Nigella Lawson fury: Star’s rant at ‘controlling’ TV cooks ‘telling people what to eat’

Nigella Lawson reports on Princess Diana’s death in 1997

Lawson, 61, started out writing literary and restaurant reviews – and made an appearance on BBC Newsnight that was branded “unrecognisable” – before she became known for her TV work. In recent years, Lawson has written cookery books and starred in her own shows, including Nigella: At My Table. The star, who came under fire for her anti-Brexit views, gave an insight into her beliefs about cooking and being a “food-obsessive”. 

Lawson is renowned for her cheeky and often innuendo-laden descriptions of food on her TV shows but she didn’t always have a love for cooking.

The chef admitted that she was a “fussy eater” when she was growing up and didn’t enjoy food in the same way she does today.

Lawson recalled how she “loathed eating as a child”, which was something she considered odd for a “future food-obsessive”.

She recalled her “hatred” of mealtimes and being told that she “had to eat everything” on her plate before she was allowed to leave the table. 

nigella lawson tv chef cook food at my table bbc

Nigella Lawson branded TV chefs ‘bullies’ in a surprising rant (Image: GETTY)

nigella lawson tv chef cook food at my table bbc

Nigella Lawson’s show Nigella: At My Table airs on BBC Two this Thursday (Image: BBC)

In a 2015 Guardian article, Lawson wrote: “There was no intimation that there was meant to be pleasure in food… It was there and it had to be eaten.”

Lawson recalled being “made to sit” until she had finished and that it “felt like” hours before she could leave the table during her younger years.

She revealed that if she “failed” to eat it all then the same “cold, unloved remains” would be served to her at the following mealtime. 

JUST IN: Nigella Lawson unrecognisable in 1990s TV clip about Princess Diana

nigella lawson tv chef cook food at my table bbc

Despite being a ‘food-obsessive’ now, Nigella Lawson ‘hated’ mealtimes as a child (Image: GETTY)

Lawson didn’t blame her parents for their “strange and unusual punishment” – but noted, that was how children were “routinely brought-up in the olden days”.

As she grew older, she learned that “eating was not duty but pleasure” – a belief that she adopted and channelled to forge a successful career. 

Since her first cooking show, Nigella Bites in 1999, Lawson has been applauded for her love of food. 

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nigella lawson tv chef cook food at my table bbc

Nigella Lawson in 1997 BBC Newsnight report about Princess Diana’s death (Image: BBC / NEWSNIGHT ARCHIVES – TWITTER)

She was branded a “sensualist celebrator of appetite” and “Lady Bountiful” by Guardian writer Hadley Freeman last year. 

During an interview with Lawson, Ms Freeman quizzed whether she thought she had “crossed the line” of “self-parody”.

She referenced countless videos on YouTube about Lawson’s “sexy cooking”, “spoon-licking” and the expressive noises she often made after tasting food.

nigella lawson tv chef cook food at my table bbc

Nigella Lawson had her first cooking show, Nigella Bites, in 1999 (Image: GETTY)

Lawson pondered the point before she responded: “Everybody likes to think cooks are nurturing.

“But maybe we’re just controlling – controlling what people eat.”

In her 2000 book, How To Be A Domestic Goddess, Lawson felt that people were disinterested in cooking because it was “all briskness and little pleasure”.

In one extract she claimed it was more enjoyable to be “trailing nutmeggy [sic] fumes” and savour food than rushing to create a quick-meal.

Nigella Lawson shares some of her favourite Christmas recipes

As part of one recipe, Lawson made a joke some would consider bad taste. 

She encouraged readers to keep ham bones to flavour their soups with when she made a reference to a serial killer – who murdered at least 12 people. 

She wrote: “It may make your freezer look like Dennis Nilsen’s, but that’s a small price to pay.”

In a Q&A for the Guardian in 2013, Lawson rejected claims that she should be considered a professional in the kitchen.

nigella lawson tv chef cook food at my table bbc

Nigella Lawson refused to be called a ‘chef’ because she has no formal training (Image: GETTY)

She said: “I am not a chef, I am not even a trained cook.”

Lawson claimed that was why she was a “kitchen klutz” but felt that her normalness allowed her to connect with fans.

She explained her struggles trying to find time to cook between “writing food books” as a “non-food columnist” and raising “young children”.

Lawson said: “[I] fit cooking into an already busy life… I cook in much the same way as my readers or viewers.”

Nigella Lawson stars in Nigella: At My Table, which airs at 7.30pm Thursday on BBC Two. 


Daily Express

The Daily Express is a daily national middle-market tabloid newspaper in the United Kingdom. Published in London, it is the flagship of Express Newspapers, owned by publisher Reach plc. It was first published as a broadsheet in 1900 by Sir Arthur Pearson. Its sister paper, the Sunday Express, was launched in 1918.

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