Saturday 16 November 2019

It's lovely if I can make Strictly fans smile, says Ainsley Harriott

Ainsley Harriott with his dance partner Natalie Lowe before the start of this year's Strictly Come Dancing (BBC/PA)
Ainsley Harriott with his dance partner Natalie Lowe before the start of this year's Strictly Come Dancing (BBC/PA)

Celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott is baffled by his popularity with Strictly Come Dancing fans.

"I have no idea what Strictly fans think of me," he said during a rehearsal break at Hertfordshire's Elstree Studios.

"I'm not being funny, I'm not being grand. I think we celebrities, or as I prefer to call us 'trainee dancers', are in a bubble a bit. I live with my daughter and she said to me: 'you're popular on social media, Dad. Well done."

The 58-year-old first found fame in 2000 when he presented BBC Two cooking series Ready Steady Cook and coined the catchphrases "Percy Pepper and Susie Salt".

Partnered with Natalie Lowe for Strictly, Harriott performed a tango to Abba's Voulez Vous in week one and a salsa to Josephine Baker's Don't Touch My Tomatoes in week two.

He will spread more happiness as a dancing penguin in this third week of Strictly, which has a movie theme. The TV star will cha cha cha to Earth, Wind & Fire's Boogie Wonderland taken from animation favourite, Happy Feet.

The pressure is on as his routines have so far been enthusiastically received by the public and the genial Londoner is a firm favourite on Twitter.

Users have posted tweets praising his larger-than-life personality, with this contribution from @lucy_ollison summing up the general feeling: "I am so excited to see Ainsley dress up as a penguin on Saturday," she said.

Harriott is touched by the warmth of the fans: "I went to my doctor and he was so complimentary. He told me my salsa was one of his family's favourite Strictly dances ever. His wife watches it every night and it makes her smile. I just thought: 'how lovely is that?'"

The Movie Week routine features penguin-like steps and the affable chef is anxious to do well. "Rehearsal days are long so people think you go home and switch off. Nothing could be further from the truth!" he exclaimed.

"My dog is sick and tired of me walking up and down the kitchen doing all my dance moves. He just finds it all extraordinary."

However, Harriott is a huge fan of the entire experience. "I'd love to get to the final and I'd love to win Strictly, but if someone's doing something fantastic, I'll applaud them," he insisted.

"It's all about entertaining people on a Saturday night and Strictly has really brought that love affair with television on a Saturday night back in a big way."

Strictly Come Dancing airs on Saturday October 10 at 6.20pm on BBC One

PA Media

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