC."

BBC/Jack Barnes

Big Zuu - who used to work in Nando's and still stops by for a chicken and halloumi Fino Pitta wrap - recently spoke about his humble roots and the importance of diversity and working-class representation after winning a Bafta at this year's ceremony. The clip of his speech went viral on social media.

"I definitely knew what I was saying was important and I knew it would resonate with people," he says. "I didn't expect it to take off and become such a viral moment.

"I feel like I spoke for a lot of people at that time and it was good to be the voice of change for a day and a lot of people commended me for it. I get stopped on the street by people asking just to talk to me about the speech. Someone told me, 'I watch that speech every morning and it motivates me to do stuff' and I'm like, well that's incredible because it came from the heart, it wasn't pre-written.

"We're at the start of something new. I feel like I'm very lucky to be part of this generation where people like me are being embraced for my difference.

"I still feel like there's a long way to go but I'm happy to be part of the change."

'I'd make Jürgen Klopp some African food'

The importance of social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are only growing for chefs, says Big Zuu, who adds that he often finds inspiration online.

"You've got so many people that are not trained chefs, people who just love food but are blowing up on social media and making it a career.

"I literally have a cooking show because I cooked on Snapchat so I am the epitome of social media transcending into a career within food.

"Social media has some negative sides but some of the good sides are seeing people create careers for themselves and learning how to cook food just because they watched a TikTok."

Big Zuu says he was inspired by TV chefs he watched growing up but also by people in his hometown in West London.

"I used to love watching television cooks, people like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay but I was also inspired by the local people I grew up with in my area like my local chicken shop boss man. I used to absolutely love him.

"He used to make us pizza and chicken and chips all day every day and when he would give me a free wing I would be the most excited person in the world. So big up BFC in Chippenham [Road]. They also used to do an 18- inch pizza for £10 with as many toppings as you want. Oh my god! Literally star quality food."

Big Zuu adds that although he loves cooking, he's still passionate about music and promises to make a return.

"I'm always gonna make music," he says. "Right now I'm enjoying presenting and doing cooking on TV but music is my core. I'm taking a little break right now but I'll definitely be back next year with more music."

And the avid Liverpool supporter adds that one special goal he has is to cook for Jürgen Klopp, the football team's manager.

"I'd make him some African food, maybe an okra soup or stew. Something that represents me. I reckon he'd be surprised but also love it."

'I'm definitely inspired by where I come from'

Hungry For It, set in Peckham in south London, gives 10 young aspiring cooks from all over the UK a chance to skill up and put their talent to the test. The chefs live together in a house while competing and cooking dishes in an attempt to impress industry experts and mentors.

The series is hosted by presenter Stacey Dooley and stars American celebrity personal chef Kayla Greer who is a judge and mentor alongside Big Zuu.

"I don't wanna give away too much [about the show] but some of the mash-ups we had on there were incredible," Big Zuu says. "There are some great representations of where people come from."

BBC/Jack Barnes

Celebrating your heritage in your cooking - alongside sampling exciting new cuisines - is important to Big Zuu, he says.

"I'm definitely inspired by where I come from but also we're very lucky [that] we come from a multicultural society where you can get the best version of different countries and different foods. I love Italian cooking, Mexican cooking - they really inspire me a lot so obviously I like to use my heritage but also I like to make food from different places."

Big Zuu also enjoyed working alongside chef Kayla, he adds.

"[Kayla] is an LA girl and comes from a really intensive background with food. Working with her definitely sharpened my tools," he says. "She didn't let me get away with a lot of things. Even though it wasn't a competition between us, we had that kind of thing between us where we wanted our young cooks to do as best they could. So yeah she pushed me to be the best mentor that I could be.

"You can't make a mistake when you're cooking in an incredibly famous person's house making them dinner. But I come from TV cooking where you have producers and people helping us. If you're making P Diddy pancakes, none of them can be burnt!"