TV presenter and food critic William Sitwell is flying the flag for British food culture which he says is the "greatest in the world".

The Masterchef judge puts it down to the fact even the most provincial UK high street still overflows with eating options, from Chinese and Thai, to French, Italian and Indian.

He said: "We welcome food culture with open arms, we absorb it into our daily lives. What we do - which probably annoys people from overseas - is that we actually end up doing their food better than they do."

As editor of Waitrose Kitchen magazine, he's well placed to adjudicate. And who better to pull together The Really Quite Good British Cookbook, a new collection of recipes from "about 100 of our finest chefs, cooks, bakers and food heroes". It features established talents (Nigella, Ottolenghi, Stein) and rising stars (Gill Meller, Rosie Birkett), as well as home cooks, restaurateurs, celebrities and innovative producers.

Sitwell's job was to "corral" the lot of them - via phone, email, Twitter and accosting them at parties - and get them to hand over recipes for dishes they make their loved ones.

He even got former Waitrose Kitchen columnist, Pippa Middleton, to contribute.

"I hired her [originally] because she represents a particular style of eating and of entertaining," says Sitwell, 47. "She's a great cook. All of the ideas were hers, all the recipes we ever published were hers, we would tweak and test them, she would come in, try them out, make comments, and she always impressed me with her genuine enthusiasm and hard work. I like her enormously, so I'm very lucky that we've got one of her recipes in here."

You won't find a recipe from Sitwell himself in it, however - he thought the idea "a bit self-regarding" - though he is a keen cook.

"On a Friday night, the default thing I do for the people I love is roast chicken, dauphinoise potatoes and a crunchy green salad with French dressing, and a nice bottle of Chardonnay," he muses. "I like doing braised belly pork in cider, preferably 3Cs cider - which is the cider I make. I'm quite good at roast potatoes, especially if they're a bit burnt at the edges."

The father-of-two is constantly nibbling on something (today it's an Honest Burger for lunch, then chocolate and rhubarb sweet-things snaffled from the Waitrose magazine test kitchen), but he says: "I was a very bad eater when I was small, I never ate anything."

He's no food snob ("I used to love Kentucky Fried Chicken - with a glass of milk") and proclaims a love for Iceland's frozen fish soup.

But after 17 years in food journalism, Sitwell - who now lives in Northamptonshire and has just been shortlisted for a Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Award for his non-fiction work, Eggs Or Anarchy - has developed a few dietary guidelines, including eating less as the day goes on, cycling everywhere and avoiding food trends.

"I eat when I'm hungry and what looks good, and I try and eat widely - and I certainly eat very greedily," he says.

Fortunately, greediness is essential if you're filming MasterChef; Sitwell and his fellow critics, the likes of Jay Rayner and Tracey MacLeod, are served any number of two-course meals back-to-back by anxious contestants.

"You get a whole grown-up portion - if you like it, you eat all of it," Sitwell explains. He adds with a laugh that they do tend to share good dishes with the crew, however, "they devour the crumbs we leave, so sometimes, just to annoy them, we eat everything!"

When asked what fascinates him about his field, Sitwell is irrepressibly passionate...

"Food is about politics, it's about history, culture; it's about entertaining, it's about love, it's about survival, it's about poverty, it's about pleasure, hedonism, it's about staying sober, it's about getting drunk.

"It's a subject that covers every aspect of human life."