What was your first big break on food TV? How were you discovered?
"My big break in terms of food programming was completely by chance. I appeared on this Christmas special with a good friend of mine who's a really fabulous food writer, Nigel Slater. And he is very, very, very shy, so he thought he'd feel more comfortable if there was someone there to chat with while he was doing his thing. So I went on to be this cozy person alongside him, and then I got a series of my own after that."
Did someone approach you with the idea for the show, or did you help devise it?
"The idea for the first show came about because I wrote my first book, and a glossy UK magazine wanted to run an excerpt. The book had no pictures, so we did a shoot in my home for the magazine. We really had fun; I had my kids there, and one photo was my feet in shocking-pink kitten heels, and some were of food, and the whole feel of it was warm and messy and fun. A commissioning editor at a network saw this shoot and loved it and wanted to buy an option on the book, and I said, 'I don't want to do TV, forget it.' And he said, 'Please, please, we'll do it the way you want,' and he was very patient and let me do it my way and let me spend so much time on the pilot. When I say 'my way' I mean unscripted, letting me go into the kitchen and babble on and—you know, the whole 'one camera, one house, someone talking.' Back then it was quite new. And it all happened because this very, very nice editor liked the picture of the pink kitten heels and knew it was for him, and he always tells people that."
What are some of the best recipes you've made on-air, and why?
"Sometimes the things that I think make good recipes when I write a book don't translate to TV. TV is very process-driven. It's good in life or in a book to do a recipe in one minute—stick it in the oven and that's the end. But that's not much for the TV viewing public to see. What works for TV recipes is something that transforms in open space, like in a skillet. When I write a book, the words really inhabit the page and get behind the page. But on TV, you want the viewer to have the same experience as you in the kitchen, and you need to unite visually. I do a running commentary and really try to use words in a very precise way and try to be evocative with my language.