From soap star to cookbook author
He was known to millions of soap fans as Coronation Street's Martin Platt, but these days Sean Wilson is garnering a new following from foodies as an award-winning cheesemaker and now cookbook author – and he is due to appear in a new TV series, as himself. Debbie Hall speaks to him
F or 21 years, actor Sean Wilson starred in Coronation Street, where his only culinary connections would have been scenes in the Platt household kitchen, or sampling some of Betty's famous hotpot in the Rovers Return.
Since his alter ego Martin, hapless husband of Gail, left the cobbles of Weatherfield, Sean has been able to indulge his passion for food – paying visits to France to learn more from the country's artisan producers, working in a Michelin-starred restaurant and setting up his own cheesemaking company.
Most recently, he has been working on a new cookbook.
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"It's my first-ever book and I am very excited about it," said Sean.
The Great Northern Cookbook is a tie-in to a new TV show for Channel 5, in which Sean explores the gastronomic heritage of towns in the North of England.
He is not allowed to tell me exactly when it is airing – "but it's early in the new year" – nor can he give me the full lowdown, but each of four, one-hour shows will see Sean visiting different locations and taking on four distinct challenges involving the local communities along the way.
He says: "I do think the North is ripe for something like this – it's got a population of 25 million, it's a natural melting pot of amazing countryside, great ingredients and fabulous people making great nort- hern food – and having a lot of fun."
Sean, a northern "lad" himself (he was born in Ashton-under-Lyne and has been a resident of Saddleworth for the past 20 years) said he was delighted to be approached by Channel 5 to film Great Northern Cookbook, and to write the accompanying 224-page publication.
It is full of recipes for hearty fare – from soups to pies to good, rib-sticking steamed puddings.
"The book commission came in April and basically I had three weeks to write it," said Sean, who is dad to Callum and Maisie, to whom he dedicates the book.
He founded the Saddleworth Cheese Company – his products delight in such names as Smelly Apeth (blue); Muldoon's Picnic (crumbly) and How's Yer Father (creamy) – after his departure from the street.
"It took about four years to draw the wagons into a circle, so to speak," said Sean.
He has since become a cheese- maker of distinction, collecting numerous awards, including a gold medal at this year's World Cheese Awards.
Sean said of his new book: "It was very important for it to be in my own words. Friends who have read it say it sounds like me, which is what I wanted.
"I am an avid collector of cookbooks – I must have 300 – and there must be so many of those that are just generic.
"I think that can disappoint people – mine is definitely me."
Sean says the book "revels in its northern-ness".
In his introduction, he says: "In the North we never take life too seriously. We have a passion for simple food, made with good, authentic ingredients and the fun that the North of England has in abundance."
From "A Northern Gentleman's Afternoon tea" to "Deep Fried Tripe", "Proper Mushy Peas" to "Baked Apple Dumplings", the book is full of timeless recipes and wonderful photography, of people, places and animals including Russell – a Jack Russell, obviously – that the TV crew met in Northumberland.
The Great Northern Cookbook, by Sean Wilson, will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in January 2013, priced £20.