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FeaturedReal Life StoriesAt Home with Theo Michaels: From Masterchef to Property and Beyond

At Home with Theo Michaels: From Masterchef to Property and Beyond

Theo is a chef, presenter, and award-winning author with a fascinating and very successful career. He appeared on Masterchef in 2014, which completely changed his life. He talks to Lynda Clark about how it all began, his passion for cooking, and has some great advice for first time buyers.


FTB: Tell us about your first step on the property ladder?

TM: Myself, my then-girlfriend and now my wife, Anna, and best friend, Steve, had been renting in London for years. Initially, there were five of us but that dwindled down to three, and we really wanted to buy somewhere but couldn’t find anything we could afford. We then had the idea to club together and we bought a flat in Crouch End. Eventually, Steve decided to buy his own place and we bought him out and still own the flat to this day. I think we were ahead of the game, though, as we thought that it was a great idea to buy with friends or family, and together with my brothers, we launched CoBuyWithMe. It was a bit like a dating website where we matched people together by looking at what they wanted, where they wanted to buy, and what deposit they had. We launched it in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada as they had a legal system similar to the UK, where they issue a declaration of trust. We were in our early 20s and didn’t consider how we would make any money from it! It was very successful and eventually, we sold it, but it was great fun.

FTB: Where do you currently live?

TM: We have three children who are aged 14, 12, and seven, and we have a family home in Hertfordshire. It’s definitely not our forever home but when you have children you are restrained by geographical anchors like schooling. I do look at Rightmove and consider selling up and moving to our dream home but the children are very settled here.

FTB: Tell us about your career?

TM: My father was a very successful businessman and I think I have followed in his footsteps. When I was about 11, I had a little car washing business and would charge £5 to clean a car, but I got my friends to do the washing and gave them £3 and made a profit of £2 and didn’t do any of the work! I started a recruitment business from home and ran it for seven years until I eventually sold it to a larger software company but I stayed on as MD and sat on the board. It was a big job and very sales-driven but the money was very good. Then I was sitting in the garden the day after we came back from holiday and asked myself if I could carry on working at my job for the next 40 years? I saw an application to enter Masterchef and on a pure whim, I filled it out without really thinking it through. To my great surprise, I got a call from the producers asking me lots of questions but I really didn’t think I stood a chance! Then I got another call to say I was going to be on the show. I am from a Greek Cypriot background so food is very important to the family and I always had a passion for cooking from an early age. I did pretty well on the show and it spurred me on to make a career change. My wife thought I was having a mid-life crisis but I decided to enter the world of food! I wasn’t sure in what capacity and considered being a private chef, or opening a restaurant, which was very naive. I gave my resignation to the chairman of the company I was working for and he wouldn’t accept it, but after three attempts, he knew I really wanted to go. So, I was sitting on the beach and decided to put a post on Facebook offering people a Greek-inspired eight-course taster menu for £40 in a pop-up restaurant. I honestly didn’t think anyone would sign up, but the next day it was sold out! Looking back, I think it was one of life’s lessons to throw yourself into something you don’t feel very comfortable with. It was a great success and I had some amazing feedback. This then dovetailed to me being a private chef for a few years. I also met the owner of Elsewhere Events who is now a good friend and we have a brilliant relationship. They create imaginative dining experiences at Elsewhere venues and pop-up events.

FTB: When the pandemic hit, it was hard for hospitality. How did this affect you?

TM: Everything stopped overnight and it was very, very hard. I went through a series of emotions from shock, disbelief, anger, and then acceptance. It was a financial disaster but I had to do something with my time and came up with the idea of doing kids cook-alongs. They were a big success and we did 36 shows which we live-streamed. I got my three children involved and we posted on social media what ingredients we would be using so people could get everything they would need and we did three shows a week, which were streamed all over the world. The feedback was fantastic and I think everyone liked it as they were very unpolished and were just us having a normal family life, so everyone could relate to it.

FTB: You have done so much, can you tell us about your meal plan service that you offer?

TM: I launched, which is a meal plan service online. There are around 500 recipes and the system generates a five-day meal plan for individuals. It gives a list of ingredients you will need and the recipes you can create. We have 18,000 members and it’s totally free. It started when I was working in France for long periods and my wife was at home looking after the family and I would send her a meal plan for the week to help her out – she loved it!

FTB: You have written many cookery books, can you tell us about them?

TM: I did a radio show every Saturday where they invited a few chefs to come along and chat about food. There was a brilliant lady, Hannah Miles, who was also a lawyer and has written over 40 cookbooks. She had been asked to write a book on Microwave Meals, which was not really her thing and asked me if I would like to do it. I had never written a book before but I knew I might never get asked again so I decided to give it a go. I really enjoyed it and I have now written many cookery books and I love it.

FTB: What are your plans for the future?

TM: I am the resident chef on Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4 and my new cookery book is being published soon that is inspired by Mediterranean/Greek food, which I love. I have big plans for growing the fivedinners business but high on my agenda is to do more television, which I really enjoy.

FTB: What advice do you have for first time buyers?

TM: I always think you should buy the worst house in the best area. If you can, buy as soon as possible, as property is a great investment and will only go up eventually. If you don’t have enough for a deposit then consider doing what I did, which is buying with friends or family. If you are renting, see if you can go back and live with parents and save, save, save – you will have to make sacrifices but it will pay off in the long run.

For more of Theo’s recipes or to join his meal planning service for free visit or follow Theo on Instagram @theocooks.

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