What was your first big break on TV? How were you discovered?
"I had been approached several times, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of doing TV. Then a producer came to me with an idea about a show on ingredients I was particularly passionate about. So I went ahead and did it. It was the first time I’d cooked on camera, and I’m not particularly comfortable doing it. Not my forte. But I actually enjoyed the series. I didn’t particularly like watching the end result; I’m more interested in the production of it. I don’t watch very much TV cookery-Nigella [Lawson], and that’s about it. I found myself doing the one thing I said I’d never do: Cooking on television. Real Food is still almost always on the food channel here [in the UK]. It was a greedy program; I did an awful lot of eating on camera. There are still TV cooks who won’t eat on camera, and I just tucked into everything."
What do you think of food television in the UK right now?
"We’re not doing much straight cookery on camera-the old demo format. You’ve seen one person make a pudding and you’ve seen them all. Now everything has a reason: All of the cookery programs are either game shows in disguise—what can you make from this jumble of ingredients?—or they are quite educational, like Jamie Oliver teaching school-dinner ladies how to make proper food for the kids. And then there are these back-to-nature, grow-your-own-food shows that are really big right now. So basically everyone sits at home, eating their TV dinner while watching a program about growing and cooking your own food and how much more delicious it is. Then they go back to the supermarket and buy more takeout meals. But it does inspire some people."
Where does your new show fit in? What distinguishes you from other TV chefs?
"Taste of My Life is more of an interview show, really. I talk to people who are well-known here, like the writer Alan Bennett, and take them through their lives, talking about milestone meals and things they remember from their childhood: Things Mum used to make, foods they hated."