CELEBRITY MasterChef is back for another series and competing in the first week of heats is Joey Essex. The reality star tells Georgia Humphreys what he's learnt from his time on the show, and reveals he is feeling ready to settle down now.

It's now six years since Joey Essex left The Only Way Is Essex, the TV show which made him reality TV royalty.

During his stint on the hit ITV2 series, the former nightclub promoter, 29, became famous for his dating life, his slightly ditzy comments, and his skinny jeans, orange tan and bright white teeth combo.

Then there was his use of the word 'reem' (definition: something very cool).

While he's gone on to star in countless other shows - I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!, The Jump, and his very own ITV2 series, Educating Joey Essex - it turns out 'reem' very much remains in his vocabulary.

"I'd love to open a restaurant in future, 100%" says the London-born star, when asked what he's taken away from his latest TV role, the 14th series of Celebrity MasterChef.

"I've always wanted to open one anyway, but, after doing MasterChef, I can see myself controlling a kitchen one day, bit like Gordon Ramsay.

"I want to do some sort of burger restaurant, like a franchise... The name of it would be ReemBurger.

"I've committed to it today really by saying it - I've never told anyone before. I've even got a menu written down and everything!"

Essex admits that no-one really expected him to be in the line-up for the BBC One cooking show, which is judged by Gregg Wallace and John Torode and sees famous faces try their hand at a variety of challenges as they vie for the title of Celebrity MasterChef champion 2019.

But having enjoyed cooking since school, the lovable TV personality was excited by the idea of being put under pressure in the kitchen.

"I didn't realise how intense it was gonna be," he admits.

"Instead of upsetting yourself not doing something right, you're actually potentially upsetting other people, because your food don't taste good.

"The main thing they said is that it tastes good, but I was quite focused on how it tasted but also making it look amazing, because I believe if something looks good, it normally tastes quite good. It was exciting!"

So just how good were his cooking skills before going on the show?

"I would have rated myself probably like 6/7 out of 10; I was pretty good. The thing that's hardest is the timings.

"Normally if I cook something for my friends, they'll be like, 'When will it be ready?' And I will be like, 'Ah probably 20/25 minutes'. But in MasterChef they might go, '10 minutes for this' and at home I'd take an hour.

"There's a lot more panic. Especially at the start where I didn't really believe that we really did genuinely have 30/40 minutes to make sausage and mash. It was quite scary."

But when it came to dealing with nerves, his attitude was simple.

"I sort of just went for it," he notes matter-of-factly. "I do that with everything I do though in life.

"I don't really ever prep or plan or think about something until I'm actually doing it. Especially in what we do, it's easy for people - or in life in general, actually - to over-analyse and overthink things."

Essex is definitely a laid-back guy - that comes across in his jokey, chatty, cheerful manner.

And it sounds like he's more than happy for people to come up to him on the street to talk about Towie still.

"'Is Towie scripted or is it real?' - always that question," he says when asked what fans say to him.

"Obviously the answer is, 'It's completely real'. I've never read a script in my life.

"Because I'm not in it no more, people want to find out what it was like. Quite crazy really."

In the time since he appeared in the show, the star confides he's grown up a lot.

"I don't really wanna say this," he hesitates, "but I feel like I could properly be with someone; I'm ready to settle down now.

"But I'm not looking for love. I mean, I should be, but I'm not. Love is gonna find me, I'm sure it will."

He continues candidly: "Three years ago, if you'd been like, 'Do you want kids and marriage and all that?' I'd have been like, 'No way!' But now... I'm not eager for it, but I'm not against it."

He was known for being a bit of a party boy in the past. But he also admits he doesn't really enjoy going out clubbing as much anymore.

"I do go out, don't get me wrong - I went Ibiza last week. But I don't mind staying in, and getting up and going gym most mornings.

"I used to do it two times a week. Now I do gym four times a week, and I enjoy that. As you get older, it's a different life."

He is aware, he follows, that he's living in a nice, big house and he "needs a wife" - who he could cook for, he agrees with a chuckle.

Mind you, the woman he ends up with would have to be happy with the rather-out-there style and decor, revealed to the world in a recent episode of MTV Cribs (in which viewers are given all-access personal tours of celebrity homes).

"It's pretty cool," he enthuses of his colourful pad.

"I built it to my own taste. Whoever's gonna move in there is gonna need to be quite a fun person. The garden is literally a beach club!"

Celebrity Masterchef starts on BBC One on Monday September 2