He was familiar to millions as Martin Platt on Coronation Street for 20 years, but Sean Wilson left the North’s favourite street to go in a new direction… and he hasn’t looked back.
This is a lad who after a successful acting career decided to pursue his life-long passion and in the last seven years has established an award-winning cheese company and built a reputation as an accomplished chef. As if that wasn’t enough he’s just finished filming his latest offering ‘The Great Northern Cook Book’ due to be screened on Channel 5 in January and he’s also managed to find the time to launch his first book of the same name to coincide with his new programme.
I caught up with Sean to discover his recipe for success. “Sean,” I begin, “I have a confession to make…I loved your book so much I actually took it to bed with me last night. Well it’s like gastro porn isn’t it?”
“Well, I think it is and you’re not the first one to say that either,” he replies. “Anyone that knows me isn’t surprised because I’ve always had this undying curiosity with food, so when I told all my friends that this was what I was considering they were all saying it was only a matter of time.
“We felt that there was an opening in TV for bringing the North to people because there are too many London chefs on TV.
“What we wanted to do is go a little bit more in-depth and infiltrate Northern villages. It was great because the villages became part of each stunt we were doing. In the North we are known for being able to muck in; that’s when we’re at our best.”
After 21 years pounding the cobbles of Corrie as hapless Martin Platt, has Sean now closed the door on his acting career?
“No, not at all! In making the series, it completely moulds together what I know about calmness in front of a camera with what I know about food. It’s the perfect job. I spent years not looking into a camera, whereas with my new profession presenting ‘Great Northern Cook Book’ it was more about developing a relationship with the camera and the viewer.
“When I left Coronation Street in 2005 I received a lot of negative criticism, some people saying, ‘You’ve had your time in the acting world’ blah, blah, blah. I’m not a negative kind of guy and it was a perfect opportunity to re-invent myself, so that’s exactly what I did. A lot of people were saying ‘So you’ve come down to this, have you?’ which wasn’t very nice but they just didn’t understand that when you have a passion and the positive opportunity to follow your passion, that’s what you must do!
Sean gained experience working with Nigel Haworth at Northcote Manor, in the Ribble Valley, and it was while he was there he was introduced to Bob Kitching at Leagram Dairies. At the time, Bob was the only one producing home-made cheese in the whole of Lancashire.
Sean says: “We had a couple of beers together and I said ‘It’s a sorry situation that the trade is dying out; Lancashire hand-made cheese needs a future. ‘Well if you’re into the science of food, cheese making is all about science.’ I’ve tried to teach people before but they just don’t get it, but I’ll try and show you,’ which he did.
“I returned home and began an 18-month period of testing to achieve my own cheese product. I was constantly mithering him on the phone but it worked and culminated in winning a gold in the World Cheese Awards.
“He’s a lovely guy and without Bob’s help I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“I’m here to put Lancashire cheese on the national map.” Since the birth of his Saddleworth Cheese Company, Sean has created a selection of cheeses – How’s Yer Father, Muldoon’s Picnic, Smelly Apeth and Mouth Almighty.”
Sean triumphed again in 2011 when he achieved another gold for his Saddleworth Blue Cheese ‘Smelly Apeth’.
“I wanted to throw my clothes off. It was a great achievement!”
Sean is what I would brand a true Northerner. There’s no airs or graces, there’s no sense of food snobbery, there’s just a man called Sean who believes in what he does and what he does, he does well. He passionately champions his
cheesy beliefs; he is in my humble opinion our very own Northern cheese warrior!
“That’s what I feel like and I want to do it but it’s not just cheese, there’s a lot of Northern heritage to celebrate which we encompass in the book.”
Sean’s passion for his kitchen antics were borne at an early stage, his grandma Mona was a great influence on him. “She used to make a potato hash which was gorgeous. She got things right especially her brown crinkle- cut chips. I want to start the campaign for brown chips.”
Me too, Sean, me too. I remember the good old days when chips were cooked in lard, my Grandma always had a frying pan full of lard and she lived to a ripe old age. “Chips should always be double fried and ensure you get Maris Piper potatoes grown in sand as the sand absorbs the excess water in the spud.”
Don’t forget you heard it here first folks! It’s so apparent that Sean loves his food and with his new book and TV series his aim is to entice people to enjoy their time in the kitchen. It shouldn’t be stressful.
“We all need to make time to spend a little bit of time in the kitchen and I believe it’s important. It’s a great rat race out there but in your own little kitchen you can take a couple of hours, relax and be yourself and that’s pretty much what I’m doing.
I decide to test his true Northerness. As a child every Friday my dad would return from work with pork dripping wrapped in white paper and we’d sit and have dripping butties.
Sean answers “Well, to be honest I haven’t tried dripping butties.”
Well that is a situation that needs to be remedied. I earnestly promise him that the next time I’m in Saddleworth I will pay him a visit with dripping butties in hand as long as he promises to let me try some ‘Smelly Apeth.’
His answer is clear and concise: “Never mind ‘Smelly Apeth’, why not try a bit of ‘How’s Yer Father?”