INTERVIEW: Peperami ‘Ban the Bland’ Q&A with Joe Swash

Joe Swash has been challenged by Peperami to take on the nation’s food fails and trial Britain’s saddest snacks. Calling for Brits to #BanTheBland, Joe offers a solution with his very own edible ‘British Tapas’ to be tucked into during summer soirée and picnics in the park. To watch the full episode, visit @PeperamiTV on Instagram...

Tell us about the ‘Ban the Bland’ campaign with Peperami! What made you want to get involved? Is there anything you were dreading or looking forward to as part of the experiment?

As a nation, we’ve got a bit of a reputation for our food being bland and boring. So, when Peperami asked me to get involved in the campaign, my competitive nature came out and I jumped at the chance to take part, eager to show people how we can do it better.

As part of the experiment, the crew had me try some of the nation’s food fails – which I was dreading! I wanted to see if some of the strange combinations could be wonderful, but on the day, they were just plain awful.

Disastrous dishes included peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches and cold kippers – anything fishy turns my stomach!

People think that because I have been in the jungle and have eaten a kangaroo testicle, these types of challenges are a breeze for me – but that isn’t the case at all!

My favourite part of the day was creating my snack solution – ‘British Tapas – a local take on the famous finger food favoured by those in Spain.

As a family, we love nothing more than exploring the great outdoors. With the summer holidays in full swing, Peperami gave me the power to create something really cool that could be enjoyed either at home in the garden or during a picnic in the park.

What food to you is boring Joe, what are your food or snack nightmares? Is there a food or snack you could live on forever? What  are the family always munching on? Are there any quirky food combinations that you, Stacey or your kids have?

Anything with coriander or parsley – it’s like eating perfume!

I am a man of simple pleasures. If I want a snack, it will be something that fills me up. I’m old fashioned – meat, veg, potatoes.

Stacey loves all that fancy stuff; she’ll whip up strawberries and cream on pastry – that is my worst nightmare!

And her snack habits have just got stranger now that she is pregnant! She likes to eat raw cauliflower coated in mango chutney, mayonnaise, then mixed with curry power. She loves it, but it makes my stomach churn making it for her.

For me, I put jam on my cornflakes with a dash of milk in the morning. My grandad used to do it and now I do. I used to think it was gross, but now I love it!

We always see on Instagram you, Stacey and the kids out on adventures – you love the outdoors! What does the perfect family day out look like for you? What would you tend to bring on a picnic? What are the picnic hits and picnic misses? Any plans for the summer holidays with you and the kids?

Now that school is out, we’re planning on doing as much of that as we can. Getting outside and spending time together as a family.

Perfect day for us would be to get up nice and early, enjoy a hearty breakfast and go for a nice walk in the park. If it’s the weekend or school holidays, we always take a picnic – usually our basket contains the boring basics, ham sandwiches, crisps etc. This summer, we’re mixing it up and going from boring to brilliant – swapping soggy sandwiches and sad scotch eggs, to mini Peperami pizzas and cheese and chorizo snack boxes!

The key for us is to keep the kids entertained so boredom doesn’t set it, making sure the days are busy, so the boys don’t feel like they are missing out!

Our pool will hopefully be done in a few weeks – the boys can’t wait to spend sunny days splashing around! It’s taken a while, which has been frustrating, but these things take time.

What is your biggest culinary pet peeve? Does Stacey or your kids have any bad dinner table habits? What bad habit would they say you have?

Loud chewing!

I also don’t like phones at the table. We have a rule in our house that phones are banned from the dinner table – the kids are on them enough!

Stacey and the kids would say I eat really fast – like someone is about to take my food away from me. I also tidy around people when they are still eating!

How was lockdown for you and the family? Did you struggle? How did you, Stacey and the kids entertain yourselves to stop boredom kicking in? Any memorable moments to note? Did you try or find a new hobby?  

The first lockdown was easy – the spring was only a stones throw away and we had nice weather. We were lucky living near nice parks and forests. The second was a lot harder, the winter weather wasn’t good, we struggled with the home-schooling. But we loved being at home with the kids – we’ll never get that again.

We also bought and moved into our house! Being in lockdown benefited the process, our focus was on the move. We love the new house – we’re so lucky to be here, the kids love it, the dogs love it, we’re over the moon! We honestly can’t believe our luck. 

It seems you and Stacey lead hectic lives – we see you nailing parenting, mastering DIY and of course appearing in some of the biggest shows on TV! How do you do it all? Do you believe you are a modern family? Do you have certain roles and responsibilities split between you?

