Exclusives Interviews 11 February 2019

GRM Exclusive: Big Zuu Talks Juggling Music With Hosting As He Launches His New Cooking Show ‘Big Zuu’s Big Eats’

11 February 2019

After an incredible series of music and radio accomplishments, Big Zuu has yet another triumph to add to the list as he drops his new TV cookery show Big Zuu’s Big Eats.

The West London artist is no stranger to opening himself up to new opportunities, with his track record of exploring all types of creative areas, as he describes himself as wanting to “be an all-rounder”: “I want to be a person that can be on anything, I don’t want to box myself in,” and he hasn’t disappointed at all.

We got the chance to catch up with Zuu as he prepared for the launch of his long-anticipated new show, which drops tonight on Dave.

The ten-episode series will see Zuu travel around the UK, joined by his boys Tubsey and Hyder, and meet well-established comedians, including the likes of Jimmy Carr and London Hughes, before cooking them a three-course meal customised to their tastes.

While speaking to Zuu, we took it back to his younger days as he revealed what first drew him into cooking and reminisced on his first memory in the kitchen:

“When I was young, I’ve always been a fat boy, so it’s natural for me to get in the kitchen. I just wanted to experiment always and it’s just one of those things that eventually once you get into it, I started chef’ing it up and yeah, it’s always been a thing that I’ve loved to do.

“Probably my first memory is when my mum used to go Lidl and she used to buy the macaroni cheese in the can, so man used to buss that open and that was the number one. Used to put that in the microwave and just go ham. It was one of them ones where when I got older, I started realising like I can actually cook like I’m not that bad, so I started getting a bit more into and picked it up from there.”

Some of his practice could be attributed to his job growing up, as he worked the grill at Nando’s when he was younger, and you know we had to ask what his go-to order was:

“I like a butterfly burger with chips and sweetcorn and like three wings on the side,” which definitely made us miss our regular visits during the restaurant’s many closures in lockdown. But as Zuu proves in Big Eats, making your own 5 star cuisine is really not as hard of a task as it looks and he delved into why he thought it can seem that way: “You know what it is, we’re in a time where people just love people doing stuff for them, like ‘I would love to be able to cook that, but I would love for you to be able to cook it for me’. That’s just the time we’re in – I understand it, I get it.”

Getting on to the launch of his first TV presenting role and very own show, he talked us through the process of how all the good stuff goes down in the episodes and even what he learned during his time filming: “We have a convo with them [the comedians] beforehand in the TV world, you know, and we find out from there what kind of stuff they like and what kind of food they’re into and then we build it up from that.

“I did learn how to make pulled meat, like I’ve been making pulled lamb shoulder like every day now, so I definitely learned that, big up Isla, a woman called Isla taught me how to make that. And definitely I think I picked up a lot of skills along the way and it taught me a lot of patience in the kitchen as well. I’ve always been a good chef, like I’ve never been dead at cooking so getting to this place where I can finally be like ‘you know what, man’s a chef’ and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that so I’m at this place now where it’s definitely humbling.”

Despite cooking for some big names in the industry, we had to find out who he’d want to whip up some food for if he had the chance and he picked none other than the legend that is, Gordon Ramsay:

“I definitely want to cook for Gordon Ramsay – I think I’d be able to handle his extreme level of swearing and I think I’d make him laugh and show him, you know what, man’s not the best chef in the universe but I’m alright bro. If you get that Gordon Ramsay approval, no one can chat to you and it’ll be one of those things where I could be like ‘yeah man chef’ed with Gordon Ramsay still’ like you can never chat to me, are you mad?”

But when it came down to which dish he would chef up for Gordon, he chose to stay true to his background, adding:

“I’d probably make him like Sierra Leonian food so he can’t chat shit about it, like if you’re making African food, he’d be scared to say anything bad about it or he’ll get rinsed online.”

