My Week; Prue Leith cookery writer and chair of The British Food Trust

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The Independent Culture

I go riding for the first time in four years - I'm amazed I still know how. I spend the afternoon battling with the roses in my courtyard. By the end of the day, not one single fingertip is left without a cut.

I have a relaxing evening with my husband, Rayne, eating scrambled eggs in front of the telly.


I take the train to London, for the CBI business awards in Kensington. Initially, I didn't want to judge the awards (I thought it would involve too much paperwork), but it's been really enjoyable. Many of the companies are young, energetic and interesting. One has devised a machine that draws pictures for the blind.

I have a sandwich for lunch and then do an interview with one of my son's friends. She is doing a media course and wants to know how it feels to publish a first novel (Leaving Patrick, Penguin) at the ripe old age of 60.

I am chairman of the governors at King's Manor School in Guildford. I have a meeting with directors to discuss plans for reopening in September 2000. It is the first time a state school will be run by a private company, so it's very exciting.

Later, I go to the Dorchester to meet my cousin, William. I offer to buy him a glass of champagne and he proceeds to drink six. I drink two. Eight glasses of champagne at the Dorchester is not the way to do it; the bill comes to about pounds 86. I can't afford to buy him dinner now.

I have a rehearsal for tomorrow's presentation of The Great British Kitchen, a pounds 40m scheme to build the world's first national culinary arts centre. The computer systems break down and I make an early escape.


I arrive at the Dorchester. Lots of my good friends turn up, including Carol Vorderman, Antonio Carluccio and Sophie Grigson. They are photographed eating spaghetti.

During the presentation, I explain that the idea behind The Great British Kitchen is not to preach about cooking, but to offer a really good family day out. The entire press decides to focus on a slight crack I make about my colleagues in the cookery business. I am not saying celebrity chefs don't encourage children to cook. However, their programmes are so entertaining, you end up stuffing your face with Pot Noodles instead of learning from them. An example is the Two Fat Ladies show - no one is expected to roast snails on a shovel by the roadside. The most followed chef is Delia Smith. She is my age and doesn't try to be entertaining, she encourages people to learn the basics.

Afterwards I take a train to Staffordshire. I am staying with Lord Lichfield at Shugborough Estate. He is the most entertaining man - we talk about his photography. We eat chicken, fresh vegetables out of the garden and wild mushrooms, and finish with cheese. It's so nice to slip into the lap of luxury.


I have breakfast, then prepare for the Staffordshire and northern press. One of the reporters asks why we have chosen Staffordshire as the home for The Great British Kitchen, when it's hardly the gastronomic capital of the world. I say the food in Staffordshire is fantastic.

After the presentation, we have a food- and wine-tasting to try out local speciality foods. I'm so greedy, I try everything before disappearing to my lair in Lord Lichfield's house to make phone calls. I drive home to London and go to bed exhausted.


Up at 6am for a slot on GMTV with Antony Worrall Thompson. They are expecting a heated argument, with Antony saying, "What is the old trout talking about?" and me saying, "These chefs are just showing off." They are disappointed; we are old friends and agree with each other.

I have a meeting with a Royal Mail advisory committee to look at special- issue stamps for the millennium. Then I take my mother for a meal at Odettes, on Regent's Park Road. In the evening, I get a train to the Cotswolds to meet my husband.


I spend the day at home working on my novel. I try to spend most weekends in the Cotswolds, having fun. In the afternoon I start cooking for a dinner party. I'm making baby beetroot, goats' cheese and rocket salad, followed by roast lamb with lots of different types of mash, finishing with blackberry jelly and custard.

I have had a fun, but tiring week. My only concern is, the attention has been on Prue Leith the bossy old woman, rather than The Great British Kitchen.