It’s been a journey! We’re lucky, we have an amazing support system around us – nanny, grandad, they all help with the kids. We know that if we ever need help, we can ask someone in the family. Stacey and I coordinate our diaries to try and make sure one of us is always there. Of course, on the odd occasion our diaries cross, so we’re lucky we have family that can step in.

We’re a fluid family – we don’t really have set roles and responsibilities. Both Stacey and I pick up the reins when we need to. There is not one person that does everything. We both muck in and that’s why it works, it’s how we want it to work. We both want to be with the kids, we want to be around the kids as much as possible, we’re hands-on parents.

However, I would say that I do the majority of the cooking at home – I enjoy the process! Stacey is a brilliant cook as well, but I just love being in the kitchen.

Have you and Stacey been able to squeeze in any date nights since welcoming Rex? What is the perfect date night for you both? Do you like to go out or stay in? What kind of movies do you watch on Netflix? Who rules the remote in your household? What kind of food do you tend to snack on?

We’re busy, but when we do make time to go out, it’s a matter of getting nanny round and having an early dinner. We try to make sure we have time together as a couple, but also time for ourselves. Stacey will arrange for me to go fishing with my pals, I’ll arrange for her to go to the spa – we like to treat each other. It’s good for us to take a moment to recharge our batteries.

If we’re staying in, it’s a night on the sofa with some snacks watching a film. However, the kids rule the remote in our household! Stacey is good though at bringing the family together to watch a film. The other day I came in and Stacey and the boys were watching Legally Blonde – I joined them!

You have just announced you are expecting a girl with Stacey! Congratulations! How are you feeling? Does your family now feel complete? Do you think you will have any more children? How many do you want? How many does Stacey want? How do you think parenting a girl will be different? How are the boys feeling about welcoming a sister?

We’re chuffed to bits! I don’t know what the future holds in terms of having more kids – but we’re over the moon to have a girl, as we only have boys. This is brand new for both of us!

I watch Stacey getting the nursery together, painting it pink and adding the final touches – it brings a smile to my face. I can see how excited she is – we both are. But equally, if we had a little boy, I would have my five aside team sorted – there was always going to be a winner!

We’re still going through names – we’re struggling. I like certain names, some names she likes, then other people don’t like certain names, so that’s still a work in progress.

The boys can’t wait to have a little sister, especially baby Rex! He keeps going up to Stacey’s tummy and kissing it, stroking it and saying the baby’s in there so he knows what’s happening and starting to get very excited.

I feel like I know how to parent boys. My eldest is now 15 [years old], he towers over me! He’s turning into a beautiful young man.

My brother-in-law has two little girls and has said it’s different, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. I grew up in a household with lots of women, so hopefully I’ll know the ins and outs.

And of course, this meant that your wedding has been postponed. Did you feel disappointed? What are the stag plans? Has Stacey given you a list of dos and don’ts? When is the new wedding date? How has the planning process been for you? What elements of the wedding will you be planning?

We were disappointed that we had to postpone the wedding, but we both knew we wouldn’t have got the wedding we wanted because of Covid restrictions. We didn’t want to rush it and, in the end, there was no point in stressing. We both thought let’s just put it back a year and plan it the way we want it. There are so many people that are important to us, we didn’t want to leave anyone out. The silver lining is that our little girl can now be there, which is lovely.

The wedding is going to be in the garden as well so everyone can be there including the animals / pets.

We’re just having close friends and family attend, it’s our wedding, we don’t want it to be too much of a spectacle, want it to be intimate and something to remember.

There are no dos and don’ts for the stag from Stacey, I’m going to go away for a couple of days with my pals, try to do something in England with the kids as well as I don’t want them to miss out.

I get involved in the wedding planning where I need to get involved, but I don’t get involved to the point where I’m being annoying.

Stacey has the vision, and I’m here to back her up and try and get her what she wants. Stacey is the organiser. I’m have some surprises in store for Stacey on the day, but I’m keeping them secret, so it is a surprise for her!

What is next for your career? Will your kids be following in your TV footsteps? Do you have any other exciting projects you’re working on? What else do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Have you set any goals for the rest of 2021?

My eldest Harry is really keen on acting and performing, he is also interested in the other side of TV – behind the camera.

The others are too young, so I’m not sure what they’ll be doing. As parents, we can only support them, we can’t steer their direction, we’ll let them find their feet and support them in whatever they want to do.

I’d also love to do some more acting this year as well.

I would go back to EastEnders as it was unfinished business. During my last stint, I caught meningitis, so I had to take a year off work. It meant I couldn’t get my character involved as much as I wanted to. If I did go back, I’d want to do it properly.

My goals this year is to get fit, I’ve just installed a gym in my garage. I used to go to the gym quite a lot and was into keeping up my fitness, but since the baby, I struggle to make the time.

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