When Nigella Lawson recommends a recipe to her millions of devoted television viewers, they listen. And the effects of that devotion ripple across the British economy. In 2006, when she touted goose fat for Christmas cooking, sales more than doubled in UK supermarkets. Over the years, her recipes have also been known to boost sales of prunes, the world’s most ridiculed dried fruit, and Riesling wine, both by 30%. Born January 6th, 1960, Lawson is among the most beloved cooking show hosts in UK
history, taking on the sometimes conflicting roles of sex symbol and feminist icon. But she rejects the title of celebrity chef. As she explains, “I am not a chef. I am not even a trained or professional cook. My qualification is as an eater".
Lawson hails from a noble English family, as the daughter of former UK Member of Parliament Lord Nigel Lawson, Baron of Blaby. But the television personality she would become known and loved for is a far cry from the stereotypical stuffy prudishness one might expect from a wealthy English heiress—her trademarks are authenticity, intimacy, warmth, charisma, and sensuality, exemplified by her decision to film her famous TV series, Nigella Bites , at home in her own kitchen rather than on a television studio set. That sense of intimacy and candor has been confused by many of her critics, especially in the US, for immodest flirtatiousness, to which Lawson has responded, “when you deal with food, aren’t you always showing your sensual nature?”.
For Lawson, cooking is never merely a technical or even artistic enterprise, it’s an extension of who we are at our deepest, most human level. It’s an embodied pleasure that immerses us, quite literally, in the sensuality of our five senses. And it’s this openness, this willingness to unapologetically open her kitchen to millions of people, and to give them a glimpse, despite the impeccable lighting and styling, of what she’s really like when cooking, that may explain the level of devotion shown by her
fans—women and men alike.
Lawson began a career in writing and journalism at the age of 23, but her food-world fame came in 1998, when she wrote her first cookbook, How to Eat , which The Sunday Telegraph called “the most valuable culinary guide published this decade". How to Eat , which contained no photographs of food, relied on text alone to communicate the value of her dishes and her own humorous, colorful persona. Not only did the book display a sense of humor rarely, if ever, found in cookbooks of the time, it also showed Lawson’s ability to be ahead of the curve on food trends, promoting things kale and avocado toast long before they reached the height of hipness.
Her follow-up book, How to be a Domestic Goddess , also became a bestseller, earning her the Author of the Year Award at the British Book Awards in 2001, beating authors like J.K. Rowling for the honor. Her breakout series, Nigella Bites , set in motion a multi-decade television career that has made her a household name on both sides of the Atlantic. As always, her guiding ethos is not tradition but on her own pleasure, insisting that what makes a recipe good is not fidelity to convention but the enjoyment it brings into our lives, and that the joy of eating need not be accompanied by guilt and vanity. As she
explains, “it can take enormous confidence to trust your own palate, follow your own instincts.” And confidence she has aplenty—to defy tradition, public expectations, and social taboos, all in pursuit of that perfect bite.
Nigella Lawson is an English television personality, journalist, and food writer. She has written numerous books and cookbooks that have won multiple awards, and for several publications, including The Daily Telegraph, Vogue, The Observer, and The Times in the UK, and Gourmet and Bon Appétit in the United States. Her many television series include Nigella Bites, Nigella Feasts, Nigella Express, Nigellissima, and the 3-part Nigella's Christmas Kitchen. She has also appeared on Iron Chef America, MasterChef Australia, and starred in The Taste alongside Anthony Bourdain. She holds a degree in Medieval and Modern Languages from Oxford, and has her own cookware range, Living Kitchen.