Like the growing-list of talented creatives out there, Zuu hails from West London, where culture finds itself in every street and corner and he proudly adds to the mix, where he pays homage to his upbringing and surroundings for his knowledge of food:

“I think cooking and where I come from with there being so many different people, it was definitely a big part of my influence and being around so many different cultures kind of gave me so many different ideas and I was kind of able to like, if I wanted to learn how to cook something I’d ask my boy’s mum and things like that.”

In regards to his show, Zuu explained the importance of embracing your upbringing, culture and personality and turning that into your niche:

“I feel like there isn’t a lot of presenters that are like me – a light skin brudda who’s half Arab half African that comes from the ends, you don’t really see that all the time and I’m definitely not going to water down who I am for television and that’s why I love this programme because Dave, UKTV, 24 Boomerang, the production company, the channel, they never made me water down myself. Like the intro is a grime track, me spitting bars, so yeah man definitely, it’s something I see myself getting into.”

The intro to Big Zuu’s Big Eats is exactly what brings us back to the MC we all know and love as he spirals his own unique talents into one – who else do you know spits their own bars their very own show? Apart from Will Smith in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, of course. But what else would Zuu want to try experimenting in an intro?  He told us: “I would’ve done the  intro because that programme, people rinse it; people love a bit of ‘Come Dine with Me’. I would’ve been like *sings* ‘We’re coming to your yard, cooking very hard’,” and just like that, there’s the remix.

Zuu is never short of ventures and proved it with the release of his recent project; a fire joint mixtape with Kamakaze, Capo Lee and Eyez, called Royal Rumble, which dropped on April 23rd.  He set himself his next goal as finishing his next album.

“I think the next stage of my music that I’m getting into, I’m working on an album and I’ve been waiting to get into this album. I’ve done six projects of music that have all been like ‘here you go’, so I’m finally getting into this album and that’s one of the things that’s definitely exciting for me right now. It’s probably the biggest thing going on for me in terms of music, and hopefully I’ll be able to deliver it this year.

“Obviously with the stuff that’s going on with coronavirus it’s been hard because I’ve done a lot of my solo tracks so I’m trying to get the features done and it’s just difficult but I’m ready to get it done. As soon as we’re out of lockdown I’m going to be able to get the final features done and hopefully deliver a sick album. I wanted to do another tour this year, I did a tour last year, which was amazing, and I wanted to come back with a bigger and better tour but obviously the situation of performing live is tekky right now.”

Embarking on a tour right now seems like a distant memory but after speaking about some of Zuu’s personal highlights during his career, he mentioned one that sticks out as undeniably iconic:

“I think being on the mainstage at Outlook festival last year was definitely a big thing for me. Performing on the mainstage, I supported AJ Tracey like three years ago and he let me come out for him, we performed together but actually being on the mainstage on the main line-up, like Big Zuu, it was me and then Ghetts and D Double E. Even though it rained on the day I still had a massive crowd come out for me, there were thousands of people there. So, for me that was one of the biggest highlights, like mainstage at a festival that’s abroad in Croatia, I was with all my boys, that was a big thing for me.”

Taking it back to his roots, Big Zuu started out as an MC and his career has solidified huge amounts over the past few years, but where did it all start? We discussed his glow-up in the industry, which inevitably came with being diversified as a radio, and now TV, host, as well as an artist.

“Music has always been my number one thing because I believe in my writing, I believe in my vocals, I believe in myself as an artist but I’ve always done presenting. At first, I was at Radar radio and me, Snoochie Shy, all these people were all there. I was going radio at first to just spit and then one day they asked me ‘Zuu, would you like to host the show with Jack Dat’. So, they always had a phone where you would call in but no one would call so one day I was on the mic and was like ‘bruv if you’re locked in, make sure you call us’ and what they did was, they told me after but, one of the people in the studio called in and I got gassed because I was thinking ‘Oh my God someone called’ but it was actually just one of the girls in the station, but because someone called that made someone else call and so on.

