Passed/failed: Lloyd Grossman

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Loyd Grossman, 47, presents `MasterChef', `Junior MasterChef' and `Through the Keyhole' on BBC1. Other television series include `The World on a Plate', `Off Your Trolley' and `The Dog's Tale'. He is a governor of the LSE, a commissioner of English Heritage, chairman of the Campaign for Museums and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

What Did Delaware, Boys? My elementary school in Marblehead, Massachusetts, was named after General John Glover, who ferried Washington across the Delaware. You do all that stuff of pledging allegiance to the flag in the morning. It was an old school, freezing, with creaky floorboards, but a fabulous school. Everyone went there: the lobster fisherman's children and the policeman's children. We were intellectually divided, streamed - really savagely - from sixth grade, at 11.

Bird Boy of Alcatraz? Junior High was seventh and eighth grade. Marblehead Junior High was modern but disliked because of its repressive regime. Single-storey, sprawling, with endless corridors, it had an Alcatraz feel. Wherever you were going, you had to walk clockwise; the "corridor monitors" were very vigilant.

Now the boot's in the other jeans! In 1962 and 1963, things were just beginning to stir. By the time I arrived in high school in 1964, all hell was breaking loose. We were changing from obedient and docile children to the generation determined to be rebellious. There were checks to stop us wearing tight jeans: you had to be able to take them off over your shoes. Your hair couldn't touch your collar; we used to grow it as long as possible.

SATisfied? At 16 or 17 we had to take things called SATS, Scholastic Aptitude Tests, a verbal one and a mathematical one. There were also Achievement tests in specific subjects. The worst mark you could get was 200 and the best was 800. My worst was 539, in either French or Chemistry, but most were about 780. I was the youngest person in the States to get 800 in European history.

Sit-down - You're rocking Boston! I went to Boston University to read history for four years. I had to do a certain number of science courses and for one of them I did a year of oceanography. It had been a fairly sedate Methodist university, but in my second year a new president, John Silber, who had done wonderful things in the University of Texas, arrived and began buying up Nobel prize-winners. It was at the height of the Vietnam war and the university was incredibly radical with perpetual sit-downs. I spent most of my time writing about music in the underground press and playing in bands. We used to play rock Masses in the college chapel to entertain the protesters. The head of the history department was brilliant. I got a BA "Cum Laude", a First, I guess, although you could get a "Summa Cum Laude".

Economics With The Truth? I was very interested in economic history and wanted to do a degree with Jack Fisher, professor of economic history at the London School of Economics, so I went to the LSE as a graduate. The first time I saw the campus I couldn't believe it: so dingy, a rabbit warren! Then you recover from the shock and say, "This is so fabulous, we are just here to think in what is purely an intellectual sweatshop." The amenities are much better now.

Master/Slave? After my two-year MSc Econ, I toyed with doing a PhD and then I thought, "I've been at university long enough." I am fortunate that a lot of the work I do is for English Heritage and the Museum and Galleries Commission and so I can spend a lot of time in an academic environment. I do work like a slave; that makes me useful to committees.