“Then after, I was teaching myself how to DJ because I just wanted to learn and they had the facilities for me to do that and one day they were like ‘Zuu, why don’t you have a show where you get people to call in?’ and that’s how I made my first show, The Joints Show. That was one of the top shows at the station, we did a year and a half. When Radar closed, The Joints Show got taken to 1Xtra as a residency show and then that started building up my presenting as well. After a while I started covering for people like MistaJam and then I got to a place where I was really learning how to be a presenter. Because of that, I got to be very comfortable in this world. When they offered me the TV programme, even though I had no experience working on TV, I was a host on national radio. So it’s like all these skills that I learnt kind of led me to this moment, and we’re in a time where you have to be able to diversify, you have to be able to do different things, you can’t just do one thing anymore. 

“As an artist, I would love to just sit in my house and just make music but we’re in a time where that’s not enough, especially for artists like me – I come from underground, urban rap, which is now becoming more popular but it’s not something you can just solely rely on. You can if you’re an artist that’s with a label and that’s signed but I’ve always been independent so to stay afloat I kind of did these other things but it’s funny that those other things have led to me to be where I am now.”

It seems Zuu has always been clued up on how to juggle his passion for being a creative and he outlined the importance of doing so in this day and age.

“There’s consistent content coming out and for me, the main thing is keeping up in that world because once you take your foot off the gas you can kind of get lost in the game. I’ve always been a musician, that’s my main thing, but I’ve always done other content because you’ve got to stay relevant nowadays. Some people tell me ‘you should just focus on spitting and stuff’ and I definitely try my hardest to but we’re in a time where, look at Swarmz – he’s doing lives every day on Instagram and his followers have gone through the roof, but if he was just to do music all the time he wouldn’t have got that same following. So, sometimes you have to do different things to get other people involved in your stuff and if you can always convert them back to the music that’s great, but sometimes not everyone’s going to follow you because they love your music, some people are going to follow you because they like your hair, you know what I mean?

“People are random, like someone messaged me the other day like ‘bro, I don’t even follow you for your music’ and I was like ‘go listen to my music bruv and then chat to me’, and then he went and listened to it. He messaged me after like ‘you know what bro you’re actually all right’ and I was like ‘thanks man’. But I definitely understand it, I used to get a bit upset like ‘why can’t everyone just listen to my riddims’, but people take in different types of content and you’ve got to be ready to show people what you can do. I’ve been all over the gaff like I’ve done music, I’ve done stuff with boxing, I’ve done stuff with football, I’ve done stuff with cooking – I’m one of them people that like to just do what’s right, what’s the vibe and I’ve always followed the vibe.”

So, what’s next for Zuu? He has his next album in the works, he’s spent valuable time in lockdown cooking with his mum and sharing his impressive chef’ings with everyone on Instagram. He has accomplished so much at a young age and we’re sure there is a lot more to come. With the future of Big Eats, we asked about the prospect of there being a second season, or even bringing the food van to the outside world post-lockdown.

Zuu said: “That is up to the wonderful people at Dave, I think we’ll just have to see how the programme goes, how it gets received, if people love it then by all means I really do think that we have the opportunity to take this show to another world but it’s all in time. I’m not rushing, I’m just very thankful for the opportunity that I have.”

“So, if I can take it forward and do something sick with it then by all means that’s great but if this is where the story ends, I’ll be upset of course, but I’ll know that we had an amazing run. I do pray that with the way things go, if things go right, we’ll definitely hope for a second series. I also think if we can get the van out and go meet people and cook for people across the world and take things to another level then for sure. I think it’s something that will connect people to the show, and it will make people appreciate just what we do.”

A bright year is ahead of Zuu and we are expecting big success from the rap-star, from all-things music to chef’ing. Don’t forget to catch Big Zuu’s Big Eats on Dave tonight at 10pm.